Getting a cancer diagnosis is, of course, one of the moments we all hope we never have. We may even try to imagine what it might be like, but nothing can prepare you for that moment. For me, it came on October 4th, 2007, when my wonderful ob/gyn who had delivered my son, told me, with great sadness in his voice, that what we were looking at on the ultrasound screen shouldn’t be there. That it was a tumor and that there really wasn’t much else it could be, but cancer. In that instant, everything falls away. I felt my life, my world, just spinning away from me. My doctor is a parent too, and as we hugged and I cried, I knew he understood. He went straight into action, calling his colleague, a well-known gynecologist oncologist at Cedars and got everything rolling….biopsy,full body scan, appointment with the oncologist and he booked an OR for the following Wednesday. I will be forever grateful for his tenacity, advocacy, and care in those first frightening days.
Every step of this odyssey has been difficult and emotional in different ways. The first days are terrifying because you don’t know what you’re dealing with, and you think you may be dying. It brought me to my knees, literally, to imagine leaving my son and husband. I kept saying “please don’t let this be their story.” I was begging for my life. Then came the news that the scan showed no cancer elsewhere in my body. Okay, I might not die. I had surgery on October 10th to remove the tumor, along with a hysterectomy and 50 lymph nodes, two of which were cancerous. My surgeon was wonderful, and my ob/gyn assisted. His was the last voice I heard and the first voice when I woke up. All had gone well, no surprises. My husband, mother and friend were waiting for me. My husband had said, “I just need to see her.”
Those first few days after surgery were excruciating and emotional. I couldn’t sleep, didn’t dare fall asleep, for fear I would never wake up. A dear, childhood friend of mine sat in a chair facing me and told me I could shut my eyes because she was watching me.
At this time, things were at work in the Universe. A community of family and friends had risen up and taken charge! There were personal Blessings and Prayers being offered up on my behalf all over the world. All the people who have made me who I am, from Christian to Jewish, Mormon and Buddhist, agnostic to mystic…….all asked for my healing. All were at the ready, offering gifts, food, flowers, encouragement….so much love, it was overwhelming…and still is. It has been an amazing experience to see people opening themselves to me, allowing me to see their vulnerability, their strength, their beauty.
The journey continues to be long and arduous. I have just completed three months of chemo-therapy and radiation. In December we received the news that what I have is not, in fact, the aggressive neuroendrocine cancer that was first diagnosed. After further testing, it has been concluded that it is a squamous cell cancer, which according to my doctor, is less aggressive, easier to treat, and easier to cure. Again, more HOPE!
I am so grateful to all of my doctors, nurses, family and friends, my father, his wife and my brother. To my amazing mother, whose faith is astounding. But most of all, I have to give a shout out to my hero, my Knight in shining armor, my husband. He saved me 20 years ago, and continues to save me every day with his simple and pure love for me. The selflessness he shows me is powerful enough to move mountains. I love you. And my sweet angel of a son I have. He continues to blow me away with his compassion and his amazing 7 year old insights. One morning I asked for one more pancake, but there were no more. My son silently broke off half of his last pancake and put it on my plate. I burst into tears and kissed him. My husband, trying to spare my son, said “Mama’s just a little sensitive right now.” To which my son exclaimed “tears of JOY, Papa, tears of JOY!”
As I’ve said from the beginning, and sometimes I have to repeat it to myself in my difficult moments, it is “one day at a time”. It is the only way to get through this. I am strong and positive, and, I am praying for a return to my natural state of health. But when I am alone, if emotion overtakes me, I let it, and I beg for the strength to get through it, and I thank God for all of the Angels who have gathered around to carry me through this.
I will never say that I am grateful for cancer. It is my prayer that a cure will be found for this and all other diseases that so many of us suffer from. But I will say that I am forever grateful for the gifts that cancer has brought to me….the clarity, the love, the miracles.