“Cancer” is a common household word in our world today—which is quite unfortunate. Last year, my father-in-law was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months before my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. My father-in-law put off his treatment decisions to care for his wife. She was so advanced that she was given only three weeks. She didn’t even make it one week. The last conversation we had was in her bedroom, as we watched one of those reality shows about cake decorating. She’d make comments about how beautiful the cake decorating was, and I’d agree. Every few minutes she’d fall asleep. Less than two days later she was gone.
My kids worry about cancer. It’s on both sides of their family. My grandmother had breast cancer, but it was a stroke that put her on life support. My parents have endured skin cancer several times. My father-in-law has now undergone surgery and is doing well.
In 2011, I found out that my good friend, Catherine, had been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She’s one year older than me and our kids are the same ages. When we both lived in California, we were neighbors and became fast friends—opposites in many ways—which just made it more fun. She’s Catholic, I’m Mormon. She’s Mexican, I’m Caucasian. I’m tall, she’s short. She’s outgoing, I’m quiet. She’s generous, I’m a bit stingy. I hadn’t seen Catherine for about ten years since I moved to Utah and she moved to Illinois. When I found out that she had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer (from Facebook, of course!), I joined her blog and read her updates each day as she went through radiation, chemo, radical surgery, and then reconstruction. Catherine has always been the kind of friend I wished I could be. And reading about her ups, and very very low downs, and how this illness affected her children, her marriage, and all things physical made me realize how grateful I was for her. For our friendship so many years ago, and how, even today, she gives me strength and courage without even knowing it.
As a second grader, I lived in Egypt and attended the Cairo American College. My parents had good friends—another Utah family—and they had a daughter about my age. Nicole and I became inseparable buddies, and even after we both moved back to Utah, we spent weekends together up until our teenage years. Nicole was probably my most highly creative friend and was always coming up with new things to do. She had a contagious laugh and was spontaneous and enjoyed life. In her early 20’s Nicole was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her story was covered by the media, since it was unusual for a woman her age to suffer from this type of cancer. She has now beat breast cancer three times. Nicole continues to be upbeat, positive, and stays crazy-busy with her successful swimsuit company she co-owns with her two sisters. As of this blog post, Nicole’s older sister is currently fighting ovarian cancer. And Nicole is back at it again—encouraging, supporting, and loving as only she can do. A hero in my eyes.
My 15 year old daughter is a volleyball fanatic/player. When she tried out for the high school team this past August, her coaches held a parents meeting. The varsity coach, who was 8.5 months pregnant said, “You better not miss practice unless you have a really good excuse. I’m only missing two days when I have my baby, and the JV coach came to practice even during chemo.” The JV coach, Angie, had indeed coached through her breast cancer treatment. In 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and led a valiant fight for the next year. Watching her coach my daughter for the past three years, I’ve learned a few things about diligence, hard work, endurance, and persistence. Angie is all of these and more, and another hero to me.
To my friends, and all others out there who are facing breast cancer or any other cancer, know that you have my admiration and more importantly my prayers. I am truly amazed by the human spirit I see around me and the fortitude of those who face breast cancer—I feel as if I’m taught every day.