Category: Surviving Cancer


A close friend of ours was recently diagnosed with cancer.  She’s a farmer’s wife who has always been good to us and treated us like family.  She’s a second mother to me and the news hit with a ferocity unmatched by my own diagnosis.  I say that because, as with most things in life, we know what we can handle, but when the same infliction is paired with someone else, the doubt we shelved on our own behalf is more easily recovered.  

And then there’s an anger that resides in the memory of what it was like to survive cancer.  The horror of it, the fear that will emerge and the knowledge you can’t fight it for them.  At the same time, the experience of cancer can draw out strengths we didn’t know we had and it’s a comfort to know our friend will experience, in her hardest battle, a courage that everything else will, eventually, surrender to.  

When you are diagnosed, your battle isn’t to fight the disease, but to fight to remain in the moment; to stave off the need to know what lies ahead, to find solace supplied by each breath unaware, as we all are, whether ill or healthy, of what future we’ll meet around the next corner.  That is primary.

Secondary is our need to survive by whatever means we find acceptable.  And for those co-survivors, there are no sidelines.  It’s our duty to our loved ones that helps us focus on the here and now and survive alongside them.  We find our own courage – a word that reflects a strength that does not come from muscle or brawn, but from the heart.  And again, as I discovered emerging from my own illness, we find ourselves feeling fortunate having come to some understanding that we are all in this together.  And that is something cancer will never destroy.

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Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Empire to witness the release of an adolescent eagle back in to the wild.  Despite not having the characteristic coloring of an adult eagle, she was still a beautiful, powerful presence.  A few hundred people were there and we all cheered as the magnificent bird soared skyward.  

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Following the eagle, Erick and I took the girls over to the big lake and collected stones and watched a lone freighter pass quietly in the distance.  The water was a vibrant hue – a turquoise blue.  

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The sun was setting as we left for Boones in Glen Arbor (yum).  And on the way back, I captured my farm at dusk.  The wind turbine moved slowly on a light breeze.  Love that place.  

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The girls were sleepy on the way home.  

And finally, a photo of Grandpa and me at Thanksgiving.

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After my treatments ended, I was asked to speak at the Survivor’s Day Picnic at GT Commons that May.  I just stumbled upon the speech and was struck by the last paragraph.  

And that’s exactly why they call us “survivors.”  The outcome doesn’t matter, but rather what emerges within us:  A renewed sense of courage, a desire to reach out to others, the realization that we are in this together and that no cancer can destroy our hope for the future.  

In a way, cancer is not just a disease, but a state of mind.  It’s a negative energy that permeates the body.  In these difficult times, as our nation struggles with its own form of self-depreciating warfare, I still hold out hope.  And I know we’ll get through this together for the better and with that renewed sense of courage that will enable us to make positive changes in a new, forward-thinking direction.  

In wellness, Samantha

When Taylor Carol got sick at age eleven with leukemia, his father and CEO of Game 7 Entertainment Inc. got busy.  Taylor’s dad, Jim, went to work creating a video game platform that would help families and friends raise money to fight cancer.  Visit PledgePlay.com to take the first swing against cancer.

A strange coincidence prompted me to think about whether or not we should attribute meaning to the experience.  When I shared the story of our strange coincidence with friends, I received numerous letters on either side of a fence dividing those who believe there are no coincidences and those who see coincidence as nothing more than just that: a coincidence.  

When I wrote about diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, published a paper on the topic and then fell ill with the very same form of cancer one year later; we saw the same debate.  In both strange set of circumstances, I’ve noticed a similar pattern in how I interpret these events personally.  

I don’t like to think of the world as so black and white that when two dissimilar events occur at random with some corresponding theme, I dismiss it totally as some random inevitability.  The word coincidence, after-all, is not defined as two events that happen simultaneously without any connection – it is merely defined as two events happening that appear unrelated.  So, I take a little from both camps.  

When yesterday, my youngest child said something out of the blue relating to a house we had put an offer on months earlier and at the exact same time a message appeared in my inbox from the owner of that house offering it to us at our price, some believed this was a sign that we should buy that house.  We certainly like the house.  However, when I look back at a week spent rental-shopping and had just found a place I liked, I wondered whether this was not so much a sign that we should buy a house, but rather another diversion.  Maybe a different kind of sign – one that reminds us we are far from the place where we belong.  Is it possible the universe really does speak to us?

This brings me to “the Secret” – that series claiming we control the universe with our thoughts; the Law of Attraction.  Take away the magic of that statement and what we have is a series of choices that invariably lead us to a presumed outcome.  That’s not so difficult to digest.  It doesn’t even require a quantum physicist explaining it to me with incomplete experimental data.  

So what of coincidence?  Are they really as random a set of acts as some believe or do we have something to do with their “inevitability”?

Today is the last day of my twenties; tomorrow I turn 30.  I used to dread growing old, but in life post-cancer, growing old is a goal.  I thought the urge to reminisce would catch me off guard last minute; threatening to enact some hint of regret, but instead I feel content and satisfied in reaching my thirties.  

I’m also very glad to be in Michigan at this time in my life.  Two years ago on my birthday we took a trip to Mackinac Island.  I looked out over the bow of the boat at rainbows forming in the freshwater spray.  The wind whipped through our hair and out over the straits of Mackinac, the iron bridge took on a soft look in the bright sunlight.  It was a moment so well-engrained that while my body was secretly host to a silent mutation, I dreamed of my good-byes to family.  Each time I said goodbye in dreams, I walked into the spray and knew then I was passing into a new realm, though at the time I didn’t even believe in Santa Clause.  I discovered the lump two days later and my life was forever changed.  

