Sunday, November 1, 2015

Turning the Page of a Fresh Chapter.

Throughout the long days and nights of cancer treatment I often fantasized about crossing the finish line.  I imagined how victorious I would feel after completing the last of the seemingly endless surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments.   

But to my great surprise, when the end of treatment finally arrived I felt far from from victorious.  And as my friends and loved ones gathered at my favorite restaurant to celebrate - I cried in the bathroom and begged my husband not to make me go. With a ten-year follow up schedule in hand, celebrating the end of cancer seemed both ludicrous and premature - perhaps even an invitation for fate to smite me once again.

I had trained for a 5k then discovered I was running a marathon. And somewhere along the line I realized the elusive finish line at the end of cancer treatment is merely an illusion.  Today, three years after my diagnosis the weighty truth is - this will never end for me.

How "survivor" feels.
There are many side effects associated with the treatments I have endured.  Chronic pain, memory loss, premature menopause, and osteopenia punctuate my H&P's these days.  And as much as I would like to tell you otherwise, I'm not completely out of the woods with this diagnosis.  

Thirty percent of breast cancer patients will go on to develop metastatic disease which is fatal and has no cure.  This means I must stay vigilantly aware of twinges of pain, lingering cough or fatigue which could signal the return of disease - effectively keeping me captive in a body that once betrayed.

But the heaviest burdens come from watching my friends and family struggle with their own cancer diagnosis - knowing I can do nothing to save them from this fate. And the nearly unbearable grief as voice after voice is forever silenced by this disease while seeing my own children's eyes in the family left behind.

There is no "finish line" with cancer.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is either delusional or trying to protect you.  And unlike active treatment - when roads are lined with well wishers - the post treatment course is often traveled alone.

But although I did not choose this road - I can determine my stride and the impact I make along the way. Which always requires stepping out of my own comfort zone. 

This leads me to my latest venture into scaring the heck out of myself personal growth  - an extraordinary trip with A Fresh Chapter.  

This March I have been selected to join a small group of people who have experienced cancer on a humanitarian partnership in India.   Once we arrive in New Dehli we will join with Cross-Cultural Solutions - an organization that  places volunteers depending on interest and experience with local community projects such as teaching English in underfunded schools or working at Mother Teresa's Home for the Destitute and Dying (Fingers crossed there is a good chance this is where I will be).

For two weeks we will volunteer in some of the most poverty stricken areas of the world while serving as cancer ambassadors in an area where cancer is often associated with secrecy, shame and stigma.  In the afternoon we will (safely) experience the vibrant culture of India - sip chai with fellow cancer survivors, experience the Color Festival and watch the sun rise over the Taj Majal. 

It is a once in a lifetime experience.  Frankly, the idea of participating in this program simultaneously terrifies me and is all I can think about.  I've never travelled internationally - let alone with strangers to such desperate conditions.  I also will need to fund raise my heart out in order to be able to finance this crazy venture.

But I also know big dreams should scare you a little - that's the place where you grow.  And simply changing one's perspective can be a powerful catalyst.  I should know. I've been able to reach more people and create more change than I ever imagined possible through simply sharing my journey from nurse to patient.  

So perhaps it is fitting the next phase in my recovery would also begin with a journey. 

Click here to donate.  

Please consider making a donation to help me turn the page to my own fresh chapter.  Any amount helps (fund raising deadlines are closing in fast) and I appreciate it more than you could know. 

A Fresh Chapter (Alliance Foundation) is a Project in affiliation with Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs (SEE) a non profit public charity exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations will be used to cover program related costs and all US Donations of $100+ are eligible for a tax receipt. 

Thank you for your support!