Dreams Really Do Come True!
Life is definitely a mystery. Uncertainty and fear enters our life-long journey as we encounter unexpected crossroads. Which way is my life going to go? As a relatively healthy 57 year old, I was working in my dream role, enjoying my family and my passion as a nurse educator. Out of nowhere I came to a crossroad where my life changed. An irregular spot on a routine mammogram resulted positive for cancer. My first reaction was, “I am not the first for a lumpectomy and I am not the last – I can do this.”
The results of the Breast MRI came in. Not only was this irregular spot bigger than expected, there were also suspicious spots across my chest. This invisible type of cancer was identified as invasive. The shock that my husband and I went through that day is still very vivid in our minds. We were lost for words. Following a bone scan and a CT scan, the oncologist outlined a path that would result in one of the most mysterious journeys in my life: the path of chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.
As soon as I left chemo class, I visualized myself as an athlete in training for the Olympic Gold. However, mine is the vision of the Gold Medal of Health! The eight-course chemo schedule was quite and endurance test filled with fevers, infections, delays, hospitalizations, intrusive tests and medications. The worst day in my training was the possibility of a blood clot in my lung. This is the day I cried, as I knew I was at another crossroad where another large change was possible. Thank goodness
– the results were favourable and I continued down the path to my Gold Medal to Health. If chemotherapy has 16 side effects, I experienced 20! Thankfully I missed nausea and vomiting. I guess the high doses of medications that sent me into a “wired bunny” proved their worth. I am still here today.
Love, faith and hope were a large part of my training experience. We had an organized schedule where my “Circle of Angels” (my family and friends) were by my side at home and in the Chemo Suite. They met my needs and assisted to control any side effects. My surgery date was moved from January 2013 to December 21, 2012. My first thought was, Christmas? Really? This crossroad did not take long to redirect my thoughts to: My wish this year is My Health! Following a double mastectomy I was home for Christmas, in an electric bed, in my living room with my family all around me along with the Christmas tree and my drainage tubes. My husband, children, grandchildren, parents, brothers, sister-in-laws, nieces and nephews radiated love, hope and thanksgiving. This was the best Christmas present anyone can ask for.
Ok, Rita 1: Chemotherapy complete, Rita 2: Surgery complete now, Rita 3: the training for radiation. But before that starts, who ever thought crossroads like shingles, limited arm movement and challenged breathing would extend the time frame for being able to achieve my Gold Medal of Health? Finally, the 25 radiation treatments came and went. March 19, 2013 the words: “You are Cancer Free” resonated as we got into the car. Michael Buble’s It’s a Beautiful Day blared on the radio followed by Shania Twain’s Today is Your Day! It felt like I was Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz waking up from a horrible dream on the yellow brick road. My thoughts “Somewhere over the Rainbow, Dreams Really Do Come True. I have my Gold Medal of Health.”
I have achieved my medal on a 10-month journey – just like I was told. It has been the research that set the path for my uncommon form of breast cancer. I am lucky to be able to share my story. I am now ready to pick up where I left off. To my surprise, as a survivor, which was a hard term to accept, I face crossroads daily. Adjusting to a whole new world with neuropathy, lymphedema, post-traumatic stress, the battle with clothes, an exhaustive list of allergies and sensitivities, decreased energy levels and wondering if it will ever end. Now being two years cancer free, I put to practice the many creative strategies and therapies I have promoted for years as a Nurse Educator. Life has a different meaning. Live the life you imagine, follow the wish in your heart.
I am a survivor; physically I have scars and a story with me playing “Dorothy” to share and help understand what it is like to be on a long and winding “pink” brick road. “Let successes from cancer survivors fuel your success!” My wish list is transparent. I have seen Michael Buble, seen Shania Twain in Las Vegas, have taken our family to California to celebrate family, Disneyland and Universal Studios and creating tools to assist individuals on their journeys and raising awareness and funds for breast cancer research. My family took part in a fund raising run in 2012 when I was diagnosed. My grandchildren (3 and 1 years old) said “Nanna, we are going to run for you in our stroller!” That day a fever took over and I was only able to have a short visit on the site. My three-year old grandson greeted me with a bunch of flowers and my yearold granddaughter had an award in her hand for me. A flood of tears took over me. Since then, my family has been supporting the BRIGHTRUN. September 2014 was my first time as a participant. Although my feet were aching, it was a rewarding feeling to have completed the path. It is pretty special when you know you have been a recipient of the wonders of research, it can only continue to grow. The BRIGHTRUN medal received at the finish line is a small token with a large amount of Love, Hope and Thanksgiving attached. My grandchildren, proudly held their medals with me saying “Nanna, we do this to help you and others like you FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!” Heart-felt appreciation to my Health Care Team for their coaching and sharing their talents to keep me focused and on track to get me where I am today. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It is learning to dance in the rain!
With Love, Hope and Thanksgiving,