Written by Laura Beasley
There should be a new movie rating, “CVD” for “Cancer Victim Dies.” That way I will know to avoid seeing that movie. I hate all those movies in which a character gets cancer and is dead by the end of the movie. Many of us survive years beyond a diagnosis of cancer. I have lived almost eleven years.
Easter weekend 2000, I felt a hard, painless lump on my neck the size of a super ball. I knew that it was cancer although it took several weeks for doctors to diagnose lymphoma, cancer of the lymph glands. They considered radiation combined with chemotherapy but the tumor board decided that I should have six cycles of CHOP chemotherapy.
At the time of my diagnosis, my children were 19, 12 and 9 years of age. I had been married to my high school sweetheart for 21 years. I realized pretty early in my cancer journey that things were more difficult for my family and friends than they were for me. The worst case for me was that I would die. I believe that there is a better life after death. It was very difficult for my husband to be the caregiver and to be strong for me when he was so afraid. I was grateful that we went to The Wellness Community weekly where I got support from other cancer patients while Bob met with other caregivers.
We did not choose to have the Internet and email in our home until 2009 so when it came time to notify friends and acquaintances about my cancer diagnosis, I used the telephone. I called dozens of people and re-told my story. I am grateful for the prayers, love and support I received. I chose to keep my volunteer commitments leading weekly Girl Scout meetings and telling stories at the elementary school every Friday. I gave up doing the dishes and driving the car. I felt “fuzzy” from “chemo-brain.” My 19-year-old son, Theo took a semester off from college to drive his siblings to and from school and ensure that his 9-year-old sister could continue her daily ballet and dance lessons and other activities. Friends brought meals for my family for six months. One friend gave me a massage every week.
Every time I went to chemo, I would reread the get well cards from my friends and family. I read extensively (books not the Internet) but I would stop reading when the book would discuss survival statistics. I knew my odds would be either 100% or 0% so the statistics were meaningless for me as an individual. I continued to write daily in my journal. I started to write obnoxious rhyming poems about cancer as well modern fairy tales. After I completed my chemo, I wanted a long-term project so I decided to write one hundred short stories over the next decade (10/year). I recently completed my 100th story.
I have met cancer patients who wanted to complete their “bucket lists.” One friend postponed chemo so that she could take a vacation to Europe. Chemo couldn’t start soon enough for me. I didn’t have a bucket list. My dream life was living with my true love, raising my beloved children, having friends, writing and volunteering in my community. I didn’t need any adventures beyond the life I was leading. I am grateful that my cancer is a memory and a reminder that when I needed care and love, friends were there to lift me up and carry me.