During these past few weeks, I’ve found cancer creeping up in my life in many ways. There are three events in particular that have me reflecting deeply on this disease. First, (so as not to cause any concern!) I want to share the news that I had my latest check-up at Dana Farber this past Monday and I’m still ALL CLEAR! Certainly a big relief – it marks seven months that I have been totally rid of cancer and I can tell you that it feels damn good.
Second exciting news is that last Thursday I participated in a fundraiser that raised over $8,000 for Dana Farber cancer research. The night was such an inspiration. Julie Gibson, a friend who I work with at BOWES GMAC Real Estate, decided (while I was going through treatment) that she would run the Boston marathon in my name this year. Suffice it to say, she’s amazing. And so, together, we are raising money for Dana Farber cancer research. Julie put together this great event that brought together our friends and family. I was just blown away by the turnout and the support. And I’m so happy that together we were able to raise so much money for this great cause. Please visit www.danafarberjulie.com for more information and to make a donation.
The third event is not so exciting. Three weeks ago we lost a great man to this disease. Paul Maguire. He was a friend at St. Eulalia Parish and a man who has been fighting lung cancer for some time now. I was being treated during the same time that he was and a deep bond was created between us. It’s hard for me to describe entirely in words; we shared “battle stories” with various drugs, talked about losing hair and energy, and all of the other fun stuff that goes along with treatment. But the bond goes well beyond what we talked about. It is this feeling of profound empathy that we shared.
As I recovered, his cancer worsened. He was going through a last round of chemotherapy. I suppose I should not have been so shocked by his death, but I was. I still am. You see, when you survive you are full of hope. Full of this feeling that this thing can be beat. And I never really thought Paul wouldn’t beat it. Of course that was unrealistic of me. Every cancer is different and every case is different. Still, my heart aches at this loss.
I’ve realized during these past few weeks, that since treatment ended I have buried my experiences with this disease. It’s like a bad dream. Don’t get me wrong, I have continued to have the shifted perspective that goes along with surviving. But I tried both consciously and unconsciously not to recall all those painful memories. Yet, those painful memories are real. They happened and they are just as much a part of my life as the good memories. Here I am. Alive, and feeling more healthy than I’ve ever felt in my life.
Someone in my office was talking to me about how her father, who was a poet, would write about his experiences with cancer. And after he was treated, when he had to return for his regular follow-ups, he’d call them his “appointments with God.” I love it. He put it so perfectly. And the questions that have naturally arisen for me: Why? Why me? Why did I survive, while 1,500 people die of cancer every day – still?
The more I reflect on those questions though, the more I feel like they aren’t fair questions. I don’t think I want the answers. I don’t believe I’ve been selected to live while others have been selected to pass on. I don’t think it’s that … easy.
I don’t know that there is a “moral of this story”. I can say with certainty that I feel so blessed, so fortunate, so grateful for the life that I live. And I believe, together, we can fight this disease – so that someday everyone who is diagnosed with it, will be able to say, “I beat it”, just as I am able to say. Maybe that’s the lesson. I’m still full of hope.