Monday, July 21, 2014
Although I don't post here often, I know that this blog of mine gets quite a bit of traffic. It is not often when someone asks me to write a post (though I love it when they do). That happened recently when I heard from Heather. I let her know that I would be honored to write a post~ and then we were out of town, my mac met its untimely death thanks to a glass of water~ and in that time I had more opportunities to pause, think and reflect on what I might say... What you may not know is when I sit down to write posts on this blog, it takes me all of ten minutes. A big exhale if you will. Something that has been on my heart~ pulling on me~ and putting that 'something' onto a computer screen seems to be a big exhale.
There have been many words that have sucked the air out of the room I was in over my lifetime. Words that have made it impossible to exhale because I couldn't take a breath. I find that those in my youth "I want to break up" were not quite as bad as those when I got older "I can't find a heartbeat." There is one word though- ONE WORD- that has the power to suck every ounce of air out of the room the moment you first hear its two syllables.
One word. One word that far too many people have heard. Far too many people have been a victim to its ability to stop time- remove all air from the room- leave you empty.
Heather had written me telling me her story and asking me to share it~ for stories like hers and far too many others, need to be told- need to be read. Yes, they change the lives of those who first hear them- in that room- with that doctor... but the changing doesn't end there. It goes on and it continues. Like cancer, the changing of lives grows and spreads. Sometimes to people (like me) who have never met the person who first heard the diagnosis. I think of two people who I have written about on this blog. People I didn't really know- but still their stories changed me: Maddison and John. Today I want to add three more stories. Stories that need to be shared- and spread.
She had just given birth to her only daughter (Lily) three months before she heard one word. Cancer. She was given only 15 months to live. And during that time I can only imagine what went through her head... She learned that she had a rare form of cancer called Mesothelioma. Now cancer has many forms but this one she learned was totally preventable. It's a cancer caused only by asbestos exposure. The kind of of cancer that by spreading awareness (like the campaign to quit smoking) can save lives. Heather has asked me (and you) to "Take a moment for Meso" and check out mesothelioma.com. Miraculously Heather is still alive. She heard the word eight years ago but she was able to have a life saving surgery that included the removal of her left lung and is not thriving. She has long since passed her 15 months and would like you to take a moment to hear her story. One story- spread it.
He had just learned that his wife had been diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer a few months before, and then that he had lost one of his twin grandsons, Andrew, when he first heard the word. Cancer. He was told one year. The name of his cancer was Multiple Myeloma. He searched and looked and tried everything he could. He had so much to live for. A few weeks before Andrew would have been in heaven a year, he had a moment with Andrew's parents. They told him it was time. To tell Andrew they loved him, wrap his arms around his grandson, wish him a happy birthday in heaven. My father-in-law had not been conscious for days but after we had our moment to speak with him alone, his breathing immediately changed. His wife came to the hospital, put her arm on his and spoke two words, "I'm here." He took his last breath and went to see his grandson. One story- spread it.
Vivian. Beth. Lawrence.
Beth's and Lawrence's story began seven years ago. It consisted of one miscarriage and several different specialists telling them it was impossible- two years of holistic treatments- and finally spending all of their savings on a barely successful IVF. But it was successful! A miracle baby! She was so beautiful. A head full of dark hair and big beautiful eyes. While she was given the name Vivian, she quickly became "Panda"~ a sweet name for a sweet child. It had happened. Their dreams had come true. The best things are worth the wait and I imagined this was why... this was why all those years of praying for my friend to have a baby she hadn't~ until now. Panda was meant to be.
What they thought was a simple cold turned out to be their biggest nightmare. They heard the word no parent ever wants to hear. Cancer. In Panda's case it's name has four letters ATRT. She was having trouble breathing and swallowing and then they learned she had a huge brain tumor. At six weeks of age, when they removed the tumor, it had already grown almost two more inches and had metastasized down Panda's little spine.
I have a cross I wear around my neck and as I put it on each morning I say the names of those on my heart. Those who have been heavy on my heart or those who pop into my mind for some unknown reason. I simply say their name~ thinking God knows. I have said Panda's name every morning and night for a year.
Yesterday I joined Beth and Lawrence as they were surrounded by friends and family who sang "Happy Birthday" to their miracle. Panda has been through more in her 12 months of life than I can even imagine. She has overcome and beat so many things but it is still an uphill battle... But one that her parents and so many others are willing to travel with her. One story- spread it.
Just like my story is mine, I know there have been those before me who have the same words, "No heartbeat" who have shaped who they are. Sadly, I know there will be those after me who will hear those same words. Not remember who they were before they heard them.
Just like the three stories I shared today, there are countless others who have gone before and will come after. But they are not alone. Share their stories. Say their names.
You may not realize it but you are not the same person you were yesterday. Moments happen and they shape you- change you- maybe just slightly- maybe so drastically you don't remember the person you were before~ but you will be changed.
I have been changed by one word that has included people I do and do not know.
Please take a moment to think of them. Say their names. Spread their stories.
Maddison, John, Heather, Jim, Panda.
Their stories may change the way you look at life. Maybe just for today, but maybe forever.
And please, continue to keep the strongest little one-year-old miracle I know in your prayers. I know when God chose her parents He chose two of the most amazing people he ever made. Say their names too.
Love you Beth.
For more information about the cancers in this post, please click on the words "One Story. Spread it" to learn more. To hear the stories of Maddison and John, click on their names.