Friday, October 02, 2009

LiveSTRONG Day (aka cancer can suck it)

Today is LiveSTRONG Day - the anniversary of when Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer. It is also my virtual friend, POD's, cancer diagnosis anniversary...and she asked some of us to blog about how cancer has affected our lives.
You should probably know now that I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people - those that have it and those that support others with it.
There are more than three people in my life that have had cancer, but I'm choosing only three to write about today because each of their stories still manage to affect my life.
The first is my uncle. Now I've only had one uncle in my lifetime and to say that Ray and I were close would be a lie. I hardly knew him. In fact, I hardly knew my aunt and my cousin. So you may be asking yourselves how an uncle that I barely knew could affect my life? It's because he was the first person that I knew that was diagnosed with cancer. Ray was a proud man - who seemed to me to be proud of the fact that he could provide for my aunt and my cousin. He seemed to know what was best in any situation - present him with a problem and poof! he'd know how to fix it.
But Ray couldn't fix cancer.
They got some of the best doctors involved and at first we were hopeful. But in the end, cancer stripped my uncle of parts of his mouth, parts of his face, parts of his throat, and undoubtedly parts of his self-worth. Ray was a fighter - and he fought until the bitter, bitter end. I like to think that he still wanted to hang on - to keep providing for my aunt. He died in 2001. Since they lived in Michigan, I didn't visit them until the funeral but I sent cards often (my aunt seems to be a pretty private person) to let them know that I was thinking of them and praying for them. I hope my uncle knows that we all loved him.
The second person that has affected my life was a friend from my church in El Paso. Her name was Becky Rood. When I was growing up, going to church wasn't an option. We simply had to do it. And Becky had the most beautiful voice. She always sang the harmonies to the songs and I like to think that that's how she was in her life. She supported the main songs that were sung in the same way that she seemed to support people.
When I was a teenager and things were rocky at best in my home life, I remembered being at church for the Wednesday Lent Service. I remembered feeling SO alone before I walked into that church. I remembered asking God if anyone would even notice if I was gone - did anyone even notice me at all? And then, in the middle of the service, Becky leaned over the pew separating us and said, "You have such beautiful hair. I love sitting behind you. I'm so glad you're here." Somehow those words were enough. You can call it a coincidence - and that's fine with me. But I know that it was God signing the main tune - and her picking up the harmonies.
Becky was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago and she passed away this past year. Since that time at church, I've kept in touch with her - and her husband, Tom - two of the nicest, most genuine people in the world. Every time I came home to visit, I always looked forward to catching up with them. I loved Becky and I still tear up when I think about how I won't get to hear her again.

And now we come to my friend Rex, the third person. Rex was my friend long before we dated. To say that Rex is stubborn is like saying that ice cream is kind of good - it's an understatement by far. He worked in a hospital in a high level position and one day came home to tell me that a co-worker told him that he should really get a spot that was on his head/face looked at. To her, it looked like it could be cancer. Did he do it right then? Why no. Because that would be SANE. Instead, he took his own sweet time (aka a LONG TIME LATER) getting it checked out. And when he FINALLY did, the doctor agreed - it was cancer. I don't remember the levels and I don't remember the stage, but I do remember telling my dad (who is a doctor) what those numbers were and my dad said that it was definitely not good. Melanoma is never good.

Of course, at this time, I was madly in love with him and didn't want him to die, even if he did hog the covers some nights. In the end, the surgeon removed the entire area and was thankfully able to get clean margins - which means that he got it all.

You may be thinking "What is the big deal? If he got it all out at the time, then was it really traumatic?" And if you asked me that, I would actually consider getting a shovel and hitting you over the head with that. Mostly because Rex wasn't telling me if there were clean margins - he wasn't telling me what the surgeons were telling him - and I, of course, assumed the worst. He wanted his space - which meant, of course, that I wanted no space at all. It sucked.
Today, Rex is fine and although I don't have any recent data, I assume he still steals the covers most days. I am so thankful that the person at the hospital approached him - telling him that he needed to get it checked out. If she hadn't have done that, I might've had a very different story to tell today. Because she said something and because Rex finally went to go see someone, I have a great friend today. I don't know what I would do without him - as he is very much a major component of my support structure and has been for almost a decade.

I decided to tell all three stories for various reasons, but what I encourage people to do is to get checked out something that doesn't seem or feel right. If you're prone to moles or spots, see a dermatologist. For the women, get your yearly PAP smears and do your monthly breast exams. Early detection is SO important and knowledge IS power.
Lastly, POD is having a giveaway on her blog for various Lance Armstrong Foundation items...all you have to do is comment on her blog from today and you are entered. It's even an official LiveSTRONG thing!


POD said...

Thanks for this contribution. Sad about all these people. But Rex just left? I mean, come on.
I hope he's stealing the covers in a healthy way.

Kris said...

Hia Anne! Thank you (and POD) for the reminder in such a busy life to stop and think about other things that are not so self consuming to some of us. I 'dusted' off my pink ribbon pin this month for breast cancer awareness....5 ladies I know. And the purple pin for domestic violence good, and important to JUST BE AWARE! Thanks ladies!