- Reminder #1: Kourtney
I’ve been searching online for my childhood best friend for a couple years now. We were in touch until 2009, when all of a sudden she stopped replying to my emails. I had no idea why. After months of no response, i thought maybe she died. Then, one night when Mercury was in retrograde (and i was feeling more nostalgic than usual), i did some more comprehensive online searching (a.k.a. stalking) and found out that she was alive, married … and a cancer survivor. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – Stage 3. No wonder why she fell off the face of the planet. After discovering this, i still sent her the occasional “thinking of you” email, but i stopped expecting a reply. More recently, i found out through a mutual childhood school acquaintance that she not only survived her cancer, but she got it AGAIN. She was trying to raise a baby girl with her new husband and had to battle the same type/stage of cancer a second time. She won – again – and then had to deal with her husband dying in an awful car accident last month. At 36, she is now a 2x cancer survivor, a widow, and a single mother raising a young child on a $22,400/year salary.
- Reminder #2: Uncle Bob
My uncle has been battling Stage 3 cancer for a couple years now. He pushed through chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries. He had half his stomach and esophagus removed, along with 7 lymph nodes (3 of which were cancerous). His tumor was over 30 inches long. He was told that he had a 20% chance of beating his cancer. As if that wasn’t scary enough, one of his surgeries had a 3% survival rate, and it left him hospitalized for a couple months. He couldn’t work, and he fell behind on his mortgage. He almost lost the house he lived in for decades, and the only reason he was able to keep it was because his son took out a $10,000 loan, and his daughter coordinated a fundraising event. To this day, he’s not out of the water and is continuing to spend a lot of his time and energy into just staying alive.
- Reminder #3: Happily Ever After League (HEAL)
Next weekend I am attending a fundraising event put on by HEAL, a nonprofit organization that assists moms who are going through cancer treatment. A fellow ADJC teacher, Catherine, arranged for a bunch of our coworkers to chip in $60 each to get a table; she and another teacher, Amy, have spent numerous weeks organizing our fairytale theme (Wizard of Oz) and designing our table area. I can’t even imagine how many hours they clocked preparing for this event, hours that included donating me a Dorothy dress, messing up expensive manicures from hot glue gunning adventures, and making miniature decorations that – had i had to do myself – probably would have led to someone being killed.
Earlier today, i was on HEAL’s website (www.happilyeverafterleague.org), and it hit me how difficult it must be to be a MOTHER going through cancer treatment. There are days i am too weak, or sick, or sad to get out of bed … but moms don’t have that luxury of just lying around, immersing in their weakness, or sickness, or sadness. They have little ones depending on them to be fed, clothed, and cared for. Their children’s lives depend on them to be parents, regardless of whether cancer pops up in the mix … and *sometimes* these womyn have to bear this responsibility without the help of another parent.
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While my situation is painful and scary, it doesn’t come close to what others have to go through. I’m trying to keep that in mind this week.