First and foremost, My MRI was all clear 😉 Now I can really enjoy the holidays and not stress over my MRI. Thank you Lord!
Next my speech. I showed up at about 5 minutes before the meeting started, because I didnt want to be too early and look nervous 😉 There were about 10-15 Board members there, and I was the “opening act”. I explained that I would be reading my speech because my short term memory is below par, add that with my nervous speech twitching, needless to say they understood!
Here is what I said (If you have read “The Cancer” in my sidebar, you will noticed that I took alot off that page):
Before I tell you my Cancer story, let me tell what defines me.
First and Foremost, I am a Christian. I believe that my cancer didnâ€™t take my God by surprise. I have no fewer days left on this earth than I did before cancer entered my life. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that, no matter what happens, this ends well for me.
I am the only child of Greg and Darlene and am the wife and best friend of Mark. We have been married for over 13 years.
I am the mother of 3.
Easton, my 10 year old daughter loves everything Hannah Montana and can dance like there is no tomorrow.
My son, Elijah, is 7. He is my blonde haired, blue eyed wonder boy. My youngest daughter, Emma Grace, is 6.
Emma is my miracle. She spent the first 5 months of her life in ICU on life support. On Oct 5, she received her second chance in the form of a heart transplant. She has Autism and a myriad of other diagnoses, but when we look at her, we see a child who loves life, and lives every moment to the fullest. She has lasted 6 years longer than any doctor ever predicted!
I am the founding member of Mothering Through Cancer, at the Wellness Community, a support group for Moms who are battling cancer while raising young children. This is a good time for me to tell you how wonderful the Wellness Community is. Before I was first diagnosed, I never in a million years thought I would have cancer, much less this young. But I do, and I am only 32. I didnâ€™t know the first thing about chemo, radiation, losing my hair, how to deal with my fluctuating emotions and everything in between. While sitting in the waiting room in my radiation oncologistâ€™s office, I saw a flyer on the wall for Cancer Survivors (because all of us are survivors!). I jotted down the number for the Wellness Community and called as soon as I got home. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. In our support groups, we actually have other people that are going through or have gone through chemo, radiation, loss of hair, and surgeries. We actually have people who have experienced the same exact emotions that you face when you get the diagnosis of Cancer.
We are a family, a family of Survivors.
Now on to the Cancer.
In April of 2007, my world changed. Id like to tell you that it changed in a good way, and in some ways it didâ€¦ I knew something was wrong when I had to hold on to the wall to keep the floor from falling out from underneath me. I had been dizzy for days. I finally called my General Practitioner and scheduled and appointment. She thought that I had an inner infection but wanted to do an MRI to rule out fluid in my inner ear.
After my MRI, I went to my parentâ€™s house when I received the call. I had a mass in my brain. It had all the markings of cancer.
I had cancer. In my brain. Me.
In typical â€œHeather Formâ€, I wanted it out. I couldnâ€™t stand knowing that it was in my body. If I couldnâ€™t get rid of the cancer, at least I could get rid of the tumor. I scheduled the first of what would become three appointments.
The first was with a local neurosurgeon.
Inoperable, but the tumor looked to be a slow growing tumor, so we could wait and watch.
I was adamant about getting a second opinion, because the first neurosurgeon didnâ€™t really understand the graveness of the situation, in my opinion.
We scheduled my second appointment with a Neurosurgeon at MD Anderson in Orlando.
Inoperable again, slow growing again, wait and watch again.
My world fell out from underneath me.
I should stop here and tell you that I am an avid writer and have a blog. For those of you who are un-familiar with the term â€œBlogâ€, it is no different than journaling, only you have an audience. In my case, unbeknownst to me at the time, I had an audience of thousands.
