Praying for an end to all cancers.
Today is World Cancer Day. I don’t think there are very many people who have not, in one way or another, been affected by cancer. It rears its ugly head everywhere, with people who may not look after themselves properly AND with people who DO all the right things to look after themselves. It doesn’t care if you’re old or young, black, white, green or purple or anything in between! On this day, I would like to share my own, personal encounters with this beast.
I was 7 years old when I first heard the word cancer. My beautiful mother who was Mom to six of us kids, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was sick in bed for almost two years. I remember going in with my younger sister, to kneel by her bedside and say our prayers and then I would gently stroke her forehead, as she seemed to be comforted by that, or as all great Moms do, at least let me feel as if I was making her feel better. She was only 44 when she passed away. I still vividly remember that night. My bedroom, which I shared with my younger sister, was right beside the master bedroom where my Mom lay in bed. I remember waking up sometime during the night and seeing a flash of white go past my door and into her room. It may have been a doctor or a paramedic, but I was sure it was an angel because it seemed like it just gently flew by. Life for all of us changed forever. There were people who came to help look after us, as my youngest brother was only just over 2 years old, my younger sister was 5, I was 7, our older brother was 14 (he had been especially close to Mom) and two older sisters, one who was 17 and the other was 20, married and on her own. We did have another older sister, as we found out that my father had been married before my mother, but we had no idea of her existence. For some reason, he kept that secret. We finally met her around 1998, after our father and her mother had both passed away.
Eventually, in our home after Mom died, we had a couple with their two young children move into our small bungalow’s basement apartment and they became our caretakers until my father remarried a few years later. The woman looked after all the kids, the cooking and the cleaning. I’m not sure what the man did, but he used to beat his son with objects like wooden spoons and we would cower in our rooms. Back then, things like this weren’t talked about. You just accepted it.
Then, many years later, the surreal chain of cancer events began, starting with my husband, who had prostate cancer in 2004. He had surgery and has thankfully been fine since then.
In 2008, my oldest sister Carolyn, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through chemo and radiation, but the cancer claimed her life.
In 2009, my second oldest sister, Darlene, was diagnosed with breast cancer too. It was early stages, so she had chemo and it seemed to be under control for a while, but it resurfaced in her lungs and pancreas. She suffered for two months before she succumbed to it.
Then, in 2010, it was my turn, if you could put it that way. I was diagnosed with colon cancer, had a foot of bowel removed and six months of Folfox chemotherapy. It’s true that you never really know what it’s like to be told that you have cancer, until you actually hear those awful words. To be honest, at first, I was sure I was going to die. I made sure my will was done, and even asked my 2 daughters, who were grown, what items of mine they would like after I was gone. Apparently I don’t have many things of great value!! LOL! When I started to itemize things, it wasn’t very impressive. Ahh well! Since the chemo, I have been gratefully NED (no evidence of disease).
From back left to right: Darlene, Joanne, Carolyn, Judy
Front from left to right: John, Janice, Jim, Paula
Unbelievably, in 2011, my two younger sisters were diagnosed with cancer as well. My sister, Janice, who is only 1 ½ years younger than me, had triple-negative breast cancer. Her harsh treatments included a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. But she made it through and is healthy and strong and an amazing inspiration. My youngest sister, Paula, had lymphoma. She too went through chemo, she tried holistic medicine and made other changes in order to heal. At only 44 years old, with 4 kids under 16, she passed away in December of 2012.
Cancer kept quiet for a while within our family, but we still knew of so many friends or relatives of friends that were in the battle for their lives as well.
Then in 2020 I was diagnosed with the early stages of Endometrial cancer. Since that type of cancer is not at all a common area that colon cancer would metastasize to, I was checked for signs of Lynch Syndrome, which is a type of inherited cancer syndrome associated with a genetic predisposition to different cancer types. This means people with Lynch syndrome have a higher risk of certain types of cancer. The genetic testing showed that it was not likely that I had it. In December of 2020 I had what they call a “radical hysterectomy” and have been NED since then and plan to keep cancer at bay for the rest of my very long life.
I think the very hardest thing to watch is a child under cancer’s cruel grasp. In 2020 I learned of and met a beautiful young girl, her handsome brother and her Mom and Dad, who were going through a heart-breaking season in their lives. Their youngest daughter Summer-Rayne (an incredibly beautiful name) was battling DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma). She had been diagnosed with it when she was only 3 years old. DIPG is a highly aggressive and difficult cancer to treat. It’s location in the lowest,stem-like part of the brain and the rate at which it progresses make it, most times, impossibly difficult to treat and at the time of this writing, there is still no known cure. I was so moved by this amazing family’s refusal to give up and their ability to keep life as normal as possible for their two young children, in spite of the constant trips to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and everything else that is involved with having a child with cancer. Summer-Rayne passed away in her mother’s arms on Mother’s Day of 2021. I wanted to do something as a tribute to this little princess warrior, as she was known, so I created a video to honour her in the only way I know how.
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, please be sure to look into joining support groups. In our city we have Wellness Centres that offer tremendous support and is a safe place where you can talk openly about your own fears, triumphs and concerns.
My prayer, as is everyone’s prayer, is that ALL cancer will end.
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