This is dedicated to my Mom and Dad- my ultimate fans
I BELIEVE IN GOD I am sure I will reference the many unusual happenings that have occurred over the past few months to show why I have such a strong belief in a higher being. In connecting with an organized religion, I am still trying to sort out those details (as men have for centuries) but suffice it to say, I know there is a higher power. Here is my Angel encounter that I had experienced the day I lost my Mom on October 17th, 2008. She as you will come to know was my best friend long before I took my first breath and will continue to be just that long after I take my last. I simply cannot write any more in my journal without telling my Angel story because from that incredible day, my entire life changed.
The doctor came in the room around 3pm Thursday. Mom was out of it and looking terrible, although through it all managed to say “Hi” by name, perfectly well to each of us who came into the room. She even perked up when the doctor came in with a slight smile and eyebrow raise. (Of course she cleaned her teacher’s chalkboards!). We worried, what was the magic potion we could give her to fix it all now. He said the transfer off her IV morphine was trial and error to get the dosage and combination of pain killers just right. “What about an IV? How can she get fluids if she can’t drink?” we clamored. “If she is thirsty, she will drink,” he assured. “Let her rest”. Jim missed most of the day from work so he dropped Caden off at the hospital. Following the doctor’s orders, I left bringing the baby to the mall for lunch and to spend some time. After about 2 hours I was almost done shopping. I walked pushing his stroller. In the near distance within the usual flow of busy mall shoppers my eyes fell upon a beautiful woman approximately 5’8” with the sculpted face of a model. I specifically looked at her and noticed from head to toe gorgeous white pants, a white cashmere sweater, again a white scarf over the back of her head with long straight golden brown hair flowing down to just past her shoulders, perfectly clean white leather boots and even a large white leather shoulder bag with a large rectangular silver buckle. She was sharp, as though she walked off the pages of Vogue Magazine. Her look alone was something to be noticed. I bent down alongside Caden and whispered “Do you see her Caden? She’s beautiful. She’s an Angel!” I stayed crouched down next to him noticing unlike anyone else shuffling by she was very deliberately walking heel to toe, with one foot and then the next watching each step she was taking. After 4-5 steps she began placing one foot directly in front almost crossing over the other. She seemed completely amused by her walk and it almost appeared by her half smile that she had never ever I am sure I will reference the many unusual happenings that have occurred over the past walked before, but could. She maneuvered herself out of the main flow over to the perimeter of the mall walkway and continued ‘walking’. I finished up buying a couple more items and left for our car. I put Caden in his car seat. I emptied the back of my stroller and with a baby wipe began wiping one of the back stroller wheels, crouched down towards my open hatch back. From behind I heard the sweetest voice, “Hello”. I slowly turned and looked up, almost knowing who it was. Sure enough, it was the Angel. She walked past me and I of course replied “Hi!” I had to say something…speak to my Angel. “I love your outfit!” I blurted out as she stood opening her driver’s side door of the car directly next to mine. “Thank you,” she kindly replied. I was in utter disbelief that a woman so beautiful dressed to the nines all in white walking through Wilton Mall that I would call an Angel, would walk behind me saying “Hello” without any kind of eye contact and also of all places be parked directly next to me. Stunned, I placed the stroller in the trunk and walked around the front of my car to get in. “Was that a message? Did I just have an Angel tell me Mom is leaving today? Is she here for me?” all raced through my mind. Once more I glanced down into her car. Looking out she gently leaned a bit forward and with a slight nod and smile, she waved to me. I got in my car realizing it was the answer to my questions. Mom is not going to be here very much longer, maybe a day and that was my sign. I immediately broke out sobbing and sobbing. Still I wondered if this perhaps was a perfect stranger looking at me who just might be prompted to get out and ask if I was alright, having gone from smiling and waving back to her to a completely distraught state, with a baby in the back seat. I looked over rather quickly to see if she indeed was coming to my window but the parking spot was empty. Driving out straight ahead I saw though the back of a used blue Honda my Mom’s Angel looking towards the right checking for traffic and preceding to pull out of the parking lot, leaning peculiarly forward over the wheel, as though she had never driven before. I looked at the clock on my dash and minus the time it was set ahead, it was approximately 4:45pm. I drove right to my sisters’ home hoping they would be there to tell my encounter and to let them know Mom is leaving us very, very soon. My Mom died almost 8 hours later at 12:30am on Friday October 17th, 2008. (Her favorite combination at the races 1-7) She nicknamed me (un-jul) Hungarian for angel and throughout her life called me her Guardian Angel. I know this was an Angel delivering me that message so I would be prepared for her to leave me, and on that day I passed the baton to her next Angel who came to take her away. I Love You Mom. Your Baby, Lisa
The night of my Angel encounter I told Jim, “I know I’m taking this all as a way to cope with my Mom, but I had such a strange feeling she was coming for me. I can’t say how or why, I just know deep down in my heart I felt like she was coming there for ME,” “That’s ridiculous,” Jim retorted, “you’re not sick!” “I know,” I uttered under my breath.
