I Will Never Be the Same Again

I had a book signing last week in Hillsboro, Kansas. Hillsboro is a little town nestled in the softly rolling plains of the Northeast portion of the state. It's small, quite charming, with Mennonite roots and where the publisher of my book happens to be located. So when Joel (my publisher) called and asked me to do a signing at the bookstore in town I naturally said yes and when he said the bookstore was closing at the end of the month I felt compelled to do it. Every time I do a book signing or an event of any kind I feel that there is an underlying purpose. A purpose that I generally don't recognize until it has already happened. This, of course, is because it is God's purpose, not mine, and I often only realize it in retrospect. I often have an epiphany right after the "moment of purpose" and often will say right out loud "That is what I am doing here today!" This occasion was no different. It was not a typical busy book signing. There had been several books sold earlier in the day but I could tell early on that it would be slow. Only three people came. My husband and I spent a great deal of time visiting with the bookstore owner, my publisher, his wife and sister who was visiting. The first gal that came in was good friend of my book cover designer. We had a very nice visit. There was a lull of about 30 minutes and then I saw a younger woman pull in and quickly hop out of her car. She had on purple scrubs and her hair was pulled back into a neat ponytail at the nape of her neck. She wore white sunglasses which she slipped up on to the crown of her head as she stepped into the shade of the bookstore awning. I honestly didn't think she was coming to buy my book and mused that she was probably in search of a quick gift or perhaps an "after work latte" from the adjacent coffee shop. My assumptions were wrong. She made a beeline for the entry table and quickly collected a copy of the book. She clutched it to her chest as she hesitatingly approached me. I was welcoming and called to her to come over. She was a bit breathless and said she had seen I was going to be here in the paper and she had rushed over after work hoping she could talk to me and have her booked signed. "My mom had rectal cancer" she blurted out. I asked her name and she told me "Haley" She then wove me the story of her mom's diagnosis, treatment and passing within 16 months of diagnosis. She told me of her family. Her being the youngest of three with a brother and a sister. She told me of her own daughter being only 5 weeks old when her mom was diagnosed and how much joy her little one had brought to her mother throughout her treatments and until her passing. Her mom had suffered much and didn't make it. SHe asked me how old I was and when I told her I was 49 she couldn't help but start to cry and I cried too and gave her a long, tight hug. I asked her mom's name and and told her I would light a luminary for her at Goddard's Relay for Life and with her permission I would mention her name when I spoke. She said she would like that and then carefully spelled her mother's name for me. I signed her book for her. When we said goodbye I looked at Joel and my husband and said "That's what I am doing here today!" But little did I know, the purpose wasn't over yet and God had another lesson for me to learn. Another lady came in and as I signed her book we chatted about this and that. Before we knew it it was 7 o'clock and the signing was over. Joel, his delightful wife and sister then took my husband and I to dinner. We ate and laughed and talked. We took our time and left Hillsboro around 8:45. As Jerry and I headed toward home I gazed up at the stars and crescent moon thinking about my visit with Haley. As I was recalled the details of our conversation the tears began leaking from my eyes uncontrollably as I realized something. Talking to this precious young woman who missed and loved her mother so much was a glimpse of the feelings and emotions that my own daughter (and sons) will experience if cancer ends my life prematurely. I feel real sorrow about this. It is truly my only regret. I know I will not be able to stop this pain from afflicting my children. I had not just seen it in Haley but heard her describe the pain in her own tortured words. I heard her voice laced with pain and easily could overlay the sound of my daughters voice speaking those words. I could palpate her pain and channel that through my own children knowing I can neither prevent it or protect them from it. This is the lesson God had for me. I think my cancer has opened my eyes wide to appreciate my own life but what I need to keep in the forefront of mind is how this awful disease effects the people around those who suffer from it. It's more than accepting that I won't be able to change it...it's acknowledging and respecting those feelings. I need to be ever mindful that I am putting my children (my whole family really) through something that no one has any control over. And although there is nothing I can do to prevent or relieve this pain I am a new woman because it was shared with me. Thank you Haley...I will never be the same again.
