When Cancer Comes Knocking...part 2
Both my daughter and Jay are still ill. My daughter is a miracle walking around the planet. We are thankful for every single day.
And now baby Heston Wayne (who does not want to be called 'baby' as he is six!!) is ill. But, we soldier on.
Sweet girl ..
Sweet brothers together
"Feeling Sad Today..."
Just yesterday afternoon, another friend, her age, 42, died from cancer. My daughter got the news and sadness came. At age 32, another friend died from breast cancer---that was ten years ago. Another friend who was diagnosed the same year Stef was, died two years after her diagnosis.
That takes its toll on you whether you think it does or not.
Right now my daughter is facing her most difficult battle yet with this damn disease. Her radiation treatments are horrendous, unlike any she has had prior to this with injections and targeted radiation being given.
But it is Christmas time and she is making it just as special as she does every other year.
What does cancer look like?
Someone asked me a few days ago:
"When is your daughter going to die?" That person knew she is terminally ill.
I was taken aback at first but did not let it show. I should be used to remarks like that. So many unbelievable things have been asked and said I guess anything goes.
"She doesn't look sick!!" in an off-handed way. Like are you making this UP???
To clarify ...as I have said and will say probably more times than anyone wishes to hear:
Cancer doesn't have a LOOK. You can tell when chemo is being taken often but not always. But you cannot tell by looking at someone who has all of their hair, whether they are ill or not.
Cancer has NO definite look. Look around you. You have no idea how many that are in the same room with you right now are affected.
You may be living with someone who does not look sick. It is deceiving, this CANCER, that knocks on your door, does not wait to be invited in---because it would never receive such a greeting, but barges in and takes over the lives of all concerned.
A baby and his Momma..
In the first entry in this series, thoughts on how cancer knocked on our door and how we began our journey through this unwelcome plague was shared. Both my daughter and my grandson were told many years ago they would leave the planet quickly.
Sx years ago my daughter was told to party like a rock star because cancer has spread to so many areas of her body.
For me to have both my eldest grandson and my daughter to love and hold is nothing short of miraculous. We are thankful every day for every moment we have. Not one of us knows when it will be our time to die. Perhaps if we did our lives would be different somehow. Our whole value system has changed dramatically.
I know that having this unwanted intrusion in our lives has caused us to value our personal relationships far more than any thing we could ever own. So as horrendous as it is, we have grown so much from the descent into hell we have been forced to take.
We have not remained there. We rose from that dark place and sought the joy that can be found each day.
He dances in the rain...
Some grim statistics:
The grim stats
- According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 12 million people in the US had a history of cancer (and were alive) in 2008. Some were cancer free, some were still undergoing treatment.
- In 2012 it is estimated that over 1, 600,000 are expected to be diagnosed with cancer. That number does not include the cancers which are not required to be reported to cancer registries.
- Over 575,000 are expected to die/1500 per day.
The good news:
"From 1999 to 2008, cancer death rates declined by an average of 1.7 percent per year for men, 1.3 percent per year for women and 1.5 percent annually for children, according to the report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. The report was published online today in the journal Cancer.'(as reported by abcnews.com) With preventative measures we can reduce the number of cases of cancer.
Any chronic, catastrophic illness gives a family a new look at how to live life.
Cancer comes to a home, unwanted, uninvited, unwelcome. It attempts to devour the family. to pull it down into an abyss from which there is no escape.
The diagnosis is enough to bring such a reaction. The diagnosis alone can begin the imploding of the life of the family. It does not stop there. The chemo, the radiation, the loss of hair, the nausea, the relentless vomiting, the loss of weight, the swelling, the pain, the sleepless night, the perpetual feeling being tired are close on the heels of the diagnosis.
Cancer happens to every member of the family To watch a loved one or loved ones slip away into that world of pain and the haze of the drugs is frightening and tries to steal the life of those watching. No one can understand what it is like to live through this unless you have. It is not an experience anyone would want to learn to know or understand by choice that is for sure.
Cancer is not the only disease that eats away at the very fiber of a family. Any chronic, serious, catastrophic illness does the same thing to the loved one and the onlookers. As I said in installment one of our story, this is our story but it could be the story of almost any family who has to walk this same kind of walk. It still remains a story about HOPE .
