Follow by Email

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coffee and Conversation

This past week I had the opportunity to speak as part of "Coffee and Conversation," a breakfast event in conjunction with the Southern Women's Show in my hometown of Charlotte. Coffee and Conversation is part of the Belva Wallace Greenage Cancer Foundation, founded by Belva Wallace Greenage, a two-time cancer survivor who is living (and thriving!) with Stage IV metastatic breast about inspiration!

Coffee and Conversation program

Belva asked that I share my story as part of the Coffee and Conversation event because the theme was "claiming your best life" and that's what I try to do with my blog. I spoke alongside Moira Quinn, a breast cancer survivor, and Dr Russ Greenfield, an integrated medicine doctor...and it went really well. Although my father did tell me I went a little long (lol, thanks Daddy!) but truthfully I could have talked for days...for some reason when I get started talking about this cancer journey, I can't shut up!

It's strange...sometimes I do still feel ashamed about it, but once it's out in the open I can talk about every little scary, sad, funny, crazy, ridiculous thing I've been through...and trust me, there have been a lot. Sometimes I worry I sound too blase about it, because I can say I had a stem cell transplant, a massive blood clot and 4 years of chemo without batting an eye...and I forget how horrifying it can sound to someone who is hearing it for the first time. I often say that it doesn't sound sounds like a book or a movie, but in fact it's 4 years of my life! Which is both really sad and really amazing.

Mid speech

And that juxtaposition was the spirit of my speech and the event...learning the deal with this awful circumstance and (hopefully) showing that you don't have to let it define you. I always laugh to myself when people say, "how do you do it?" because I think, "what other choice do I have?" I'm still me. I still have hopes and dreams and plans for the future. Frankly, I don't know what else to do but try and live my life. That doesn't mean it's always easy...some days I feel like I am the saddest person on Earth. But other days I realize how blessed I truly am. It's a constant battle for me every day as I struggle to not feel so sorry for myself and try to find the good in my life...through this awful situation I've gained a new platform and way to connect with other people. So for that I am grateful.

My parents support means the world to me

Unfortunately as I was getting on the plane to leave Charlotte after a great weekend with my parents, I checked my Facebook and saw that a fellow Hodgkin's lymphoma warrior had passed away. I never met Karin Diamond in person, but her story connected with me as we are the same age and diagnosed the same year. We also have the same doctor in NYC, so I kept up with her that way. I remember reading her blog when I was in Greece on my honeymoon and crying with a mixture of happiness and fear, as Karin was about to began an allo with her sister's stem cells. Since the allo, Karin has had a rough road. She was in and out of the hospital and dealt with a lot of pain and other issues. Her husband Craig was there every step of the way, and she wrote of how wonderful their relationship was, and what a great partner he was. I stood in the airport in shock on Sunday as I read Craig's farewell post on Karin's blog. He said she passed away at home, and she is finally at peace. Although I'm grateful she is no longer in pain, it just does not seem fair! I want to shout and scream about how unfair it is. And how scary it is. Why her? Why do things like this have to happen? How is she gone and I am still here? We have the same disease and it's just awful. She had so much life to live and seemed to be a wonderful person. I do take comfort in the fact that Karin traveled to Rhode Island for a vacation a few weeks before she passed...something she was determined to do and our doctor/medical team wanted her to do. She had a smile on her face as she went to the beach with family and friends and she had joy in her life...she truly did everything she could to "claim her best life" and for that I am grateful. Rest in peace Karin.