Tag Archive: 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.

Yar.

“Yar,” said the doctor as the pain receded and he and the nurse stood just out of sight.  He could have used any mild expletive, Darn, Shoot, Piss though Damn would suit him better or had it been me watching my doctor drop the core from my bone marrow biopsy, I might have chosen something more severe and rhyming with “puck.” 

Yar, seemed almost a hybrid of “Yikes “and a piratey “Argh.”  And coming from a distinguished hematologist-oncologist who had spent half his adult life in college or in the lab trying to beat lymphoma, it seemed absurd.  “I dropped the core,” he said, “I’ve never dropped the core.”

“Yar?”  I questioned, my voice slightly muffled by a pillow.  Lying face down with my back and half my buttocks exposed to the cool air, I asked more specifically this time, “What does that mean?” 

The nurse took hold of my hand a second time and my doctor said simply, “Take another deep breath.” 

I groaned, as the drill reignited sensation all through my body.  He could numb the skin, he had told me, but not the bone.   When I asked him whether it would hurt, he didn’t mess around, “It’ll feel like someone’s ripping your intestines out through your belly-button.”

And yet, something in his tone when he uttered one unfamiliar, unexpected word distracted me from the pain.  Had he planned this?  Might this be another technique used to control pain?  Yar, I thought, eyelids shut tight over my own vivid imagination.  I could feel the drill cutting into my pelvis.  The pressure was enormous and the sound was, well, “Yuck.”

Not even “yuck” covered it completely.  This was an entirely new kind of misery.  And perhaps a second bone-marrow biopsy performed on top of the first does deserve a new kind of descriptive-expletive noun, verb and adjective rolled into one short, breathable syllable. 

Yar.

The ladies

The ladies took me out last night for a game of pool down the road.  It was a nice change of pace.  It’s good to have friends who know just when to lift you up.  I’ve been lucky with that.  Erick has been great too – very understanding.  Life is good and we need to take the time to be grateful occasionally – not just on the holiday.

Kate is doing well – she has a long climb ahead, but she’s still with us and strong as ever.  I’m so moved by her motivation.  She’s a tough gal and I can see her climbing mountains in the future just to spite Melvin, her tumor.  

It helps to give tumors silly names.  They’re silly bastard cells that make life difficult.  And in most cases, they wreak terribly havoc on their way out.  At the same time, the scars left behind remind us of how strong we were and how much strength lies just beneath the surface.  Kate is discovering this now and it’s a beautiful transition to see unfolding within her.

My how strong my friends have been not only in their own lives, but in helping others.  These are women who have conquered fear, annihilated inhibition, and lived to inspire others.  I owe them my sanity, my respect and admiration.

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.

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.

Great short: Our time is up

Great short by Rob Pearlstein, Our Time is Up.

It’s really challenging dealing with fatigue.  It’s not a symptom that’s obvious on the exterior.  I can fake feeling good in public, but the feelings of inadequacy that gather internally become evident after a short while.  Emotionally, it’s a huge drain trying to keep things going while every muscle feels twice its weight and your shoulders slope forward out of weakness.  I had a doctor once tell me fatigue causes your body to fold in on itself.   I felt like a flower at the end of its life; each petal curling inward.

I think that’s the trouble with fatigue – the failure to see improvements after a few days, makes the sufferer very weary of getting up in the morning.  And this feeds into a blanket of depression feeding the fatigue.  Erick was my hero- taking me out to the park last evening as way for me to reconnect with nature.  I was still tired, but immediately I noticed an improvement in my outlook.  Today is much improved and I’m realizing the importance of finding ways to cope with stress.  One of the driving factors in my three horrible days was my inability to cope with any of it accompanied by my stubbornness in acknowledging how just bad I felt.  

It’s hard going through treatments for cancer, and some of the lasting effects are equally as difficult to manage.  I think the key is to know how to manage stress – what brings pleasure into your life?  What allows you to relax and heal?  And remembering it takes real strength (not the physical kind) to recognize what needs to be fixed and to set out for a solution.  There’s nothing weak about that.

Erick joined us right before the march began and the whole family (including Celli Belle) walked to raise money for research to beat cancer.  We met so many nice people and beautiful pups.  There must have been over a hundred dogs and their families.  Along the walk, there were water bowls and wading pools.  The police escorted the march, so we were able to spread out across the street and it was then you could see just how many people were out early in the morning heat in support of a cure.  Warm fuzzies all over.

Later, Erick, the girls and I walked down to the festivities in Uptown.  We saw the Calypso Tumblers performing on the street – VERY cool and wild.  I hadn’t heard of them until yesterday, but they’re amazing stage performers.  We watched them jump over a line of people about 10 deep.  Crazy stuff.

After a few hours in Uptown Erick and I thought it might be fun to take the train down to Pineville, so we purchased day passes and hopped the train.  We had to stand the entire 20-minute ride, which at 70mph, was pretty exciting and when we arrived in Pineville the temperature had soared to 100 degrees, so we were pretty slow-moving, but nonetheless determined to have a good time.  We meandered through shops and enjoyed milkshakes and a lot of water before boarding the train for home.  And this is when things got strange again.

I’ve mentioned openly before seeing “ghosts,” but I haven’t had the pleasure while here in Charlotte to see much other than the overriding face of fast-paced life all around.  Maybe it was because I was more relaxed than usual, having found a seat for the ride home; or perhaps I was suffering from a heat-stroke induced hallucination, but regardless, yesterday I saw my first “ghost” in Charlotte.  

I heard a boy laugh and I turned my head in time to see a little boy, about nine-years-old, approaching my girls.  He wanted to engage them, but clearly they couldn’t see him.  He faded out, but I remember him clearly.  He was black, wearing a little-league uniform with the colors green and yellow.  The cap had a lot of yellow on the front and he showed me a ball – the ball also had a lot of yellow.  He was connected somehow to a man seated behind me and I got the feeling he was someone’s brother.  I didn’t get the feeling of grief that might accompany a parent losing a child, but rather one that might accompany someone losing a peer.  I also felt like his passing was sudden – so accident or sudden death by other means – not a drawn-out illness.  I also felt like his death happened some time ago – more than 10 years.  

Those were the feelings that accompanied the vision.  I’m sharing the experience here for future reference.

As I have mentioned in the past, it is my belief that these visions may be a glimpse of someone else’s projected thought.  The strange thing was I saw the boy before the man connected to the boy got on the train.  

 

I found this delicious phrase on a Cafe’ Press bumper sticker raising money for breast cancer awareness.  It’s time to start brain-storming fund-raising ideas and today I’ve been looking into selling items online to raise $2400.  I’m looking for funny catch phrases like F$%& Cancer or Kick Cancer’s Butt: Been there, done that!  I’m hoping for bumper-stickers, mugs and t-shirts.  Feel free to share your catch-phrases and ideas!  

I’m considering goofy things like “Pet a beagle for a dollar” on the sidewalk, so really, no idea is too silly to post.