Making lovely memories
- Wise food choices
- Exercise daily
- Healthy weight
- Moderate use only of alcohol
- No tobacco
- Protection against the suns's rays
- Regular screening tests
Terminal, another intruder
Living through this sometimes makes me feel like I am underwater, holding my breath, and cannot escape.The uncertainty, the prognosis: terminal can indeed destroy relationships. It can erode the foundation of a family as days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. The roller coaster ride begins and it does not end. Up and down, inside out, a new unexpected turn at every corner.
That uninvited word became another intruder. It took on a life of its own until we deflated it by devaluing its power and moving past the fear it had thrown in our direction.
It is an unwanted journey that no one would volunteer to take. Once you are tapped into this club it becomes all about choice. Choosing to not miss one milli-second of today and relishing each new day as it unfolds.
What a gift he is!!!
What you can do for your family and yourself
- Make plants the basis of your diet: nuts, fruits, grains, beans, vegetables. Raw is best.
- Fiber is a must: grains, fruits, vegetables
- Fill your plate with two thirds whole grains, veggies, beans, fruits; one third with fish/meant/dairy
- Cut down on meat consumption
- Include good fats in your diet
- Consume foods that are high in antioxidants as your immune system will thank you
- Prepare foods properly
- Eat fish high in omega 3 at least twice a week
Service to others
In part one of this story, I shared with you that my daughter had actively volunteered to help others despite her diagnosis. She continued doing so until the cancer spread as it has done and the chemo damaged her organs and body to the extent it has.
As part of the work she did for the American Cancer Society as a busy busy volunteer was to handle Road to Recovery.
Road to Recovery is set up so that those who have cancer and need transportation to a cancer center or hospital for chemo or radiation will have a ride. Often their loved ones are at work or in some cases unable physically to transport them. Road to Recovery takes care of that.
A very remarkable thing about Road is that it is a volunteer situation. Who are these drivers (volunteers)? These drivers are every day folks like you and me but many are retired and on fixed incomes who care deeply about others.
My daughter's list of drivers for the immediate area was short but she never seemed to have trouble providing a driver for someone who needed a ride. Those who were on her list were eager to say, "yes, I can do that." That was when gas prices had begun to soar.. Many times she would have to ask her drivers to drive as far as 30 miles one way and still the response would be the same "Just email the information and I will contact the family.' And so it went.
The hard part about ROAD would be receiving that late evening call or early morning call from a family member of someone who needed a ride.
" Stephanie, he passed away …..” and the voice would trail off, and the sadness settled over her for a bit. She would always have a kind word, an empathetic supportive word about the individual who passed as she felt the pain of the loved ones.
Working in the office as she did often, put her on the front line of dealing with the pain that cancer brings. While working there one morning, a loving, frightened husband came in and to get some wigs for his wife. He asked my daughter for help. She showed him several and pointed out how attractive and charming she would look in the two that they finally settled on. By the time he left he was feeling less angst though it was certainly still there.
The following Monday, the same man returned to the ACS, wigs in hand. Stef knew. He knew she knew. But he had to talk about it. She had gone to the hospital the morning after he visited the office. And she did not come home alive. Another family member lost too soon. Another broken heart. Another time when Stef was there to offer her kindness, her assurance that his wife would be remembered around the office.
Her mission: to see the job got done. To help find a cure and to make the way for those enduring this burden a little less pain-filled. Despite her treatments, the pain she felt, the words doctors had said to her about her situation, she kept on working to help others.
This willingness to do something for others is life-giving. It feeds the soul and the body and is a natural medicine for all. Although she is no longer working for ACS she gave a little over seven years in service to help others. Another way to help heal her body and mind.
Even though she does not volunteer or work outside of her home, she does as much as she can each day to have as normal a life as she can. She does not stay huddled under the covers letting the days slip away.
Each day is another day to revel in the joy of her boys and her home and her significant other. She is living each day from morning till night not allowing fear or pain overshadow all of life that surrounds her and fills the moments.
