Most doctors will tell you that our body heals itself, they just help. They set a broken bone and it heals, they tell us to drink a lot of water and the cold goes away. Sometimes, however, science has to intervene and that’s just what happened in our family over the last year. Teresa had cancer, which means that the cells in her body were tricked into thinking that they had to consume themselves and no amount of good intentions, peaceful thoughts, or avocado extract was going to cure her. Her breast cancer invaded and took over her body and unless the doctors brought in the heavy artillery, she was going to die.
She didn’t die. She is cancer free and yesterday had her last reconstructive surgery. For all the politics about pink ribbons, for all the complaints about how the money is being spent, she was saved by the research funded by cancer walks, tee shirt sales and corporate donations to save the Ta Ta’s. If her cells had gone this crazy just 15 years ago she would have been gone in months, there was no cure for what she had and all medicine would have done is make her sicker while trying to save her. But; there is a new drug, Herceptin, and it saved her life. After chemo, before her mastectomy and radiation, she was almost cancer her free, a mass of cancer that covered her chest was reduced to less than a centimeter thanks to those pink ribbons.
There are those out there who vehemently tried to convince us that big medicine is a scam and that the doctors and researchers don’t really want to save patients like Teresa, that they are all in it for the money. They are misinformed. We met nothing but dedicated and sincere health professionals who worked way too hard and put way too much emotion into their work to be in it for mansions and yachts. And, they rejoiced as much as we did when Teresa was healed, they saved her and knowing that was their reward. While chemo was, at one time, a long shot, my experience is that science has a come a long way with targeted medicines that attack specific types of cancers with a minimum side effects. (Okay, going bald is, in the long run, minimal and hair grows back. Besides, bald chicks are hot.)
On the other side of cancer treatment and Teresa’s cure we see life as the gift that it is. Sure, we don’t eat meat anymore and more avocados and carrots are on our table (I still draw the line at brussels sprouts), and we appreciate life for what it is: an opportunity to express our love for one another, our family, and those around us. We are willing to testify to anyone who is a year behind us on the cancer journey that they should ask a lot of questions, don’t settle for answers that you don’t understand, and to advocate for yourself or have some who can act as your patient advocate. It is possible to get lost in a hospital or insurance maze, but usually you can find your way out.
Teresa had her last operation yesterday, completing her reconstruction and ending her 14 months of being a “patient.” We are all one rogue cell away from being that patient, and while we don’t have any control over those cells, we can do a few things, like not smoking, eating better, and exercising to help our healthy cells beat the crap out of the bad ones.
One of the ways an episode like this will change you is to bring you back to God, you come to understand the importance of faith and of inviting him to share this journey with you. There are those, also well intentioned, who would have us believe that we are mini-Gods ourselves and that we would somehow be responsible for anything that happens to us, that we invite things into our lives because we used the wrong choice of words, their view of the almighty universe is that it is easily tricked by grammar or that our energy centers become susceptible to attack because we aren’t facing our problems. For me, I will stand with the Lord, I don’t think Teresa attracted cancer anymore than her Dad, who died from it, did. I believe that life happens to us, the good and the bad is all part of the package and God is there for us while we have this human experience. We don’t control everything and it is ridiculous to think that we are so powerful that we do.
There is an old saying that says that the Journey is More Important Than the Destination and that has been our approach. We have embraced this journey as a part of life and we thankfully got the opportunity to experience it together. I got to experience what it is like to be married to a brave and strong person, she got to know what it is like to stare down a fatal disease with her husband matching her step by step. Now we will embark on a new journey, together, finding what life is like on the other side of a cancer diagnosis, treatment, and cure; a life that we appreciate and can’t wait to experience together.
Thanks to all of you who have read our posts and updates, for your good wishes and for your prayers. They worked!