Wednesday, May 31, 2006

(UPDATED AND NEW) Quiet Relay Reflection

This is the draft post I wrote on May 31st and forgot to publish until today. (The information is from May but my reflection has become even more enhanced now that I am part of the Team In Training program to prepare for the Seattle Marathon in November. Friday I met two women in Team Survivor NW - one who had breast cancer and the other who had uterine cancer. They are both training for the Danskin Triathalon in August. Yesterday at team in training I met a man with hearing loss doing who has just been diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. He will be starting chemotherapy next month. He was a very fast walker and I told him to keep up the good work because it will be even more important when he goes through treatment.)

Yesterday I went to the Seattle Breast Center for a bone density scan.

NF2 Note: The reason we were assessing my bone density is because there have been cases of NF2 patients having premature osteoporosis (age 20s and 30s) due to long term use of steroids. Steroid therapy is commonly used to reduce tumor and/or brain swelling. Often steroids are prescribed following brain radiosugery or traditional surgery. Due to tumor swelling which caused problems and made me sick, I was put on steroid therapy several times (10-11) over the course of a year. I took mostly the steroid Decadron but was also given Predisone for a month or more.

The location of where I had the scan is the same building where the radiology and oncology unit is housed and the NW Tumor Institute. I regularily go there to see my radiologist for followup visits after each MRI. At the same place also where they administer chemotherapy and radiation treatments to cancer patients.

While leaving the building a woman who had or is obviously going through cancer treatment was walking in front of me. She was easily recognized by her lack of hair. Even though I never lost my hair completely (due to an ice cap I wore to freeze the hair follicles), I was taken back to what it was like to go through the horor of cancer. I remember crying over the thought of losing my hair but fortunately for me I had an option. Not everyone does and for a woman you can only begin to fathom what the loss of hair does to one's self esteem and identity.

In any case, this is not about hair. Seeing her reminded me of what I went through and what many with cancer go through. I felt for her, not pity but empathy.

As we reached the sunlight at the door pouring in from outside I noticed more detail about her. She must have been a mother as it seemed she had a young daughter with her and a husband or friend. She was wearing a nice ensemble of capri pants with a floral border at the bottom. As the sun glistened upon her I saw the beauty of life within her. She turned and gave me an angelic smile as we opened the door.

At that moment I felt proud and a warm satisfaction inside. Seeing her was like the difference between seeing a scenic photograph and actually going to the place and experiencing it first hand. Doing the Relay for Life was a good experience for me but seeing someone in live flesh and blood surviving and going through treatment made it more real. Knowing what treatment is like and how it can make one feel, I would dare to say that she was having a good day or was close to or finished with treatment. I saw in her the sparkle of hope that Relay represents.

At that moment I felt a presence greater than myself. I will never know the people who contributed to help keep me alive and give me hope. Likewise they will never know me but their belief in giving people such as myself will live on. My team and all the people at all the Relays around the world may never see who they helped but their efforts and faith make a profound difference in the world.

If I had not done the Relay, invited others to participate with me and contribute to the cause, and if there were not people who establish events like the Relay, that lady and others like her may not be alive, may not be a mother, a friend, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a relative, and would not have the opportunity to do what she was meant to do in her life.

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