My Cancer Journey
I am a 69 year-old active woman (retired health educator) living in rural Maynard, MA, with my husband of 38 years. I've always considered myself an extreme lover of life, living constantly in awe and gratitude for each moment. I believe that we're all tied together energetically and have the ability to support and shape our shared experiences. Because of that belief, I've put great focus on living compassionately and close to nature as possible. In today's world, that's not always the easiest, but I'm proud of my daily journey to stay true to that commitment.
This past year, however, brought a few unpredictable challenges. These forced me to find areas of flexibility in my approach to life. They inspired me to reflect, learn, and grow as challenges often do. And they were also a catalyst for building new connections with people I never expected to meet. This is my reflection and testimony as a family-woman, a healer, an educator, an activist, and a cancer survivor. May it shed light on others' experiences and remind us of the simple joys that come with each passing day.
After a few weeks of back pain and extreme thirst, I notified my primary care physician on March 13, 2020, thinking it was time for my bi-annual pre-diabetic screening. The Covid-19 shut down in Massachusetts began that following week and my appointment was postponed until May 1st. I never thought to go to the emergency department and was later diagnosed with Metastatic Urothelial Cancer stage 4 on May 8th, 2020. Totally stunned, my husband and I cried for three days. I told my medical oncologist at Emerson Hospital Naka Cancer Care Institute in Concord, MA, that I wanted to arrange for hospice at home – no chemo, no surgery, no radiation. He told me that he would have agreed to that option ten years ago and responded: “trust us, we’re going to work with you using innovative targeted-treatment!”.
He was a life-changer and my circle of specialists are optimistic and dedicated. After eight targeted-chemo sessions (‘Cisplatin’ and ‘Gemcitabine’) with positive results within three months, my healing continues to progress with biologic immunotherapy (‘Bavencio’) every two weeks, for the past 6 months. A CT scan, cystoscopy, and replacement of left kidney stent are required every three months.
I am so thankful for this innovative medical care, my husband, family and circle of dear friends. My life-long spiritual warrior voice was renewed and I now gracefully embrace the moments of every day in gratitude.
Life-changing COVID-19 pandemic and cancer diagnosis
This horrific global pandemic and my cancer diagnosis inevitably forced me to prioritize tasks, conversations and communications by the hour in Zen awareness. Since June 2020, I have dedicated about fifteen hours each week to holistic classes (via Zoom) at the Healing Garden Cancer Care Community in Harvard, Massachusetts. Classes include: Spirituality and Cancer; Nutrition and Cancer; Knitting; Sound Therapy; and, Creative Mindfulness and Art These are the activities that keep me engaged and encouraged. I am also an avid knitter and baker.
Looking forward to healing
My healing, receiving the COVID vaccine dose #2 on March 29, reuniting with my loving family and friends, and reaching out to cancer patients to encourage them to be hopeful, proactive and to support holistic health services.
I am a new member of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network and eager to help others -- especially women who are often diagnosed later than men – to be aware of diverse bladder cancer symptoms. This wide educational campaign requires all organizations (American Cancer Society- local advocacy chapters, BladderCancet.net, scientific researchers, and health educational resources) to pro-actively align to MAKE CANCER...HISTORY!!!
Did you know that May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month?