I Dare You

A year or two after my treatments, I contacted the gentleman once or twice more to see how he was doing.  I was always afraid to call and find out he had passed, but each time I had, he told me he was well.  It’s been several years now… I wouldn’t dare try again.

In our initial conversation, when I asked him about maintaining a healthy weight, he told me his wife took very good care of him, and,  “She makes me lots of meat and potatoes.”

I could tell he had a smile on his face.  I couldn’t believe that he had put on twenty pounds since his lowest weight.  Keeping up my skeletal look was difficult enough.

What I would give to put on twenty pounds!  You don’t hear that very often, right?  Putting on two pounds gets me excited, even though it takes months, but losing them is very easy and discouraging.

I asked Hope & Cope about him years ago, but they hadn’t heard from him, since he was not an active member.  Surely, he’s doing well?

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Underrated Assistance

After I was operated, and before my radiation and chemotherapy began, I was put in contact with a volunteer from Hope & Cope.  Volunteer-based, Hope & Cope is a well-recognized association offering a wide support to cancer patients through guidance, resources, and research to help patients and their loved ones cope with diagnosis, treatment, psychosocial needs, and, certainly in some cases, bereavement.

I contacted a gentleman a couple of times who had experienced the same cancer and treatments.  He was about a year ahead of me and some years older.  There are no words to express how helpful knowing, despite the slim chance of survival, another person has made it through.  The exchange was comforting, and I didn’t feel so alone.  I felt understood and hopeful.

Unfortunately once my treatments began, I was too ill to continue in my conversations with the volunteer.  Speaking brought on nausea, if I didn’t already have it from the chemotherapy.  I would begin to gag if I spoke more than a couple of sentences.

Nausea still affects me, albeit less often than in the first few years following treatments.  Whether I speak for a lengthy period, become stressed, overeat, or simply wake up with the feeling, it cannot be ignored.

Bad For Good

My treatments were completed by April of 2005, and at that point, I was thinking, “I can’t believe I made it through such a gruesome period.  My body has been through hell and back, and I’m still here.”  Is it true that I have beaten an advanced cancer?  Has all the suffering from the chemo and radiation help me survive?

Fortunately, not every one has so many side effects from cancer treatments, but having been treated for a gastric-related cancer, exaggeration of symptoms was expected.

There had to be a reason for having to endure all this suffering, and then to be given my life back.  I always believed there was a purpose to every thing we experience – the people we meet, the situations we live through, the choices we make… And I think I found mine.

It may sound strange to hear this, but I’ve always wondered what I could do to “save the world.”  It seems impossible;  but, if every person did one nice thing regularly, the world would be a much better place.  It’s a big world, and we can and must all contribute to its betterment, as well as maintain healthy relationships, not only within our own group but with those we would never expect to.  It really is that simple.  Just be respectful and accepting of our differences, and don’t impose on others.  Reciprocate kindness and equally share the space on Earth.

It’s what we all want, but we’re too self-absorbed and living madly, to even make time to do any thing about it.  If we only complain how bad the world is, then we are contributing to the negativity.  Why not try doing some thing small each day instead?  Give some one a complement, be positive, do a good deed, smile at a stranger, celebrate the people in your life… any thing we don’t do, only makes things worse.

I’m not being self-righteous – God knows I’m not perfect.  My small voice isn’t really saving the world either.  But I feel great about helping people – especially when I can comprehend what they’re experiencing.  The reaction from the patients I mentor is amazing.  They know I understand, they know I’ve been there.  Sharing stories alleviates some of the fear and the loneliness.

I say this with some reservation since, although I have experienced stomach cancer myself, each of us is different in how we handle critical situations.  The circumstances with the diagnosis, treatments, recovery, and life span will likely be different.  It is also impossible for any of us to measure some one else’s pain or fear.  So even though I understand the cancer, the treatments, the fears, life after cancer – if you’re fortunate enough to have been granted one… there is uniqueness to be considered.

Event Planning

I was diagnosed in August of 2004, when the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public (but not to visitors until Independence Day, 2009), after having been closed since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, when 2,977 people, excluding the airplane hijackers, lost their lives.  Although I have no close ties to the tragic event, I feel much compassion for those who suffered, like most people do.  The commonality that I share with some of the surviving women, is that I also had a child the following year.  The major difference is that Isabella was lucky enough not to have suffered the loss of her father.  Those miracle children born without their father are still adolescents around 2016.  They have certainly learned of their father’s heroism.  Heroes are not only those that assisted during such turmoil, but all those who have died trying to escape.  The surviving children fill the hearts of the families who lost so much.

Although the theory that more babies would be born months after the horrid event never materialized, unplanned Isabella arrived during Fall, 2002.  In some small way, I feel she was my miracle, so I may have strength during my own life-threatening event in 2004.

Shortly after my surgery, the Montreal Expos played their final game in Montreal.  After thirty-six seasons, they placed fifth.  The team moved to Washington, D.C., and was named the Washington Nationals.

Earlier that year Facebook was also invented.  The new social media brought, initially, students and faculties closer together, and within two years, the rest of the world.

I was oblivious to the Summer Olympics held in Athens, Greece, during those two weeks when I was receiving diagnoses.  Even though I wasn’t a regular follower of such events in the past, synchronized swimming and gymnastics would grab my attention in previous years.

 

The cold weather is here!  The snow is pretty when it’s freshly fallen, but icy roads and sidewalks can be treacherous.  Be safe! 

Patricia

Have I Failed Her?

What has also strengthened throughout this time is caring for my only child.  In some ways, I feel I’ve failed at mothering Isabella.  She deserves so much, but I’ve lost so much time with her during my treatments.  Has she been scarred by the lack of attention from me?  It haunts me wondering whether I could have done any thing differently.

 

Once I was better, I did make efforts to be closer to her.  I began reading  to her again every night, took her with me wherever I went – and she made it easy because she was so well behaved – and took pictures with her during every event, outing, or opportunity.  When I scan through my photo albums, the gap during my treatments is so evident.  I hadn’t recorded any memories to remind me of her at that age.  It still saddens me.

I am so proud of how Isabella handled the traumatic event in her life, and pray she never has to experience it again – especially not firsthand.  Today, she tells me about moments when she thinks of my being ill and becoming emotional.

Hopefully the memory will only serve her as such, and she absorbs the good from it, like I have.  She must also know how much strength she brought me during the crisis.  Seeing her every day made it all worthwhile.  I pray that my gift from God will be rewarded with health, fulfillment, happiness, and success.

 

I would like to thank you all for continuing to read.  The memoir is in edit mode, and I hope to find the right editor soon to help polish it and prepare it for publication.  In the meantime, I hope you have found some inspiration in my words.  I am insignificant in the bigger picture, but each of our experiences helps to build a better world.  Please join me in the fight against illnesses, injustices, and the pursuit of peace.  Bless you all!  

Patricia