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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Survivors

Northwest Community Hospital held it’s annual Cancer Survivor get together last Sunday. For the first time, I was an “honored guest.” A survivor. As I walked in the door I felt a little strange calling myself a survivor when my cancer was only discovered in January. I was told, “You’re a survivor from the moment you’re diagnosed,” as they pinned a sunflower corsage on my chest. Other survivors attending included a five-year-old and a woman who has survived over forty years.

There were horror stories, notably from some of the older survivors in the days when treatment was not as fine-tuned as it is today and sometimes left long-term problems. Stories of sores that remained open for years made my already ending bout with gastrointestinal distress – such a clean term—seem inconsequential.

Mostly there was a feeling of success. An old-style D. J. played a name that tune contest, and there was a raffle where every survivor received a prize. And there was more food than my still struggling intestinal tract knew how to handle.

It all helped me remember that cancer doesn’t care. There is no answer to the “Why me” question. If you have an organ you can get cancer in that organ. It can strike anyone anytime. I did learn that if you have to have cancer, uterine is one of the best to have. At my age, the doctors can take out the whole piece of plumbing and toss it. I will spend the next few years living in doctor’s offices. Let’s see – June was the gynecologist and the surgeon. July will be the radiologist. August the internist, and September the surgeon again. You get the picture. If I stay cancer-free for a couple of years the routine will get scaled back. In the meantime, I get to live my life. Unlike a brave woman I never got to meet. Fellow 2010 Golden Heart® Finalist, Donnell Epperson.

She died from Breast Cancer in February, a month before her position as a Golden Heart finalist was announced. I have been praying for her family ever since I heard.

In the meantime, I go on. I know, in spite of the interesting scar revealing the path of the scalpel as they slit me open, and the radiation treatments that left me tired and running for the bathroom, there could still be a few hidden cells. It’s more like a cold than the measles, having cancer once confers no immunity in the future. But I don’t let fear stop me. I have a set of goals for this year, and I’m way behind.

So, I'm rolling up my sleeves and getting back to work. I have one manuscript to edit and another to finish. My characters wait for me to tell their stories.

20 comments:

Christie Craig said...

Wow! You brought me to tears. Thanks for the wonderful post.

I have so many friends and a mother who is breast cancer survivor.

CC

Angi Morgan said...

My neighbor is one month away from her "rebirth" party as a breast cancer survivor! Great post!

~~Angi

Morgan Mandel said...

I had no idea what was really going on. You are one brave woman!
Can't wait for your debut book to come out.

I'll be at Love is Murder also and I'm sure others we know will be there as well.

Great blog and website!

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://facebook.com/morgan.mandel

Gail Hart said...

Congrats on finishing radiation with your spirit intact.

Thanks also for sharing Donnell Epperson's story, which I wasn't aware of.

Connie Gillam said...

Barbara,

It takes a lot of courage to be a survivor- to not give up no matter how bad it is.

Congratulations,

Connie Gillam

Wendy Marcus said...

Hi Barbara!
You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story, and Donnell's which I also was not aware of. You remind me that each day is a gift not to be wasted or complained about.

Love your website and blog! Your book sounds amazing! Best of luck with everything.

Gillian Layne said...

I'm so impressed with this post. My husband has been a radiation therapist for the past twenty years. It's a day to day process, getting through it all. Kudos to you for remembering to live your life, as well.

Can't wait to read your work! :)

Elizabeth Stock said...

Wonderful post, so glad I stopped by.

Great website and synopsis too!

Elizabeth

LizeeS said...

Barbara,
This is an amazing post. You managed to bring tears, joy, gratitude and hopefulness all to the surface of my emotions. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers and remember your strength when I'm whining about something unimportant.
God Bless! Will we see you in Orlando?

Sandy said...

Both of my parents died of cancer so this blog meant a lot to me.

Pull sounds like a great story. Just this morning, I listened to some teens from Chicago on CNN talking about having to carry protection to school and the number of deaths in that city since January.

I'm glad you're a survivor. These kids will need you.

Mary Jo said...

Great Blog, even though I'm on the WisRWA digest and got the notice a day late.

I'm a firm believer in celebrating the good in life and getting through the bad.

Good luck at National.

Debra St. John said...

Barbara,

This moved me to tears. One of my oldest friends, we met in fourth grade, is struggling with cancer. She's survived longer than anyone thought. I am amazed, and hmbled, by the courage of all who have faced this in their lives. They/you give true meaning to the word.

Edie Ramer said...

I'm a 10-year survivor. With all the advances in treatment, more of us survive every year. I'm sending you healthy thoughts.

And it was great to meet you at the WisRWA conference!

Shea Berkley said...

Wonderful post, Barbara. You have a great attitude. Keep your spirits up and the stories flowing.

Blythe Gifford said...

Wow. Sometimes, it all happens at once, doesn't it? Congratulations to you on all your accomplishments!

Hope Ramsay said...

Congrats on the new website, blog, and the first sale. This is a very inspirational piece. You are truly unsinkable.

Laurel Wanrow said...

Barbara,
You are truly inspiring. Thanks for letting us in.

The new website looks great and love Pull's cover.

Laurel

Tracey Devlyn said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Amazing.

I'm looking forward to reading your debut book.

Best wishes to all the commenters who are cancer survivors. You rock.

Tracey

B. A. Binns said...

Thanks to everyone who left a comment. I will be in Orlando for the RWA convention, and hope to see many of you there.

Jo Anne said...

FABULOUS, Barbara. I'm sending you energy for survival, a GH win, and a successful writing career. You're an inspiration.