Making more memories
We Have Learned to Dance...
Relay for Life
Road to Recovery and helping in the office was only part of what Stef did to help others who had also been diagnosed or who were survivors of cancer. She became actively involved in Relay for Life. The following journal entries are from our first experience with this aspect of the ACS.
On May 17, 2001, she (Ste) walked onto the field with me as I went to participate in RELAY for LIFE in Dallas, Georgia. It was our first relay.
And it was one of the most defining moments of our lives. Everything seemed to have clarity for the first time. It was an experience unlike any other we had ever had. Our souls were awash in the joy of that event. People caring about each other by showing their support made the bond between all of us there one that would reach far beyond that field were gathered on that weekend.
The whole community had come out, and I do mean the whole community. the field was a sea of kindred spirits, decorated tents, electric enthusiasm.
Throughout the evening our fervor was strengthened--the power that comes from unity directed for good, unity directed for a purpose, is contagious and is empowering. Walking around the track with the survivors we pushed Jay in his wheelchair and my new found friends from work walked with us and lifted us up even more.
As the afternoon’s light turned to darkness it was time for Jay and I to head home. And we did
The next morning Stef called me, excitement and buoyancy in her voice, “Mom, you have to come walk now, it is your turn to walk on the track.You will find hope as you walk around the track. It’s there. You will see it in the stands.“
HOPE awakens and swells as we behold the young lives
Do you have cancer screenings as part of your wellness program?
Looking for H O P E
As I had promised to do I went back to the high school track to walk my laps for those who could not walk , walk my laps as a salute to all those who have gone before , to signal that each step I made around that track would bring us closer to a CURE, an end to the ravaging that cancer causes.
And as I made my initial lap around a track where many had walked during that night, I remembered her words:
“You’ll see HOPE , MOM, it’s awesome.” And I continued to walk and strained my burning eyes trying to see, trying to find H O P E.
And now today, all these years later,, tears roll down my cheeks, as I retell the rest of this part of the story..
And I called her on my cell. “Stef. Stef/ I can’t find HOPE. You said it was here. I can’t find it.”
“Keep going mom, keep looking. You will," she said with excitement and assurance in her voice.
Pushing myself because I really did not rest well in the hours since I had left the track, I wondered, really wondered what all this talk about hope was.
And then, I rounded the corner of the track and looked to my left.
There, right before me, like a choir of angels, were the letters, H-O-P-E arranged carefully and precisely on the bleachers. The defiant flickering, proud candles illuminated the bags that had been arranged just so and spelled out the message only that powerful word could convey: H O P E.
And the Angels rushed onto to the field, engulfed me with their power and gentleness and serenity. I knew then and know now that the hope we seek is an inner force that is outer directed, a metaphysical experience that is evidenced to those who are able to connect with a higher power. It is that ‘wind beneath one’s wings’ that carries the spirit above and through pain, uncertainty and indecision.
We had never lost hope but seeing it there was like finding it all over again and it has remained with us each day since that first Relay.
The first entry in this series is: When catastrophic illness comes knocking
When cancer comes knocking part 3
Miracles happen every day.
- What makes a life to continue against all odds? How can you find the courage to keep on facing each new day, each new wave of pain and uncertainty, when others have told you it is hopeless?
- When someone says to you, 'You don't belong here, you know?" how can you not run and scream from that place? (The suggestion being that they thought you would have died long ago.)
- Where does the grit come from that allows a soul to shake off the haze from the chemo that is coursing through the body?
- How do you keep on going when a doctor says to you: "I do not know why you want that done. you are dying anyway?" (By the way, he is no longer one of her doctors.)
This will to live, to survive has happened because of a deep abiding knowledge that God is there and that His Angels are watching over her. NO question about that. Even her doctors find no way to explain that she is still an earthly Angel. except to say it is a miracle. And we are so thankful for each miracle as there have been an abundance of them along the way.
More ways to keep cancer at bay and sources
The following are the sources that I used to help in the compiling information for this article.
The American Cancer Society brochures and general knowledge as well as
In the next article in this series more information on diet and healthy life style as well as more of the journey will be presented.