Some one asked me how I felt when I discovered I had cancer. That question instantly took me back to that Monday after Thanksgiving in 2006.
I had gone to the Emergency Room, at a nearby hospital, in the middle of the early morning hours with a severe restricting pain in my left side. My friend Kurt, an ER doctor at Scottsdale Healthcare, was scheduled to come in later that day.
A few other friends, including Kurt’s wife Marianne, were with me that afternoon when Kurt entered my hospital room to inform me I had Plasmacytoma with Amyloid. My friends sat next to my bed quiet and just as stunned as I was.
I thought to myself with all the stress and pressure I had been experiencing the last few years, it was no wonder I was here in the hospital with cancer. I knew that my cancer was due to many years of severe chronic stress.
Yet with that diagnosis of cancer, I became numb. I could not believe it was happening to me. It almost felt a little surreal. The first question I thought of as a woman is “Am I going to have chemo, and will I lose my hair?’ Then I thought, ‘How do I keep the girls in law school and the university? Am I going to live? How is this going to impact my family? How do I stay alive?”
I knew that Jennifer, my oldest daughter, had her own school loans but would Jacqueline, a sophomore in college, be able to qualify for loans at a private university? If I were gone, would they even want to stay in school?
Over those coming months, I tried not to forecast anything. When I do not know what to think, I do not try to figure out the future. I do that by staying in the present. I am not saying that I didn’t have any fear but I felt that things would probably not go the way I would imagine. So I tried not to imagine anything but staying in the present. It turned out I was right about not knowing what would unfold.
My mother died at age 31 of Ulcerated Colitis. My father shared with me the story of how Mother’s doctor came in after surgery and told her that she was going to die. Dad bitterly told me how the doctor’s news resulted in her giving up the will to live, that day. My Mother rolled over facing the wall, quit eating, quit talking and waited to die. She left behind a seven and a three-year-old who were devastated and heartbroken. I vowed I was not going to be that person.
While I had the daunting task of trying to figure out how to stay alive, my faith became endless and my desire to live was very strong. I had the issue of the cancer; the possibility of my spine collapsing and becoming paralyzed; and possibly dying from amyloid. I was determined that if I had a diagnosis I didn’t like I was going to stay open and allow myself the opportunity to see what else could unfold in front of me. I was in a maze of obstacles. If I hit a wall, I just turned to see what other paths I could take, including seeking second opinions. I took a very active approach.
My commitment and focus was to stay calm and stay out of the fear. During this time there were many people who came into my path to assist me. Several of them were faith based. One was Master Wong, a Qi Gong Master, who helped me envision what I wanted. I envisioned replacing cancer cells with healthy new cells while working with my breath. I imagined having God’s white light enter through the crown of my head and travel through my body healing any areas that were filled with cancer.
I also woke up every morning thinking of ten things I was grateful for. While my body was riddled with pain and I was financially broke, I focused on the fact that I was alive. I was grateful that I had Roger. I was thankful that my daughters were okay and in school. I was happy to have the love and support of my friends. There was appreciation for so many things large and small. If you are in appreciation, you have love. If you have love you can overcome fear.