A little over a year ago I was embracing turning 70. The only care I had in the world was how I would handle aging as I began a new decade. Little did I know that a few months later I’d be fighting for my life.
Of course now I realize how shallow it was to be concerned and consumed with the aging process when I should have been incredibly grateful for every day I was given, and for the many blessings I have been granted over the years.
I’ve always been a reasonably appreciative person, but it took cancer to truly see how oblivious I was about what really matters. Before cancer I usually woke up happy, but clueless. I’m fortunate that I’m a pretty positive person, however now I realize that I stressed about the silliest stuff. I worried that my hair wasn’t perfect, or that I had put on a few pounds, or if I shopped too much. Yes, I wanted to change the world for the better, and I fought for countless causes. But, I took my own life for granted.
And then one day life throws you a curve ball! You are told you have a deadly disease and if you don’t treat it with extreme measures you’ll die in a matter of months. Suddenly, everything but survival seems trivial. And the people in your immediate family become even more special to you than you ever imagined. You want to drink in each essence so you can cling to it for as long as humanly possible.
I remember asking my oncologist what happens if I don’t do chemo, and he gave me the cold hard facts. So… I chose to live and never looked back. Chemotherapy is not something I’d wish on anyone. Frankly, it’s miserable. But, it’s also quite miraculous in how it shrinks tumors. And my doctor’s brilliant surgeon hands were indeed magical in the way he removed multiple tumors and organs. I was very lucky to find such an amazing oncologist/surgeon. The stars were aligned when I discovered him.
After surgery he was surprised when I said it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. But, who knows what kind of pain medication he had me on. When I returned home from the hospital about five days later, I became fully aware that the pain was pretty intense and yet I was just happy to be alive and able to walk a bit so none of that mattered. And so I slowly healed and a few weeks later I began chemotherapy once again. My cancer numbers didn’t go down as quickly as the doctor had hoped and I had more blasts of chemo than most people. But I survived.
I admit, I did cry when my hair fell out, along with all my eyebrows and eyelashes too. However, I embraced the new me and drew on some brows so I didn’t look quite so much like an alien. Lol
In my mind I was still just Lesley, not cancer girl, and I suppose I thought I looked much better and healthier than I actually did. I say this because when my son or my sister would take me to the infusion center, I’d often have to sit on a bench as they’d go get the car and drive around to pick me up. There would always be someone who’d walk by, take one look at me, and say something like, “I’ll pray for you.” Often times people would stare and then start to cry. So, I suppose I was pretty scary or pathetic looking.
My doctor had me on a special protein drink for a while because I became painfully thin from so much vomiting. Months and months later I got back to a normal weight when my medication changed and I could eat food again. Thank goodness!
I still have a long journey ahead of me, but on this road, I’ve learned to appreciate EVERYTHING! Yes, everything!
I knew my sons loved me, but I had no idea just how much. I am overwhelmed with how incredible they have been during my cancer battle. I knew I had a great sister, but didn’t realize that she’d be there to hold my head up when I couldn’t keep my food down. And I knew I had some wonderful friends in my life but I had no clue how amazingly thoughtful they were and how the local people helped and visited, and how the rest called, wrote me, showered me with presents, and kept telling me the most positive, kind words to push me forward and keep my spirits up. I learned that I’m truly the luckiest girl in the world.
I really am. I have no idea how long this battle will endure, but I’m ready to take it on. I have no choice. I love living! And I love all the people around me.
I’ve attached some photos of some of my journey this past year…