Today is World Cancer Day. First and foremost on this day I am grateful. If not for some superb medical teams, I probably would not be here. If not for numerous family, friends, and strangers, I would never have made it to this point. If not for my faith in a merciful God which has upheld me, I would be lost. Each day has brought a blessing. I have learned to marvel at the intricacies of a resilient body that God has created. Explaining to someone what it feels like to still be here is a challenge, but I do not even try to articulate it. I just want to embrace life while I can.
If I were to say anything to people about doctors and nurses who work in this particular field, I would say to thank them for their work. I have written prior to this about my surgeon who was brutally honest. I have grown to have the utmost respect for him and he still quite regularly creeps into my thoughts. I want to send him a little thank you note now that I have returned from the missions trip. He and the lovely women (nurse and receptionist) with whom he works would want to hear that I am still well enough to carry on and have surpassed my expiry date. I think about the interventionist too and his compassionate team. I know that he found his part in my recovery a bit of a challenge and his persistence to get the deed done paid off beautifully. I sometimes bump into one of his nurses and she reports back to him. The doctor I saw who gave me acupuncture to ward off the ill effects of chemo was gentle and generous. What I can say about the chemo nurses? This awesome group of women helped me time and again to keep courage and sanity close. These are the ones that work in the mine field–the ones who make us cancer patients laugh, point us to the finish line, and hold space for our tears and fears. All the staff I encountered from the receptionist to the clerks were cheerleaders for me. To be greeted by name and ushered to the chair by someone who cared made all the difference. For my oncologist and I to swap travel stories as she gives me motherly advice about drinking bottled fizzy water normalizes my life. My family doctor tells me regularly how amazing she thinks I am. The CT scan staff at both hospitals are worth applauding too. I think some of them must look at my pictures and silently recompose themselves before reentering the room. Almost always afterwards, they kindly help me off the table and the last one even gave me a big hug. These men and women have been a blessing to me.
My family and my friends have struggled along with me. Their fears and stress is evident at times. My accompanier can never be thanked enough this side of heaven for the many graces she has given but I know without a doubt that a very special place awaits her when her earthly journey finally comes to an end. I could not have picked a better human being for this role. The many various prayers, the freezer-full of food, the prayer shawls, the quilts, the myriad of cards, the visits, the flowers, the books, the words of encouragement, the stuffed animals, the rides, the treats, and the never-ending list of goodness and kindnesses that I have received is overwhelming. I have always said I have the best friends ever and they have proved me right. Those who helped throw me the best birthday party ever last year and established Suzanne’s Closet and the Amani Scholarship Award are helping to create legacies and wonderful memories. For those who I have been able to share my deepest fears and darkest thoughts with, please know that my trust and confidence is in you. The ability to listen well and with compassion is pure gift. I am fortunate to have many a person in my life who can do this, including a great social worker who reminds me when I am being much too hard on myself. The medical students and those learning how to do dignity therapy have held my story with great esteem and respect. You, my readers, who follow along faithfully, sending on occasion words of encouragement. I am also especially grateful for those who have been there before me–the ones who have survived cancer or continue to live with it–and shown me the way through this maze. For those who have offered me a place to land while I have recovered from my procedures and surgery, you are the blessed of God.
My faith communities have been exceptional. Today on World Cancer Day, I was pleased to see that a prayer team was available after mass as they always are on the first Saturday. Having been away, my head was not in the calendar game and it was a delightful surprise to have them pray over me, including for the remaining Puerto Plata Splatta issues. The prayers lifted by my Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, B’hai, atheist and agnostic friends are meaningful–the best medicine and action anyone can take. For masses said by my priest friends around the world to novenas and prayer walks by the laity, to candles lit in tiny chapels in remote villages and huge cathedrals in metropolises, for vigils kept and tears wept, for the innocent words and hand-drawn pictures of a children to the rosary beads of the elderly, I have reaped the blessings of the various ways my friends of faith have stood by.
These past 24 months have been a trek in a jungle–a wild adventure, as I call it. What do I want you to know about me at this juncture? See me as living, not as dying. This is still somewhat easy as I still look remarkable and those who do not know my situation would not be able to guess it. This continues to have pros and cons. Fatigue continues to be the biggest symptom as predicted. The other issues are less noticeable to people other than myself. Pain is still not a concern. Some days I have discomfort. On my recent trip, the discomfort lasted for several hours. My doctors and I are trying to discern if it is food related or not. I must say that travel tends to agree with me. Someone told me once that cancer does not like to travel and becomes disoriented. I do not know if that is true or not, but I do often feel better when I travel.
Cancer may take my body but it will not have my spirit and soul. On World Cancer Day, please pray for those of us with cancer. My list is so long right now, I only single out a handful of those I have promised to pray for but I rotate the names, depending on who is most on my heart. I have learned a lot from the courage that people have. Remember too the medical people who work with us and the researchers who want to eradicate this string of diseases. Hold those who love us–our family, friends and caregivers–in your hearts too. Their journey through this jungle is also uncertain and frightening. My list of gratitude is long and I am afraid that I may miss someone but know that I know who you are and what you have done. On World Cancer Day, please know that my heart is with all of you who have been alongside me.
What act of kindness can you do for someone who has cancer or someone who is caring for someone with cancer?
Is there a doctor or nurse you can thank for good care?
Great Physician, send your healing Spirit upon those who are sick and give them what they need to persevere. Be with those who care for those with cancer. May we feel your Holy Presence through it all. Amen.