There is a time in your life when things start to click and meanings come to the forefront. I was at the top of my game, in the best shape ever, and having the time of my life. I was in “go” mode. Each day was filled with playing soccer, biking, kayaking, hiking, and my newest favorite sport—climbing. Nothing was slowing me down. I felt invincible. Looking back, though, I was taking life for granted.
It was Thanksgiving (maybe that should have been my first clue), and I was in the hospital with nauseating pains in my right side. “It looks like you will be having surgery to remove the appendix once the doctor is notified,” they said. Okay, fine. The doctor came back and sent me home with an appointment to see an OB-GYN. He thought there was a dermoid cyst that needed attention. That’s when things started to slow down for me, and I started thinking about how long the recovery would be and when I could regain my speed. I went home to spend time with my family because, unlike most holidays, everyone was there visiting. This year was different because Grandma was dying of the breast cancer that returned after 16 years. The doctors said she had about a month or two left. I started to think about my family while I was in idle mode. They became strangely close and important. This was not just my immediate family, but close friends, too. I thought about how my mom survived uterine cancer, my grandfather had died of cancer, and now my Grandmother was dying, too. “Wow, I’m lucky I’m so active and healthy,” I thought. Cancer sucks!
With a few of my friends visiting me in the hospital after surgery to remove the dermoid cyst, the door opened abruptly and the doctor told my friends to leave the room. Granted, I was on morphine, but that seemed strangely abrupt and frightening. I quickly forgot about the abruptness when he told me I had cancer and was scheduled to have another surgery the next day with another doctor. He said I was to have a hysterectomy to remove the cancer. What? Wait a minute, how could I have cancer, I thought. I was too young, too healthy! I called my mother right away. She had recently had a checkup with the doctor that had treated her two years earlier for uterine cancer. Things were starting to click. Cancer sucks for my family!
Life was slowing down to a standstill, taking a sharp turn in the opposite direction, but one of the “things that happen for a reason” came to fruition. I had just been reading the climbing magazine that my good friend, Lisa, brought to me while I recovered. I read an article about Sean Patrick. I didn’t give it much thought except, “rock on Sean!” She must be a strong woman who can make a difference.
All of the sudden my new passion became going to Salt Lake City to meet this new idol of mine, Sean Patrick, at a climbing event for ovarian cancer—now what are the chances of that?! I told my friends about the article, and they decided to make it happen for me. This was the next life realization for me. I was most thankful for the people in my life, and I was presented with another one of life’s gifts: your friends.
So, after finishing my treatments, with ports still in my chest and abdomen, and no hair on my head, my friends and I put together the climbing team of The Maryland Blue Tail Bettys. Thanks to the tenacity of my friend, Lisa, I was able to meet my newfound idol, Sean Patrick, in Baltimore before going to Utah. We remained in touch with Sean until her untimely death. Since then, HERA has become a part of my life, but even more so for my tenacious Irish friend Lisa who now serves on the HERA Board as the Treasurer. With Lisa, I will be forever grateful to have a distant family in HERA, and a cause to set my sights on.
As we all have life stories to tell, sometimes its life that is trying to tell us something. I could not have imagined the vast trips to the hospital for treatment after treatment without my parents. My friends and family became the rock that I leaned on to make it through. I realized why it was important for me to be in good shape when I was diagnosed. I had to be ready for yet the hardest battle of my life, thus far. I’m now five years past treatment, and every day I’m thankful. Today, I watch my father fight his battle, knowing that each day is a gift and that life is not to be taken for granted. Cancer will always suck!