In a way, being up here feels like the closing of some loop.  Like I’ve been here before, but my path has changed.  Left untreated, NHL kills within two-years.  Most recurrences take place within the first two years into remission.  Whatever the significance, this experience has completed a two-year cycle.  At a time when I believed I would regret the turning of a decade, I am elated to put my twenties behind me; to embark full-throttle on a new adventure; to leap into the next phase of my life uninhibited; to count rainbows on the spray and to take on the softer look wisdom grants us as we age.

This afternoon we drove out to Grandfather Mountain and did some exploration in the rain.  It was a **beautiful** trip and I hope to return sometime soon.  At the peak, Grandfather is over one mile high and there’s a suspension bridge leading to the peak that spans a forty-foot gorge one mile deep!  The girls enjoyed the wildlife – cougars, an eagle, bear, an otter, some deer and a muskrat that crossed the road while we were leaving.  Celli accompanied us and seemed to enjoy the mountain as much, if not more than anyone. 

Driving to the peak was exciting.  Our back wheels slid against the sharp inclines, and our truck was far too big for some of the 180-degree turns, but we managed and made it to the top with time to spare before the storm.

The storm hit hard some time after Hickory and seemed to be firing water and lightning at anything that moved.  In the city, the thunder roared and ricocheted between buildings – like War of the Worlds, only really wet. The rivers were swollen to twice their size – I guess this happens quickly down here.  Everyone drove with their hazards because the water was so deep on the roads and you couldn’t make out the other cars very well.  One of the things I love about this region is the rains storms – they last for hours, unlike Michigan where it seemed we would get bursts of a storm, but they would quickly fizzle (except in the winter when the snow seemed never-ending).  

We’ve enjoyed some fireworks in the city – reminds me so much of Harbor Days back home.  What a wonderful end to such an adventurous trip.  Tomorrow we hope to see the ocean!

Happy holiday everyone!  Have a safe, adventurous weekend.

The girls take a break beneath split-rock – One serious bolder.

Okay, they weren’t really wild like I told my mom.  They were as tame as could be and waiting for hand-outs from visitors.  

Popo and I take a break in the rain for one quick photo 5000+feet in the air.  Photo by Wolfy.

The Mile-high “swinging bridge”

 

The storm was raging by the time we reached Charlotte.  Cars, trucks and motorcyclists especially crowded under overpasses to wait for a clearing.  Visibility was crap and here you can see the hazards on the car ahead of us.  

My favorite stop along 321.  The only truly affordable and fun, hand-made locally shop I’ve found.

I love the drive into the mountains for all of the old farmsteads and homesteads, fruit-stands and the views!

In the heat, Celli cools off by lying on any concrete surface she can find:

Needles have been replaced, sewing machine ramped up, socks and microfiber purchased in bulk and Sock Monsters are now sprouting up daily:  

In the beginning, there were socks.  Soon these socks were altered to form the tiny bodies of multi-fibered, colorful sock monsters.  All appendages are sewn together using a sewing machine and are attached by hand.  Next, the monsters are stuffed:

These three are brothers.  Erick suggested a more sophisticated line for those Uptown folk who match socks and underwear, so from pairs of casual socks found mainly inside loafers and beneath dockers, we’ve created the “Uptown Monsters.”  They’re all sewn up and are now ready for lips and eyes:

Buttons are chosen carefully by the girls to highlight various features and colors of each individual monster. The buttons are then pinned in place to verify proper color-coordination by our fully-certified crayon-carrying children.  Next, the monsters pose for baby monster photos and get to sit on the desk for the day in preparation for their future in the business of making-people-smile-at-work while raising money and awareness in the battle against cancer:

My youngest inspired the three-button sweater-vest concept.  She enjoys drawing sock-monsters as much as snuggling with them:

Thank-you for taking the time to learn more about these ever-curious oddities.

Bye.

For the last few days I’ve noticed my dog has been anxious.  Today, I’ve come to realize why.  She’s been trying to teach me something and I haven’t been a very receptive until now.

Today I learned that life is all about learning to come to terms with the simple fact that we are not at the probable center of the universe; that we are not isolated matter; that we are more than the sole survivor of our own enlightenment.  Today I realized life isn’t about proving yourself to others; it’s about recognizing yourself in them and allowing yourself the freedom to change and grow.  Today I learned anxiousness can be cured.  And today I learned to look past the issues to see the real person – and I forgave myself that I don’t always like what I see.  

Today I learned to listen to those who love me most and to trust my own interpretations of this wild and crazy world.  Thanks Celli, friend.

 

Happy Father’s Day!  The girls surprised Erick with hand-made sock-puppets and drawings this afternoon.  It was fun watching them assemble them in secret.  I stood back and didn’t interfere and, as often happens when I don’t interfere, all went smoothly.  The girls are creative beings.

  

To help with sock-monster production, Erick bought me a Singer.  It’s my first real sewing machine (besides the one back home, circa 1904) and fairly dummy-proof, so I’m very happy using it.  I can now sew the bodies and the appendages with the machine, bur still enjoy sewing the monsters together by hand.

  

Above is the new “Americana Monster” alongside another “doll.”  I’m loving the names people are sending for their monsters.  I’ve decided not to name them because people have been so creative and fun.  We’re now beefing up our inventory – trying to produce and sell somewhere near 80 monsters by December.  

Below:  The new Wachovia tower is reaching 20+ floors and counting.  When finished, it will reach 55 stories.