A week later, I was on a conference call with my mother’s doctors while I was in my commute home from work. My brother was in the room with my mom at the hospital. The doctors explained her films. They explained that the cancer had spread to her lungs, pancreas and kidneys. It was indeed Stage 4 liver cancer. That weekend, I drove down to be with my mother. She had accepted that she was not going to survive even though I still had not. I crawled into her hospital bed and we held each other, not saying a word, our hearts speaking to each other saying everything that we couldn’t say. She went into hospice. I called her sisters, brother and my grandmother and told them they should come down to say their goodbyes. I spent all of my time making her comfortable with the best sheets, comfy pajamas and kept her pain medications close. Our whole family was together to watch the Super Bowl with her, laughing like families do, happy to be together again. My brothers, sister and I kept a watchful eye on her and was so happy when she ate just a little potato salad and a small bite of baked chicken. She hadn’t been able to keep food down for weeks.
On February 12, 2006, one of the most dynamic, intelligent women I have ever known died. I sat for days in a daze. We didn’t get a chance to fight. Why didn’t we get a chance to fight?
In the same year, we lost her brother to lung cancer. We have since lost her sisters to breast and brain cancers respectively. They fought but lost.
This year, my cousin called from Atlanta. Her sister, my cousin Mia, was diagnosed with T-Cell Lymphoma. I was at the National Team In Training Directors Training during a break when I got the call. I went to the LLS website for information. I called Mia and we talked. She was scared but I was able to put her in touch with Don Armstrong, a first responder a leukemia survivor and one of my best friends. When we were about to go in for the next session, I turned to the TNT Director from Georgia and told her about my cousin’s diagnosis. She gave me the name of the Patient Services Director in Atlanta. Dr. Debra Banker, LLS Vice President of Research Communications, led our session. At the end, I asked her about T-Cell Lymphoma. She was calm but expressed that there was some urgency in which we needed to proceed. We did and my cousin is progressing well with information and resources that she has gotten from LLS patient services. We got a chance to fight!
Everyday, I wake up and am so thankful for my journey in life. I am thankful to have met people who have inspired me to keep going. I think about Bennett who was just a baby when he was diagnosed with a blood cancer whose parents, family and friends have supported him in his battle for years and who will have his last chemotherapy treatment in April of next year. I think about Becky who lost her husband to a blood cancer but who remains an active member of Team In Training. I think about George who is a survivor and always has a smile when I see him. I think about Dave who is battling his blood cancer through a clinical trail that he credits with extending his life. I think about them and so many more who are dedicated to the mission and just want to find a cure for blood cancer and improve the lives of patients and their families.
All of them and so many more did I think about when I crossed the finish line at Nike Women’s Marathon this fall. I was the first time I have raised money for blood cancer research through Team In Training and it will not be my last. Team In Training gives me an opportunity to fight because blood cancer sucks. Cancer sucks. And I believe that a cure for all cancers will come from the blood cancer research that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is funding. I can’t wait for the day when no one else will lose their friend, their child, their spouse, their father, their mother.
One year ago I joined The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. One down, more to go!