Maybe It's Not About Me...

Those of you who follow my blog know that I had to spend a few weeks in Houston to receive my radiation treatments to my lungs. This required that I drive to MD Anderson every day, by myself. Over the last three and one half years I have observed many people "flying solo" in the oncologist's office, chemotherapy center, radiation center, surgery center, CT and PET scanners. Just about every part of cancer of treatment I have observed, but never have been, a patient going it alone for treatment. That is until now. I (and my sister) have always commented that no one should be alone during the on-slaught of treatment and follow up and we often fought the urge to go and sit with these solo flyers and ask them if they need anything and take notes for them during their appointments and hold their hands if they were scared or being poked or prodded. But still, here I was alone. I was alone because it "made sense". I had a place to stay that was as good as family gets (more on that later) and I truly was more than capable, although a bit nervous, of driving myself to my radiation appointments every day.

Now that the scene is set I want to tell you about an encounter I had. It was my third day of radiation. I was in a groove. I knew the valet parkers by name, the receptionists checked me in no problem and I easily could find my way to waiting room "I" located in the dungeon as I liked to refer to it. There were pretty much the same people waiting for treatments their everyday. A young mother with her husband and 2 year old son. A couple of professional middle aged men with their wives, and even a young man that brought his baby girl with him every time. The techs fought over who would watch her while he was in the back for his rads. Then there was me, the only solo pilot in the place. We were all polite to each other. Maybe a nod, or a question or two about how many treatments we were having. I mostly read a book while I waited and wondered if these folks talked about me in hushed voices or after I went back to treatment feeling sorry for me that I was alone. I certainly don't think I portrayed loneliness, but I know what my own thoughts have been when I have witnessed somebody "going it alone".

On this particular day there was a new face in the waiting area, an elderly woman accompanied by someone that I presumed to be her daughter. Her chair was parked on the edge of the waiting area partly in the hallway just across from the restroom. During my wait that day I found I needed to go to the rest room. This did involve me packing up my book, my ipad and transporting my drink as I was alone and there was no companion to "watch my stuff" while I went to relieve myself. As I made my way through the maze of chairs filled with patients I crossed in front of these women. I noted that the woman in the wheel chair had a patch over one eye. Although she looked rather frail her hair was "done" and her daughter sat very close to her and was filing her mother's nails. I went into the bathroom and thought to myself how precious this was to see her being so lovingly cared for. It made me misty for a moment just missing my family. As I washed my hands I looked in the mirror and reminded myself how many people loved me and I was not alone, not really.

As I exited the bathroom the ladies both smiled at me and I smiled back asking if I could be "next" for a manicure. This instantly opened a conversation and the woman in the wheelchair asked if she could speak with me about something. "Sure" I said. I leaned against the arm of chair across from her to lower my frame to be better able to be eye to eye with her. She said her name was Frances Pegg and introduced me to her daughter. Then she asked if she could share her story with me. I nodded yes and she handed me the brochure she had clutched in her hand. I ascertained pretty quickly that it was her photo on the front and the tale of her battle with the beast was within the folds of this pamphlet. She spoke of her battle with terminal brain cancer and how she had, with the help of her faith, defied all odds. She had found a way to thank God no matter what circumstance and had even lost her husband during her 5 year struggle. Through all this her faith was never shaken. I shared with her my amazing experience as well. She did say her only regret was that her daughter had to leave her beloved job as a teacher to care for her. I took her hand and said "Miss Frances, your daughter could have any number of jobs in her lifetime but she will only have one Momma!" With a tear in her eye she said "That's true!" I warmly gave a squeeze to each of their hands when my name was called for treatment and thanked her for sharing with me. When I exited afterwards the waiting room had been cleared out and Frances Pegg was gone as well but I looked forward to seeing my new friend again the next day, but I never saw her again. I did see her brochures scattered about the waiting area though and started a conversation about her with the young mother I mentioned at the start of this entry when I saw her reading through one of them.

This, naturally, got me to thinking. Of all the people in the waiting room to talk to why did she chose me? Was it because I was alone and she thought I needed a friend or some hope? No, it's not. It's because in this crazy life all things knit perfectly together. Even the messes, tragedies and heart break are fit perfectly in place. Sometimes it's hard to see because we are so close and often only see the thread of our own story. All life has meaning and purpose. So, you might be wondering, what is the purpose behind me or anybody for that matter developing a rare stage 4 cancer? Here's the thing, all of this, my rare cancer, my predictable recurrence, my trip to MD Anderson, the timing, my ability to traverse the path alone for bit created an opportunity. An opportunity for an elderly woman of deep faith to proclaim her peace and gratitude and for me to "second that motion" in front of a packed waiting room. Maybe there was a soul that needed to hear that message or heart that needed soothed. Maybe my cancer is awful....maybe it's not about me.

