Even the word itself has an evil, pervasive sound to it; C A N C E R. As it rolls off the tongue it conjures up images of sick people, sadness and loss. Cancer, it’s probably one of our worst fears, right? (Worse even than spiders and the fear of drowning!)
For some reason life has given me more than my fair share of experiences with cancer. It started when I was about 12 and was told my grandmother had a brain tumour that was inoperable. I had no idea what cancer was at the time (I was to busy dodging dinosaurs!) I just knew my Grandma was sick and my Mom was going to be with her, and then she was gone.
I’ve already mentioned my Mom, my brother and Carl… There was also an uncle, an aunt, an ex-boyfriend, the mother of a friend of mine… and the list goes on.
However, I’ve noticed, that behind the cancer, there are always these wonderful stories. Stories about the people who have been diagnosed and about their families and friends. Stories about how in spite of the dreaded diagnosis, these people go on to live and love and teach the rest of us so very much about living and loving!
I have a good friend in the US, who I’ve known and loved for 16 years. She called me a little over 3 years ago and I remember her first words like the call took place yesterday; “Hi, Meliss… I wanted to talk to you because, I know you know about this… I have just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.” My heart stopped. Fuck yes, I know about pancreatic cancer… It ate my brother alive in about 9 months!
But this, my good friend’s story, is playing out very differently! She’s is still with us! After over 3 years and close to 100 chemo treatments! In fact she emailed me last night to say she was praying for Arielle and to ask how I was!!! Imagine that, she’s worried about me!
I am in awe of this woman. She has just flatly refused to buy into the illness. She faces each day with faith, love, optimism and hope. She sets goals. Tries new things. Has become a vegetarian. She travels as often as she can. Still helps and is very involved with her kids and their lives and has had an anniversary party (where everyone wears pancreatic purple) for the past two years, to celebrate another year of life since her diagnosis.
Her story is amazing… She’s amazing! Regardless of whether she lives another year or another 20 years, the way she has lived the past three years is inspirational to say the least. She was totally cool before her diagnosis, but it shaped her into an even stronger, more determined, powerful individual who inspires me and gives me hope.
There is always a story behind the diagnosis. Arielle’s story is just one in a million. It is my entire world right now and pretty much all I can think about, but it’s just one story. One in a million.