When the ER doctor walked into my room after hours of testing, on that evening in October 2007, and asked, “Did you know that you have a mass in your stomach?”, I knew instantly that my life was about to make a dramatic turn. “No! Can I see the pictures??” I eagerly asked with a faint smile on my face, both intrigued by the idea and wondering what God had in store for me now. I was out of town at the time, house-sitting for friends, and shortness of breath was the only symptom that had brought me to the hospital that day. Two weeks later, after further testing, I learned that I had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma…and a blog began…
Trying to keep up with the many phone calls and e-mails following my diagnosis was exhausting and blogging became a good way to keep friends and family up-to-date with my treatment. I spent time online, researching my illness, and discovered that some of the most helpful information came from the stories of other cancer survivors who shared their experience in books and blogs. Over time, the purpose of this blog has evolved from sharing my story with friends and family to sharing my story with those who are faced with a similar path.
Back in October 2007, I knew that I was stepping out on a different path but I had no idea at the time where that path would lead me. Two rounds of chemotherapy (which were ineffective) were followed by partial gastrectomy/vagotomy/pyloroplasty in October 2008. Four months later I had a seizure (the first of three that year) and spent the next year heavily medicated and unable to drive. Bankruptcy, foreclosure, and divorce after 26 years of marriage followed…this was quite a path I was on! The most difficult loss was my hobby, my passion: breeding show beagles. I had worked hard and built a successful breeding program but could no longer afford to keep the dogs that brought so much joy to my life. I had lost everything: health, home, husband, hobby…and at age 49, I started life over again…with one Best in Show winning beagle, a few pieces of furniture, a Honda CR-V with 200K miles, and half a stomach.
“Here I am, where I ought to be”
Isak Dinesen wrote those words at the beginning of her famous memoir, Out of Africa. Her life didn’t turn out quite as she had expected either. Midway through her life, she had to leave her beloved Africa and return home to Denmark and reimagine what her life could be. Karen Blixen took up writing and the nom de plume, Isak, meaning “laughter”. Laughter and a smile are always a good place to start when faced with a new path in life. Some are meant to walk a straight and level path through life. For others, the trail may be a bit more rugged. For some the path is short and for others it is long with many forks in the road. I have no idea where I am on my path, whether it be long or short, or how many forks I may encounter. What I do know is that I am here because this is where I ought to be. There are lessons to be learned here and choices to be made. Choosing to face each day with a smile and laughter is always the best place to start….