Patricia is someone whose life is centered around family. Each day is one more opportunity to show my loved ones how much they mean to me.
Sadly, cancer is a disease that too many throughout our town, our country, our world have had their lives touched by in some way. When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, it is a diagnosis not just for that individual but for the family. Often the dynamic in a family changes dramatically, particularly when the ill family member has frequent medical appointments, when the procedures used to try to combat the cancer are debilitating, not to mention the excruciating pain and nausea this family member may experience. Everyone in the family is now affected as the loved one fights this fight. It is especially difficult when other family members within the same household also have cancer and one of them is very young.
Stephanie and her Love in 2013
My daughter known as Stef by most of us, her eldest son, Jay, and her youngest son, Heston Wayne, all have cancer. This fact no doubt has taken its toll on her. Stef was diagnosed at about the same time that Jay was. She was diagnosed with endometrial cancer at that time...this was 2003. She began receiving chemo and, for a time, it seemed to help. However, before long, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to other areas throughout her body. Once again, more chemo and this time targeted radiation was used. And, as before, it appeared the cancer was being kept at bay.
We don't develop courage by being happy every day. We develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
— Barbara De Angelis
Where are all of these tumors coming from????
Just as before, within a few weeks after the last round of treatment, it was determined that tumors were now present in places they had not been prior to this. By now, her oncology doctors had begun to tell her that she should 'party like a rock star' because her time on the planet was short. Since the tumors were now presenting in new areas, it seemed that the prognosis was grim. Between 2003 and October 2008, Stef had treatment after treatment, clinical trial after clinical trial under the advice of her doctors in an effort to keep her on the planet.
Stef does make her own sunshine and brings much light to others as well
Hair Grew Back (and was lost once again)
Remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go. You may not be where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.
— Rick Warren
Making a Choice
In October of 2008 with the cancer still raging and no treatment seeming to make a difference in the long run, Stef made the decision to stop treatment for a while. She received a lot of criticism for this choice. We had long conversations about this. I listened. She spoke. It was her decision to make. I wanted her to know I was there for her no matter what she decided.
She said to me one day: "Mom, I just want to LIVE whatever time I have left. To LIVE. The treatments leave me feeling horrible and unable to do much for days. I am not saying that I will never have treatment again, but for now I need a break."
Believing that Bald is Beautiful
Unexpected, Exciting News
And, what a wonderful decision that turned out to be. In September of 2009, when we were having lunch one day, she said:
"Mom. I have something to tell you." And my heart skipped a beat as she had prefaced 'bad' news-coming that way in the past.
"Okay" was all I could get out.
"Not to worry, Mom. It is good news. No, it is great news! I am pregnant!!!"
How delighted we both were. I love my grandson Jay so much and to know I would get to hug and love another grandboy made my heart sing.
And, in May of 2010 a newbie came to our family, Heston Wayne. Loving him and hugging him every day as I do his brother Jay is my joy and has been such a blessing for their Momma.
Not long after the birth of Heston Wayne Stef's body once again was ravaged by illness. The cancer continued to cook and other issues presented themselves. She had several strokes in the fall of 2011 and for that reason, I resigned my teaching position so I could be available to take care of my baby grandson and her as needed.
And treatment resumed for the cancer that was metastasizing throughout her body. Once again she had massive doses of chemo and radiation over the next five years. In addition she had numerous clinical trials that had emerged since the ones she had had previously.
After one particularly horrid dose of chemo included in a clinical trial, I was called to her home to watch over Heston Wayne, then about 4, while she struggled to survive it. Honestly, it was frightening. I had to walk over to her as she was in a fetal position to check to see if she was breathing. A scary day.
Once again her doctors told her she needed to get her affairs in order as she had less than a year to live. This was the end of 2016.
Positive Attitude + a Sense of Humor + Thinks of Others
Once again she decided to decline treatment. Her doctor had told her there was really not much else that could be done.
She said, "You know, you all have told me I am going to die very soon many times. I am still here....thankfully."
And he told her that he believed her positive attitude, will to live, and miracles was the reason she has survived. That coming from a man of science!!!
In addition to her positive attitude, Stef has a sense of humor that keeps everyone smiling. And, she keeps things outer-directed...she is always thinking of others and doing for them whatever she can.
Every Single Minute is Precious
Since 2016, she has had continued medical care for her multiple health issues and has had oral chemo from time to time along with a handful of other meds for her heart and MS.
Now, in October of 2020, she has once again been given a 'you have six to nine months left to live and that is being generous' prediction. She may have some surgery if the cardiologist thinks her heart will endure it. She is on oral chemo and will have radiation after the MRI she will have soon.
We continue to LIVE each day to the fullest. Our promise to each other when she was first diagnosed is this: do not miss one minute of any day trying to second guess the future.
There is much I left out...by telling it, it would change nothing. THIS is how our life has been since this abysmal illness took up residence in our lives.
We are hopeful it will not claim her after all.
If you or someone you love suffers with cancer or other catastrophic illness, you understand how it is a disease that affects all in the family. As one who is more familiar with this illness than I want to be my unsolicited advice is to embrace and enjoy every single minute of every day.
By the Way
Despite how lousy she feels Stef keeps busy making her home festive and joyful for her family. She cooks most nights even when she does not feel like doing so. She made decorations for Halloween and her eldest son helped her hang them.
She is presently carefully creating decorations for Christmas even on days when she has to take a break because the pain is so bad.
A Little Crafting Therapy....an adorable gnome
More about illness in my family
There are several other articles about our journey with cancer in our family. A diagnosis of terminal, predictions of little time left on earth, and, explanations of LIVING with this dread disease are explored.