3 people threw a punch at your cancer.
Danean, Danean sent you a prayer.
3 people sent you a hug.
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It sure is about a beautiful woman that has a great soul and is loved... Everybody is making me cry these days... Your all so wonderful..saying prayers every day. hugs and love Sabina
Michele likes this comment
michele, if you have to return to mdacc for more treatments please let me know. i'm only a short drive from mdacc and would be more than happy to give you any assistance that i can. i'm one of those that made the journey alone, so i truly appreciate the sentiment of your post. OD@aT tj
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Michele, I hope that you can meet Texas Jeff, he is the most delightful guy - we met in Houston when I attended an MDA "Survivors" conference. And he is one tough survivor, as are you. I'm not sure who it's about - but you are a wonderful inspiration on this blog, please keep sharing your reflections! XOXO
Michele, Charity like this comment
Michele...you're simply amazing and your strength is inspiring. I hope you post nothing but good news from now on. Hugs, Mari
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Been thinking about you a lot recently and wondering how your treatment was going. What a lovely experience. I now go to all my post treatment appointments on my own. My local hospital is a few minutes away but I still go down to London for my scans. Thinking about it no one in the waiting room speaks to any one, we just glance at each other, yet when I was going through my treatment and waiting for my turn in the "inner" room where there was only one or two people waiting we always spoke to each other even if just to say hello. Hugs Annabelle
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What a great story, Michele! I believe there is a reason for every encounter in life--both brushes with angels and others who are not so angelic, if you know what I mean. There is meaning and lessons to be learned in each crossing of our path. I hope you are doing well, my friend. May God bless you each and every day. Hugs!
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I fly solo. I love this post. It is very touching. You have a beautiful spirit. Hugs and prayers, Danean
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I also went thru my treatment by myself and often saw the same people in the various waiting areas, often wondering what their stories were and how they fared. so many disjointed conversations started and interrupted when called in for treatment. also wondered why the centres dont provide the opportunity for people to link up with others going thru similar treatments at the same time, especially as support is considered to be one of the most beneficial things.
Michele likes this comment
Wow . . .You sure have a gift for writing, Michele. . . . You are spot-on about how things in life "knit perfectly together." I bet many people, unknowingly by her-or you, were touched by her story that day. It's a good reminder. How wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
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Thanks for sharing your experience with Miss Frances. There were at least two very strong and blessed women in that waiting room that day.
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I had a similar experience when I came in for lab work after treatment. I felt as if she needed to talk, and I was also alone. I was needing to leave to pick up my daughter from school, and I felt like she really didn't want me to leave. I wrote down blogforacure.com for her, and told her she would have so much support here. I never heard from her again...
Michele likes this comment
Michele, Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. I have stage IV nasopharyngeal carcinoma. I'm from Topeka, KS but being treated at MDA. I had 6 weeks of induction chemo (with not a lot of shrinkage unfortunately) and now will be starting my 4th week of radiation/chemo in that same waiting area I you mentioned. Your post resonated with me because of your relationship with your sister and going to your radiation treatments alone. My husband and sister have gone to many appts and treatments, but because we have two young girls that couldn't go to many parts of MDA someone had to stay with them. I usually do fine on my own, but given the opportunity I would take someone by my side. This treatment is so difficult both physically and emotionally...it can devour you! My little sister has been down to Houston multiple times even though she is holding down a full-time job. Luckily, she works 12hour days in healthcare, so she often has multiple days off. She won't be back until Dec. 16th when I'll be in a much worse state. I've started having throat pain and eating issues due to the radiation of my head and neck. I have a continual bad taste in my mouth that makes everything else taste bad too. I wish my sister was here just for support. As I sit alone in the dungeon awaiting another zap, I will think about your story of the elderly lady and what opportunities may exist to connect with those waiting around me. Thank you for your story and my new connection to you and your journey.
Oh Shara! Thank you for sharing your story with me! I am glad you have found some comfort in my post. I am sorry to hear of your cancer but am glad you are at MDA! Best care anywhere, I say. We are both Kansas girls and I appreciate that! I have added you to my prayers! Michele
Thank you for the prayers!
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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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