Tag Archives: Cancer!

Metaphorically Letting Go!

The title of my blog is Enjoy Life for a reason.  Since college it has been my motto- to enjoy each and every moment…don’t fret the little stuff, for it will all work out in the end.  The past few weeks I have spent many waking and sleeping moments admiring my all the intricate moments with my son Caleb and our newly formed family of 3 1/2 (Diesel is half human).  Meanwhile I was losing a friend.  In my moments of admiration and devotion to my family, her family was saying good-bye to a life filled with love, laughter and rigorous adventure.  Last Saturday night near the time I was putting Caleb to bed, Tracy’s family reflected on their wonderful time together as her spirit escaped her and she would reach her final resting place.  While her diagnosis was terminal, the news came of her death hit me like a sucker punch to the gut!

I have known of Tracy for a long time…her children were actively involved, her husband a Doctor in town, their family participated in many community events, in general they were always lending a hand.  They were the family that people admired from afar.  But during the fall of 2008, I got to know Tracy on a much deeper level.  To skip the details, I had a long-standing shoulder injury that was looking like would need surgery for repair.  Tracy was a Physical Therapist and prior to undergoing the knife, I thought I’d give her a try.  Without any farting around, she got straight to the point, the muscles holding my shoulder in place were so weak that essentially my shoulder was “falling” out with no support to get back into place.  Tracy stated it a bit differently “Heidi, I’m 50 years old and a heck of a lot stronger than you, so we need to beef it up and in the next 6 weeks (my next appointment with the orthopedic surgeon).”  And that she did…she pushed me (or rather “tortured” as she liked to call it) and each week I could feel myself getting stronger.  However, PT was more than just strengthening a loose shoulder, it was nearly an hour of sarcasm and stories that made me enjoy every minute!  Physical Therapy became the highlight of my day thanks to Tracy.

There are a many things that make Tracy stand out.  As I got to know Tracy, I recognized how inspirational she was.  She treated me not just as a patient on her schedule, but as a friend.  We shared stories of our animals- her selling a donkey on Craigslist and even how they acquired a donkey, to comparing notes about weddings (I just had my wedding 2 months before starting therapy and her daughter was married that same summer).  We both attended the same church so we swapped stories on who was who, and what was new in the world of faith.  We’d compare stories of having shorter husbands and dates that inevitably included a stop at Wal-Mart!  She encouraged adventure, so when I asked if it was okay for me to go skiing over Christmas break, she quickly replied I don’t see why not, if it doesn’t hurt go ahead…to which I responded “good, cause I was going to do it anyway, but thought I’d at least ask.”  We talked about music and teased the other therapists for their selections…turns out we had a common love of Bruce Springsteen.  But one thing was true time and time again…Tracy was real!  Someone who would share her thoughts, ideas, and practical jokes, as well as challenges and frustrations.   I graduated from Physical Therapy with flying colors.  I had made so much progress my right shoulder was now considerably stronger than the left.  I also found a friend and co-conspirator in Tracy.

A few weeks later, I threw my back out and being a new found believer in physical therapy I immediately requested a referral to return.  My first visit was not with Tracy, but after some assessment it was suggested I see her in future visits.  Apparently I had reached celebrity status in that office, because my first appointment with Tracy I walked back, and Tracy shouts: “hey everyone, Heidi’s here” to which everyone responded “Heidi”  like I was Norm walking into the bar on Cheers.

Tracy had a keen eye for detail that I neglected to mention earlier.  During one visit she noticed my cute shoes and pointed them out to others in the office.  Following that appointment it became routine  for her to immediately check out my shoes.  As I began my exercises during one appointment she pointed out her frightfully old-lady looking shoes.  Of course my response was “Tracy, those are hideous.”  Tracy’s response stirred unrest in me as she said “I know, but it’s kind of the mood I’m in.” She went on to share that the fungal or bacterial infection she’d been struggling with in her lung turned out to be cancer.   WTF.  Tracy was the epitome of health.  I may have even said those things aloud as the shock severed my body numb.  I tried to respond with sarcasm and humor as she played along.  She shared the time line from lung biopsy to sharing the news with their children.  While many would resort to self-pity and despair, her response was “Aren’t I lucky!”

In the coming weeks and months I would see them out and about and immediately point out my cute shoes.  In a card I received from Tracy,  she noted that she threw out those old-lady shoes, life was too short for ugly shoes!  Shortly thereafter at a Chamber of Commerce event I ran into her husband, and once again pointed out my cute shoes.  I asked him to share with Tracy that I had a new pair of cute shoes and wasn’t about to let her down.  His response was “well, here let me take a picture” promptly he pulled out his flip phone and snapped a shot of my shoes, bent down at floor level to get the perfect angle.  Each time I ran into her at church we would throw our feet up in the air and point out the cute shoes we were wearing. It didn’t matter that it might be the middle of a song it mattered that we were wearing cute shoes. So yesterday, as I shared my sorrow with her husband, he asked my shoe size…he thought it would be fitting for me to stop by and choose a few cute pairs.  Suddenly I felt Tracy smile and snicker a bit and it seemed okay.