Carol sent you a prayer.
Carol sent you a hug.
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Dear Michele - Haley did not change you - the woman you write about was always there. She is just the one talking now. You are simply inspiring. I am grateful for your post and for my own tears. XOXO
 Aww, Helen! You are such a dear! I hope we can meet face to face some day! Hugs, Michele
Michele, Thank you for this post. So touching. I thought about my grown children during my treatments and it hurt my heart so much thinking about their pain or what they were thinking or feeling. The emotional pain of cancer spreads throughout the family. And like you said....there is nothing you can do about it. You may never know what all you did for Haley that day. You were definitely at that place at that time for her. Your words will open the eyes of many. Thank you.
 Linda, The support of others who know my struggle means so much to me :) Thank you!
Michele, what a beautiful story. I love your outlook on life. I don't have children, but I can relate... my first thought when I as diagnosed was "Who is going to take care of my mom if I don't make it?". I have two sisters who seldom get in touch with her and they both live close to us. That is my only regret as well. Hugs, Mari
Mari, You are a wonderful daughter. I feel sorry that your sisters are missing out on precious time with your mom. She is fortunate to have you...and my prayer is that she will have you for a long time to come :)
I have to agree with Helen you are the same person that you have always been. This post really brought tears to my eyes too. I often feel this way about my children and then there are times that I wonder if they would even miss me (at least 2 out of the 3). What an awful way for me to feel huh? Well this isn't about me. But anyway your post really mad me think. Michele you are an absolute inspiration to all of us. And I believe you are a wonderful person before cancer and after.
 Thank you Nancy. I am sure you would be missed. Unfortunately people don't often realize what they have until it is gone. I think our children, in the quest for independence, often don't put their need for us in perspective. However, I know this to be true...even if my mother drives me crazy on some level I will always need her. And although she is 1500 miles away I would miss her if she were not here any longer. My relationship with her, as with my own children, is far from perfect but I know that love covers a plethera of faults...thank God! Stay strong! Michele
I have not felt so emotional reading somebody's blog in a while as I did reading yours right now at 3am...As the cancer survivor we often deal/cope well for ourselves and we periodically think of our loved ones and how they will make it. I have been on both sides of cancer in the past few years. I am single and my parents are my closest people in my life and I was so sick that I think God took the concern about them away for me to give all of the healing to my own body initially. After two very difficult years of surgery, chemo, radiation, chemo again and a couple more surgeries I finally felt there was a an end of light at the tunnel I had been in and I only had three more chemo tx left when my dad was diagnosed with non-small lung cancer stage IV. All of a sudden I was on the other side and feeling all of the concern about my dad and how I would be able to move forward if we lose him, God was quick in reassuring both my mom and I that dad was going to live long enough to see his oldest grandson graduate from college (my sister and family lived overseas) but my dad was not going to make it until June 2011. As a stage IV colon cancer survivor myself, I had a horrible time talking with my dad, we did a lot of sitting by each other and holding hands because we both knew and understood something that my mom did not, and that was the ABSOLUTE PEACE GOD gave to both of us when we were told we had cancer and it did not look good. For me God has shown me that there is a PURPOSE for my life and a need to share my family's story of faith that never once wavered through all of the things we have faced in the last four years. But I vividly recall how I wondered how I could possibly live another day with out my dad in my life, and then the week came when he became so very ill and the cancer had mestatized to his brain...he was so child like, full of innocences but so very sure that it was his time to be with Christ in heaven and to be there with him and routing him on to the eternal life with God was amazing and beautiful but most of all humbling. God took my dad, and made a miracle of me to be cancer free from stage iv colon cancer that was the size of a football in my pelvic cavitity...But I am the one that can and will share the story of how God was with me and still with me every single step as he was with my dad and my mom who has since told me that if I had been the one to go that she truly would not know if she would have been able to make it herself. With that let there be comfort that even though we miss are loved ones terribly and no matter how young or old we are if we look at life like you do...for the purpose of being some place at a certain point in time God will show you what it is and ultimately it is for HIS GLORY.