Within a week an online fundraiser was being held for me by people I had never met from all over the world. Their sole purpose was to raise enough money for me and Mark to go to Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN. This fundraiser raised over $17,000 in just 3 days. I was humbled and shocked. Mark and I bought our plane tickets and packed our suitcases. It was a long shot, and they probably wouldnâ€™t have any other answer than the one that had been given to me twice before, but I had to go. I had to hear that it was Inoperable from the #1 Neurosurgery Hospital for me to believe it. It was my last chance, and I was taking it.
So Mark and I loaded our kids up and took them to my parents. We boarded a plane, flew to Rochester and hoped for the best.
We settled into a hotel, kissed each other goodnight and prayed harder than we had ever prayed before. The next morning was my big appointment, and I had pages of questions that I needed to ask.
Operable. Not only operable, but â€œRIGHT NOW IT HAS TO COME OUTâ€ operable.
The neurosurgeon wanted to know if I was free the following day. Mark and I looked at each other, in disbelief. When we left his office, I called my parents first. I wanted them there, because if someone was going to be cutting my head open and touching my brain, I needed my mommy and daddy. Mark called his mom and she generously offered to come to our home and watch the two oldest. Mom and Dad would be brining our youngest daughter, Emma Grace, with them. We picked a date for the following week, and called to schedule my craniotomy.
Fast forward to May 3, 2007, the day of my surgery. I canâ€™t begin to put into words the feeling of knowing that it just might be your last day. It might be the last meal you eat. It might be the last time you see your husband. It might be the last time you hug your parents. Put on top of that the fact that my two oldest kids were away from meâ€¦ I just canâ€™t put into words. I wasnâ€™t afraid of dying, I was sad that my possible death would effect my entire family.
Long and short, it went better than they expected. They expected me to have semi paralysis (on my right side) and possibly lose my speech permanently. I woke up and lifted my right arm. â€œGoodâ€ I thought. I tried to speak. Nothing. It took me 4 months to get my speech back and still to this day it isnâ€™t what it once was.
But I was alive, and that in itself was a great thing.
They removed the entire tumor, which was the size of the head of a 9 iron. The pathology came back an Anaplastic Astrocytoma (Anaplastic means Grade III). Grade IV is the worst. Remember what the first two Neurosurgeons said about it being slow growing? They were dead wrong. I would have been dead in 2 years had I not gotten a 3rd and final opinion. I started radiation and chemo simultaneously. I lost my hair and my appetite. But I was alive.
Fast forward to today.
What have I learned?
It isnâ€™t about the cancer, it isnâ€™t about what it has the ability to do to my body, it isnâ€™t about the treatments or the part of me it has taken awayâ€¦ its about the journey. Its about rediscovering the parts of myself that I never ever knew or dreamed existed, and giving them room to grow and room to take flight. Itâ€™s about seeing life through cancers eyes and being better because of it, being more whole and more alive despite it.
Itâ€™s about living.
Sure there are going to be days that I feel like a Mac truck just bulldozed over me. There are going to be days when I look in the mirror and think â€œWho is that person, and what did she do with my hair?â€ But there are days that I am fully alive and energized too, its part of the journey. It is part of life. But itâ€™s not the only part.
Itâ€™s not the defining part
I am still a mother.
I am still a wife.
I am still a daughter.
I am still the same Heather that I was before I found out that I had cancer, just a lot more mature and a heck of a lot less naive. I still have the same heart, the same dreams and the same desires. I am still me, and cancer canâ€™t take that away.
They were all very impressed with my speech, and my ability to tell my story. They asked many questions about how the wellness community has helped me, and what they could do to bring young people like myself in (because cancer is no longer a “old persons” disease). We discussed the benefits of support groups and the things that were holding them back. All in all it went way way better than I had hoped or expected!
Today was suppose to be Emma’s clinic visit, but it was canceled. It is being rescheduled for January 17th, so keep that in your prayers. She is doing wonderful, and luckily the antibiotics have kicked out what ever she had.
I am off to pack for our trip to Virginia, but wanted to thank you oh so much for your prayers and support. I have received many many Christmas cards for my cyber-family and it really warms our heart to know that my story, our story has touched you so deeply. So thank you