An Unexpected Surprise, a Life-saving Gift
Fort Wayne, Indiana (January 12, 2011) —
My story. Well, the whole experience has been so surreal as cancer has a way of playing with your mind. My story began when I found my lump. I remember the day perfectly. It was my birthday in 2006. So fast-forward to today, four years later, where my students and I are talking in class about a writer’s style when one of them asks what my style is. Hmm…not certain if I’ve ever been asked that before. Ironically enough, today is also the day when I am interviewed for my story of hope. So today I write my story in my style, my rambling style.
How do I begin to share my story when the breaking news tells how Elizabeth Edwards has finished her fight? I don’t like or want to use the euphemism “lost her battle with” simply because I don’t like the sound of that and won’t accept the idea of losing, for in this battle there are only brave, unyielding souls who fight the good fight and persevere despite the odds, never ever fully leaving us as their memories, their hopes, their inspirations, live on.
There are those brief moments in time when all of the fates seem to converge; there are those times when all of the cancer-moments resurface without a moment’s notice. This is one of them. So tonight I need to write my story, in my rambling style, as homage to my fellow members of the Sisterhood.
My story is that of a survivor. A survivor like all those who have fought the fight against breast cancer. Obviously I wasn’t thrilled on that birthday in 2006. After discovering my lump (I had had a mammogram that came back clear only six months earlier), I never imagined how difficult it would be to say the little, short sentence, “I have breast cancer.” With time and knowledge and support it soon became easy to say. I realize now that perhaps that was my best birthday present ever as I got another chance for another year—and more.
Upon hearing the word “cancer,” it’s hard to wrap your brain around it. While a part of you thinks of your impending demise, another part remembers those who have survived. You can beat this thing.
You read where people with cancer say that they look at the world differently after a diagnosis. Probably that’s right. And just what is different? To sound like a cliché, it’s the little things we take for granted. Life has a way of getting in the way of things … or so we think. Family and friends became even more important as their love and support were so greatly cherished and needed. I can’t even begin to imagine how a person goes through something like this alone.
The whole experience is like a whirling dervish. But the outstanding doctors and nurses and support people give, such care and comfort, that one’s fears are soon assuaged. Which brings me to going to the oncologist’s office. When a person goes to a family doctor’s office, she can maintain some anonymity in that no one knows why she is there. Now the oncologist’s office is a whole other experience. Everyone knows why you’re there.
Following my lumpectomy I was fortunate to be able to continue working during my six weeks of radiation treatment. Although I didn’t experience any major side effects like some women, I did get exhausted by the end. After that I began taking Tamoxifen and am quickly approaching my end date for that treatment. During the early stages of treatment I could have told you any fact you’d want to know about my diagnosis: stage I, lump size, you name it! Everything around me shouted CANCER! There was PINK everywhere! Or so it seemed. A fellow support group survivor said how diagnosis data, along with everything seemingly connecting to cancer, would gradually fade. She was so very right.
During my treatment I couldn’t have had better students. I remember participating in the Making Strides Walk that October 2006. It was great to walk with many students from my high school. To this day several students continue to participate in the walk like they’ve done for so many years to support their family and friends.
After I finished my radiation treatments, the students totally blew me away by giving me a party to celebrate the completion of the treatments. This year when I was selected to throw out the first pitch for the TinCaps/Vera Bradley Foundation Turn the Town Pink Game, many of my students (and family, friends, and colleagues) showed great support by attending. In today’s news it seems as though we only hear about the negative activities of teens. But I know otherwise. There are many students who do care and are simply good not only because of what they do but also because of who they are and what they stand for. My students remind me of why my passion is teaching.
Has cancer changed my life? Well, of course. Yes, there have been the little speed bumps along the way, but I’ve learned that I’m tough. I know that through my family, friends, and faith my fight has not been as difficult as it has been for some women. Additionally, every day I see students who, although they may not share their story with me, I know face seemingly insurmountable challenges the likes of which I can’t even begin to imagine. Perhaps the whole purpose for this cancer experience is to be a source of hope and inspiration for someone.
So this is my story, my story in my rambling style, and this is what I write. I write to provide a glimmer of hope, for it is hope that will help all who endure the journey. Cancer is just a small part of who we are; it does not define us, nor does it break our spirit. We are the fighters; we are the survivors; we are the Sisterhood. That is our story.