The craziness of my Mom’s passing settled down and October soon turned into November. I went away for a few days t o Orlando for a get away with my sister Patti and my amazing son Caden, in which one night lying still in bed I
thought thing s seemed a bit different on my body. Perhaps after the two years of IVF ‘stuff ’ ( InVitro Fertilizat ion), being pregnant, breast feeding, and then taking care of my Mom, this perhaps was the first time I paid attention to me. At least that is the only way I can justify getting this sick, without knowing it. I visited my doctor’s office December11th and during my exam my doctor’s face looked as though he stumbled across a live grenade. Within days I was in for ultrasounds, a mammogram and then an MRI. It was December 23rd when I got the MRI and all my doctor kept saying was his daughter’s angels would pray for me and that I needed a lot of hugs and prayers this Christmas. Before it could even register in m y brain I might have ‘ cancer ’ he instructed me he would set me up with the best oncologist/ surgeon in the Capital District . Oncologist, I thought, shit I haven’t heard that kind of doctor mentioned since
my Mom had cancer! This was definitely not good. I went in for a mammogram and came out with breast cancer.
MERRY CHRISTMAS- I HAVE BREAST CANCER
A day later was Christmas Eve and over the course of that day up north in Lake Placid where my whole family rented a B&B we were staying at, I systematically had to tell each person I loved more than life what was happening. I felt like they were walking into a firing line carrying gifts and one by one I had to shoot them in the head. Actually with my family it was like shooting them in the foot. They winced from the pain, hugged me and together we all hobbled down to drink, play games and have a semblance of a normal Christmas. It was far from normal. I am the youngest of six and this was a mere 8 weeks after losing the hub of what made us all spin, our Mom. I saw those few days through Christmas through the eyes of Ebenezer Scrooge as though the ghost of Christmas future were leading me telling me how it might look next year without me in the picture. I saw everyone around me, without me there, my husband holding the baby without me there, and Christmases to come without me there. It was a very daunting time. I made a point to get my picture with as many of my brothers and sisters as I could, not knowing how severe my cancer was and what my days ahead would look like. While I still looked good, I wanted these pictures. That may have been a little dark and morbid to them, but I plan to go into every phase of this with my eyes wide open. They can close theirs when they need.
