At this age, it seems as if someone new is diagnosed with cancer everyday. Relatives, friends, and neighbors are all in the fight of their lives, so worried about their children and what will happen to them if they can’t beat this disease. My father had prostate cancer in 2000, but luckily he was able to beat it and survive. He removed the prostate and had radiation. After 13 years he is still ok and I am so thankful.
My very close friend is in the fight of her life battling lung cancer (no, she is not a smoker) and never have I been so inspired by a person. There have been so many ups, downs, steps forwards and backwards over the past year and yet she maintains this amazing strength. I can’t say that I would be as strong in her position or that I would be able to be as positive. She sent an update to a group of us recently and what follows is an excerpt from her email (with her permission). I thought it was a great testament to her power and strength and I do believe it is what has kept her cancer from winning the battle this past year:
. . . as much as it scared me to death to take blood, getting blood was the difference between me wanting to stay in bed with no energy and being sick all day or get out into life and play with my kids, visit friends and visit my horse or walk my dog. Prior to me getting cancer, I always thought about giving blood but was too busy or maybe a little too scared to deal with the needle. But realizing just how much of an impact giving blood gives to someone’s life that you don’t even know gives strength and hope. A gift of some unknown individual’s blood was the best gift I could have received at that time. I am so thankful for that one anonymous person with 0-blood decided to take time to give a few months back… they will never know but it changed my family’s life and I think of them every day. Thanks to all who give when they can.
One little tidbit on the Taxol…it made me lose my hair. So the hair came out and yes, it was a traumatic experience. For anyone who has pulled the crappy Cancer Card and found a fistful of your hair in your hands in the shower, it is more than the hair. It’s the constant reaffirmation in the mirror that you have cancer and you feel ugly and embarrassed but oddly enough, I have started to actually feel empowered with no hair. I have saved $1200.00 in highlighting sessions at the salon and some more in hair products. Showers are a breeze and no hairdryer! And trust me, nobody wants to mess with a bald woman when standing in line at check out. There ARE perks!
So back to the present…. last week I didn’t receive very welcoming news. I had a brain MRI done this past weekend and I was told that there are 10 and possibly more new cancer spots in my brain. When I heard the news I would have traded places with Sandra Bullock hovering in space disconnected from her space station and alone (Gravity). My mind going to a bad place thinking, “at least she has a chance.” The good news? I was told they are small and I have no symptoms or swelling, they feel the lesions moved to my brain during that time I had a change in my tumor growth in the lung back in November when I was on only maintenance drugs where a few “seeds” went up to my brain but now the tumor is reduced. They feel there aren’t any others at the present time because the chemo is working in the body. The very good news? There is something that can be done about it and it doesn’t sound pretty but let me repeat… SOMETHING CAN BE DONE AND THERE ARE OPTIONS.
. . . Is this all scary? Absolutely! But what are my choices? I can choose to dwell on the fact that there is a new issue to deal with and cancer in my brain and what will become of my future OR I can choose to get up in the morning, put my feet firmly on the ground, rub my hands together and say to myself “today is going to be a great day.” I am here today, how can I know what tomorrow brings? I need to leave that to the universe. Just like those mall signs always tell you “YOU ARE HERE”…. it is so true. This is where we all are…here, at this point in time and it is the only time that we can control and make the most of what we have living in the moment.
If I look into the past, I am proud of the accomplishments and getting over so many hurdles… I know what I have outlined in front of me, but I cannot control completely and again leave to the universe. So for now, I work on now… this point in time and how I react to it. So I admit there have been a lot of bumps in the road… potholes really to be honest. The question is really, what can I do with this information that I receive about cancer spreading to my brain and dealing with chemotherapy every week?
A little story quickly, sorry… I unfortunately had to get my driver’s license renewed this year and as everyone woman knows, it’s not a fun experience. Seeing yourself older in each photo every four years or so. After an hour of waiting for my number to be called, I went to the desk and got my picture taken. The woman then said to me in a very monotone voice when taking the picture, “you can either choose to smile or not to smile.” I found that an interesting comment and probably would have never thought much about that a few years ago, but being through cancer I know that I now have a choice, we all have a choice every day as to how we will tackle our day. It’s like Groundhog day – we are blessed with THE CHOICE to give an opportunity to have a good day or a bad day… “the best day ever” or not. I quickly fished through my expired licenses and sure enough, I didn’t smile in some and no idea why. So this time I smiled. We are all human and of course it’s not possible all the time, but remember, we are given that chance every single day of our lives. Maybe it is our test here on earth to see how we deal with these ups and downs….. I really don’t know but I feel like it’s something pretty significant that we should all be paying attention to.
So being honest here, I feel pretty beat up. I have some bruises and lab track marks and steroid effects, a bald head to boot. Plus MAJOR cafeteria arms from no use this winter – aaaah! My eyelashes are gone and the blood clots have left me with some permanent visible veins in my chest and arms and the port isn’t so pretty. But these are my battle wounds and I am still battling this war and not giving up. I just need war paint on my face to complete the outfit.
My friend Jill came up to visit me not too long and gave me a very small gift. The gift is an angel figurine that her grandmother bought in Europe and kept on a shelf. Whenever Jill came over she admired this angel from all the others her grandmother had. This one was special and “chosen” by Jill. I was told that this angel originally had brightly colored gold wings and beautiful blonde hair, long eyelashes and colored lips. The gown was in perfect form – all gold. Her grandmother gave it to Jill years later to keep. With a big move to Brigantine Jill packed the angel away in a box and placed it down below in their new beach home with some other things that would make their way into the house once situated.
Hurricane Sandy hit the town of Brigantine and floods took away memories for so many. After the floods subsided, Jill found a bucket down below that didn’t float away. In the bucket was salt water and gasoline that had been sitting there for over a month.. and inside the mess was the angel figure. Her hair was not blonde anymore, a wing was broken leaving a big crack, the dress was no longer gold, her lips were not red and her eyelashes were washed away…but she survived the storm.
Jill found her to be more beautiful AFTER what the storm did to her and found her to be stronger and more meaningful than ever. Jill gave her to me to remind me that through all this I can still feel beautiful knowing that I am here and surviving like this angel has done. I believe I HAVE become a stronger human being and now she sits proudly with me in my home as a reminder when I feel less than strong. Her head in humbleness for all who love her, one hand placed on her heart to show she survived the storm and one hand in what seems like prayer moving in forward direction. This is how I try and live my life and trust me the day may not go as planned but at least I start off every day putting two feet on the floor and saying “this is going to be a great day.”
Now if Jane can get up and say it’s going to be a great day, why can’t we all? Seeing what she goes through every day, rounds and rounds of doctors appointments, shots, various treatments –has changed my life forever. For everyone out there fighting to beat this terrible disease or any terrible disease, stay strong and believe in the positive power of the human spirit. It can do amazing things.
Update: 11/21/16 – Jane lost her battle with lung cancer on March 3, 2015 about 2 years after she was diagnosed. We were all devastated and she left a huge hole in all of our lives.