 It's so true Melinda. Instead of asking "Why me?" I ask "Why not me?" I got cancer because I am a human being...not because I am being punished. I am happy with my lot. I have had friends lose children over the last couple years in the war and accidents. I know they would trade places with me in a second and take on "my cross to bear" AND I know that I wouldn't trade with them. I'll take Stage 4 ANY cancer. I'd rather it be me. Just sayin... Take care, Michele
Goodness me. Throughout all my battle I have been "strong" for all those around me tryiong to protect them. Your blog moved me to tears as I read it - something I have tried not to do through all of thhis. I think you speak for us all although I try to hold
Managed to "post" my reply before I had finished it. I try to hold my feelings in check all the time and sometimes although I have lots of love & caring people around me I feel so alone in the middle of the night. My BFAC friends help me through this and sob has your blog today. Thank you Annabelle
Annabelle, We are here for each other. Emotions are so much better expressed. My mantra is: It's all going to be okay, no matter what. I believe that to be true and because I believe it those who surround me and love me (my husband, my sister, my children) believe it to. It has to be "well with my soul" so it doesn't mar the rest of my life. So when I am sad I cry but that is just an emotion for the moment. The undercurrent in my soul is peace and that's how I cope. I hate what is happening to me and I too feel lonely sometimes (anal cancer has to be in the top 3 of lonely cancers) but I must refuse to become bitter and have it destroy my chance to help others and make memories for those I love. When I am up in the middle of the night and dread threatens to over take me I say to myself...it's all going to be okay, no matter what :) Peace and hugs to you Annabelle, Michele
Hi Michele-- I truly believe there is purpose in everything that happens, even though we don't always understand it--sometimes never--and sometimes long after it happens, we finally get it! I'm so glad you were there for this woman. As for the other thoughts, I don't have children, but I can only imagine that others who do think the same thing as you--what kind of pain is this causing my child? For me, it was quite the reverse, as my mother is still living and was in her early 80's when I was diagnosed. I couldn't imagine the pain she would feel if something happened to me and she was left to bury her only daughter. Thank you for sharing this. You are a remarkable person and truly an inspiration to me! Hugs-- Martha
 Love you Martha! You are totally my hero! You are a beautiful soul :) Michele
is your book only for kindle?
Charity, My book is available in paper back too. They can be ordered on-line direct from my publisher Which is the Hillsboro Free Press. I would post the url but it's not allowed on here so Google is your friend :) Michele
 Thanks! I also wrote my story. Not sure what to do with it yet though!
What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing. There are lessons from God everywhere. This is a reminder that we need to always try to find His message--even when the rocks are piling up. Big hug!!
Michele thank you so much for sharing this post. It has meaning for me on many levels. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer when I was 32 and she was 54. It left a big hole in my heart. It gets better with time but never leaves. I now have two boys who are 24 and 25 years old. I am 59. This year my cancer (anal) came back in some lymph nodes nearby. I do not know how long I will have with my family, but I hope to be here for a long time. You remind me that every day is precious. As others have said there is a purpose to everything which may not be clear at the time.
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Vital Info

Posts

October 3, 2011

Click Here

January 31, 1963

Cancer Info

Anal Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the anus

February 5, 2010

Stage 4

2.1 - 3.0 cm

Grade 3

No

As much as possible

Proceeds from my published blog donated monthly

It is a thief

You have to live every day of your life and stay positive :)

Donate $$ to the anal cancer foundation. Raising awareness saves lives!

Is there anything good about poison?

Bone, lung recurrence 9/20/2012

Cancer Center of Kansas, MD Anderson

Bland diet, sitz baths, take your drugs...nobody gets extra credit for suffering.

Talk, talk, talk to somebody. I chose to write.

April 20, 2010

September 20, 2010

Rectal bleeding, itching, sciatic pain. (thought my hemorhoid was acting up)

My blog has been published and proceeds go to The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation. http://tinyurl.com/72bjjfp

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