HAPPY NEW YEAR Within days of returning home from Lake Placid I was scurried in for a biopsy and then soon into surgery. Not until they remove the actual tumor and get the pathology do you really know where you stand, so I thought. From December 23rd till my surgery January 9th, it seemed like an eternity. I felt like one of those people in the movies, an innocent bystander a whacko grabs and straps a ticking bomb to. Walking around with this cancerous mass was awful, but sleeping was worse. You can’t roll over onto it! My stay had very little to be desired at the hospital, but my Dr. Edmondson appeared like an angel next to me before I was wheeled in for surgery. It is a very strange relationship you have with your surgeon. I can’t describe the love you develop for them because not many people on Earth are here to actually save your life. He was a brilliant, determined very young doctor who carried a very heavy concern about him regarding me. I knew I was a special case to him, for some reason. Every time he appeared in my hospital room the days after surgery I looked up through tired eyes and smiled, “Ah Saint Edmondson!” I would exclaim. He so modestly bristled at the notion he was a Saint, but to me he was and will always be. A week after surgery we came in to hear my report. This was the verdict, what I wait almost 3 weeks to hear. In a very matter of fact way he explained my tumor was much, much larger than he expected from the ultrasound. It measured 8 cm. I freaked out when I saw at home how big that really is. It was a grade 3 which was the worst grade to get. It showed up in 11/16 of my lymph nodes. “Oh good, I was afraid it was in 12!” I shot back when he said that. My sister Becky couldn’t help but chuckle at my knee jerk optimistic response. Walking out of the office I was beside him. I looked up and said smiling, “Hey you don’t get to take an 8 cm tumor out of someone everyday!” I quipped. He smiled, “No I sure don’t”. I’m sure at some point I will tell a little bit about each of my sisters and brothers. To tell any more would be an entirely new book. My sister Becky was there, of course, at my doctor’s appointment. As she had been there for each one and as she had been there next to me at basically every stage of my whole life, there protecting me. My Mother Bear, everyone’s Mother Bear. For the very first time in my life I see a small way in which I am more equipped and better able to protect her. Finally it took me getting cancer to in some small way carry her now.
This is 8 cm ( _________________________________ )
LANCE ARMSTRONG I could have sat and finished the Lance Armstrong book I started just this afternoon. I hate reading. Thoughts, realizations, moments of sheer clarity forced me to stop and find a piece of paper to jot them down, if only for tonight. This is where my journal was actually started. When I was diagnosed I thought how much it made sense (in a very non-sensical way). Suddenly I knew why I tried to enjoy every bit of what it was I was doing. Why I loved Jim’s band so much, why I had to dance the hardest, took everything in, making every dear friend I met along my path, such a wonderful, dear friend. Tonight that initial belief of “because I knew I wasn’t going to live forever” changed. Somewhere in between the pages I flipped tonight, I realized my thinking was entirely flawed. All the incredible relationships I made along the way were entirely created by the hand of God, to be here for me now, to pump me up & and put me on my bike, to push me, to give me water, change my tires, and to cheer me on as I compete now in my very own ‘Tour De France’. Where the finish line is, is up to God, how and if I run is up to me. Throughout my life I always had an unyielding need to be my parents’ keeper. It was up to me to keep them safe, happy and healthy. The sicker they became, the greater I felt an urgency to do just that. Until the moment they took their last breath, I believe I did all three. I clearly remember riding next to Jim in the passenger seat looking out on the lake, shortly after my Mom passed away. “Now what am I going to do?” I said bewildered. Now I know. That same unyielding need to keep safe, happy and healthy has now become my own.
I struggle to pick up the pen and write worried it will all seem so out of order. I am used to drafting a perfect outline marked by Roman numerals filled in by plots and subplots for each chapter. My days will simply have to be my outline as I write for once I am not the one writing the story. Today is the day I await the phone call to let me know Stage 3 or Stage 4. “Curable or incurable” are the only words reverberating through my heart and mind. As most would imagine how nerve-racking it must be, I have to say at least for this moment, as I sit in my Mother-in-law’s peaceful, warm home by the fireplace I feel the same serene sense of calm, as I had the night my Mom passed. “It’s ok, Mom” I assured her. “I’m O.K. … I’m Good!” I pray I carry this same sense of calm throughout my ordeal, however blindly optimistic it is. It is because of my Angel encounter I feel this way.
MY FIRESIDE CHAT
It’s later in the day and I finished the Lance Armstrong book (275 pages); one whole book in three days, my own Tour De France victory. Already cancer has changed me. As you will come to understand the only other book outside of school I ever read cover to cover was “The Magic of Believing” by Claude Bristol. Good thing! As I sit here alone in my mother-in-law’s house completely sequestered from my home, family and friends who in the course of one week all became infected with a terrible head cold, I remain here ‘well’. “I’m the healthiest person you know”, I kid Jim. Jim is my amazing loving husband who treats me like a queen. Within three months of meeting he had me on a multimillion dollar yacht (not his) in the Bahamas on vacation and since then I’ve been around the world more than once with him. I could write an entire book on how such a diagnosis affects a spouse. All I can say is I can bear all the unknown debilitations of my upcoming chemo treatments and endure the ravages this insidious disease might have upon my body. I cannot bear to watch my husband witnessing every moment and for this I pray, Stage 3. In some quiet dark place in my heart I fear not to be diagnosed Stage 4 might make the victory beating cancer less jubilant, the battle somehow less courageous. If this is my life’s path, to affect others and change the world, would a lesser diagnosis mean less to the others I would help? I know my naivety is bordering utter stupidity.