Prior to the funeral yesterday, I held onto Caleb for several hours, recognizing that one week ago while I studying my new found love, the Rasor family was doing the same thing with their mom.  Trying to remember every detail, every memory, every laugh and cry that they could forever seal into their memories.  The circle of life seems so unfair to me.  When I finally laid my son down in the final minutes as I walked out the door I had to let go of him for an hour, but my memories of him would last a lifetime.  No matter how prepared we think we are, or how great the hands are that hold our loved ones near, letting go is the hardest part.

Tracy’s celebration of life was exactly that- a recount of the moments shared together with song and dance, pictures and laughter.  It was the most beautiful way to draw an end to her time on earth and by the standing room only in and around the church it was a true testament to what Tracy would want us to do…Enjoy Life!

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Cancer still sucks!

In recent days I’ve been reading on stranger’s blogs, and few stories have tugged a few heart strings.  I know many of us have been affected by cancer, and the loss and pain it creates.  Thus, I felt compelled to share their stories.

A few months ago I posted Cancer Sucks! regarding my aunt’s brother who was facing treatment for Lymphoma.  I am happy to report that he is recovering nicely.  However last year I ran a marathon in honor of my 24 year old cousin who passed on after battling leukemia for 5 short months.  I also said good-by to my Grandmother and mentor after a 5-week battle with cervical cancer that had spread to the lungs.  But I know that despite the pain and loss it doesn’t mean we give up…no instead I want to fight harder. 

The night before running the San Fransisco Marathon I was blessed to hear Amy’s Story, and her decision to choose hope.   I have to believe there is hope for these families through the circumstances.

Today as I was reading Not that you asked and the story of little Emily and the hardships that the family must endure to keep their precious daughter alive, my heart went out to them.  I wanted them to choose hope.  Katie & Brain (Emily’s parents) are doing everything in their power to ensure she gets the best treatment ever for her very rare and malignant brain tumor.  It’s not just about the medical bills, but keeping their house, while taking unpaid leave of absence to move around the country to be with their daughter.  Such uncertainty require faith, hope and love, and I commend them.  But I also want to support these strangers.  Not that you asked has set up a Pay Pal account for other to donate to help Emily and her family, there are other options too, please see her blog for more details.

And then there is Keri‘s Story.   She is a friend of Julia’s who authors of my life in transition, as Julia shares her connection and struggle her friend is facing.  I feel as though I know this person through visiting her site and seeing pictures.  My heart goes out to Keri, who at age 26, just underwent a double mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis.  The idea of losing “my girls” would devastate me.  Staying positive through this process then to undergo chemotherapy since the cancer cells have invaded the lymph nodes.  I have to believe that with hope and strength anyone can overcome cancer and become a cancer survivor!

The fact that prior to reading these posts I was fretting over what washer and dryer to buy for our new house, and how we were going to afford our next deposit to the wedding photographer, or how scary this transition to new job, new home, new name, new life could be.  How ignorant and petty it feels now, knowing that Brain & Katie have to give up everything to be with there daughter, not knowing what her outcome will be.  Or Keri who is literally losing a part of her body in her efforts to rid her body from cancer. 

My heart goes out to you, all of you! I encourage you to visit their sites, share your thoughts, help any way you can if you feel so moved.  When you are on the receiving end of these circumstances…they are extremely appreciated!

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Cancer Sucks!

My Aunt is this amazing person who has arms of wraught IRON, is the sweetest most adorable, best mom, best chef, best person to make you feel good, ridiculously fashionable, and all together one of those people you’d think you should despise, but they are so sweet, you just can’t ever find a reason to get mad at them. 

Deep breath.  Yep…pretty much amazing. 

She once again is parading her amazingness.  She is a match as a bone marrow donor for her brother who’s been suffering from leukemia for a few years.  Today she heads down to Loyola University in Chicago (just down the street from my old neighborhood) to receive injections that make her create lots of blood cells, I think….. you know what, she says it so much more sophisticated….so you really should check out her brother’s caring bridge page.

Since I started fundraising and running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society 4 years ago,  I’ve come across so many amazing things that are happening to save millions of people’s lives.  Do you know they don’t have to drill into your spine any more to get the bone marrow!?!? (Well not in her case they don’t)  She simply gets these injections, gets tapped for her blood in one arm, which then gets separated from the stem cells and then get the rest of her blood back. 

It’s an act of God that she is a match to save her brother’s life.  Truly amazing…please keep them in your prayers.  Also, consider visiting Stan’s caring bridge and leave note in the guest-book….even if you don’t know them, it really makes their day!

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