NOTHING IS A COINCIDENCE
All that comforts me is the absolute belief that nothing is a coincidence. It is my job now to understand when they present themselves, how and why they apply. These are just a few of those moments I can recall just now off the top of my head. My Mom nicknamed me ‘Tiger’ in my 20’s. “Go get em’ Tiger!” she would always say to me. In 5th Grade I choreographed a dance routine to the song “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. In 12th Grade my boyfriend of 5 years, Jay Simon, loved the group Pink Floyd. The connection there will later be seen- the Floyd Hammers, Pigs on the Wing, Tigers Broke Free, will all show their significance; how right now I cannot say. Soon after Jim and I began dating I found in the grocery store parking lot a little gold pin. It was a baby with little baby blue gems on his diaper. I knew I would have a boy one day, the Angels told me so. I had to do IVF when we could not get pregnant and two years into it, I was pregnant. “It’s a boy!” they said but then, I knew that. I insisted we kept the tradition of The Peppermint Pig going this past Christmas. It’s a nice annual tradition we found years ago at a local Saratoga Sweets Shop where families give thanks and speak of their hopes while nicking a piece of pink candy from the peppermint pig. They use a small metal provided hammer. This year my family chose to pass doing it. I was hurt, but know the Pink Pig has an underlying message for me that will later be revealed. How and when I’ll find out. I have a very dear friend who has been a wonderful source of strength for me during this time. We met last year up at the Christmas House. At 1 a.m. Christmas Day while we were up drinking and up partying- playing games, her husband stumbled to the front door of our house. His car was broken down out front completely out of gas. We took he, his wife and two children in and made them our family that night, little did I know then forever. Olga is now my friend and their breaking down was no more a coincidence in my life than me getting cancer. Soon after I lost Mom I was searching for signs to still feel her presence. Each week almost for about 5 weeks I got something! She was very cool. One day I looked out of my back window in early November and saw a perfect dried sunflower head (my favorite flower) perched perfectly on our porch railing. I ran to the basement to ask Jim if he put it there. My Angel did, a sign from Mom. Thank You. For months I could not find my most treasured piece of jewelry, a beautiful Citizen gold and silver watch with a black rectangular face, my Mom had given me. For months I looked and when she passed away my heart sank. I feared I lost it on a trip perhaps to NYC that summer. Anyone who knows me knows I lose things on a regular basis. This is probably the one thing about me Jim absolutely cannot stand. On several occasions I’ve emptied my purse looking for a 'lost item d’jour.' Most recently I totally dumped my purse out frustrated I lost a necklace my sister Patti gave me for Christmas. The day I received my pathology report- 8 cm, 11/16 lymph nodes, Becky and I went to lunch at the Chocolate Factory. Looking once again for a gift card in my purse, I pulled out my sacred watch. The Angels returned it to me on the day I needed a sign. Thank you, I will be ok.
This past spring I had a friend on my pool league give me a mahogony Budda to mark my pocket. Days after losing my Mom I was alone at her apartment one late night cleaning our her drawers and in her Bingo Bag found her good luck charm- another mahogany Buddha, just a different pose. Coincidence... What do you think! They sit side by side now in front of my favorite picture of she and I.
Over the years Jim happened to connect with an organization he sent money to periodically. Need I say it was a Tiger Rescue? Well, upon receiving a newsletter two years ago I clipped out one of the Tiger tributes. On the back I wrote, ‘This River Glen Tiger died of cancer, My Inspiration’ (I underlined). It was in his eyes I saw “Damn, here I am one of nature’s most fierce beautiful creatures and this thing got me. Damn!” I was inspired at that moment to do whatever it was I was put on Earth to do, since he was so early cheated. That Tiger has been on my desk since then watching me. My Reiki treatment the night before surgery I saw a repeating image of a Phoenix and also I felt the warmth of a glowing orange flame that also kept reappearing before my closed eyes. Driving home from my treatment Jim asked how it was and I told him how strongly I felt these images. He almost drove off the road saying something about a Phoenix Rising. When we got home I learned online about the mythical bird and how it made a nest and set itself and the nest on fire to rise up out of the ashes totally reborn, new again. Cool, some people see colors- I see Greek Mythology. Again, I will be ok and God is telling me that. Perhaps my coincidences seem too contrived, that I work too hard to connect dots. Some laugh when I try to explain them. God is very clever and gives me those signs he knows I’ll connect with. I will be a faithful servant, that he knows and I will tell everyone I meet along the way.
I cannot emphasize enough how much I feel I am doing God’s will. His light and love are coming through me and I will see how through my illness is how I am able to do what it is He intends. It is his healing energy that kept this unbelievably huge mass from spreading, it seems, past my lymph nodes. On January 23rd Dr. Wu my Oncologist called. “Your PET scan looked fine” were her first words. For the first time in a month I was able to breathe a little. “Fine?!” I exclaimed. Oh no, I thought, there’s a mistake. She’s looking at the wrong patient’s report. They don’t know what they’re doing. How could it possibly be fine? Again, God needed me to be ill, just maybe not terminally ill. As good as the news was I couldn’t escape a fear that lingered in my soul. I felt as though I was pulled from icy waters and while everyone rejoiced from me not drowning, I was about to die from hyperthermia and no one knew it. It was a feeling I learned to get over, but was there all the same. The next day my whole family gathered for a celebration. A combination party to honor my great news and my mother in law’s birthday, Saint Margaret, we affectionately call her Pinky. As people raised their glasses and gleefully toasted “To Stage 3!” I couldn’t help but want to cry. Great, I have Stage 3 cancer.
GREAT I HAVE STAGE 3 CANCER
Those not told “You have cancer” may not understand. I hope to feel this way forever, that I am chosen, again, another perhaps stupidly blind optimistic hope. How often does the average person get told via hundreds of e-mails how loved and prayed for they are. Friends of friends telling you they are creating prayer groups and rallying the healing energies of Reiki Masters and beyond for you. A stack of Easter egg colored cards fill my mailbox on any given day full of hopes, prayers and love. To say freely without a moment’s thought or hesitation, “I Love You” to a friend, a simple friend met just four years ago, granted he is my biggest fan. But to say “I love you” and mean it so much is so great. How lucky am I to feel this way. Some people live their whole lives and never get to experience this. Which is more important, quality or quantity? With a seventeen month old baby, both still I hope!
GINGER TEA I’m sitting enjoying a ginger tea at a local Irish pub, aptly named ‘The Local’. I did an article for their business opening for the Saratoga Business Journal last year. I think I’ve spent more money frequenting the businesses I’ve met interviewing than I’ve made getting paid to write about them. It’s all good. I’ve made a 3:30 appointment with a myofascial therapist. Over the past few years I saw advertisements for it and was always curious. There’s no better excuse to splurge on some massage treatments, than cancer. What extremes I go to! “Myo” refers to muscle and “fascia” to the connective tissue that ties your body together.
Well, as I sit here sipping my tea I’m contemplating if it will feel more comfortable to just walk around bald than it is now with a haircut I never would have normally chosen. At least with cancer people know you have no choice, but with this, my judgment is in question- that’s awful! Actually I’m quite surprised how much I like my pixie haircut, but then ‘pixie’ always sounds cuter than it ever looks. I decided to cut my hair this week so I could lose my hair incrementally, so not to have to watch my hair falling like a victim in the shower. Everything till now has been on my terms, why not this.
Not for a moment do I forget to sit here and ponder my thoughts and enjoy ample massage treatments, it comes with an army of support behind me. Of course, Jim my most major sponsor, lover, friend and fan. Behind him my many caregivers for Caden, my chefs who for the past four weeks have filled my refrigerator with food and numerous personal caregivers who pamper me with their free massages & Reiki treatments. Not for a moment do I forget my army.