It seems as I grow older, life increasingly lets me know it's not turning out the way I dreamed it would as I was a kid. While playing Barbies with my friends, jumping on the trampoline, having sleepouts, running around the neighborhood until dark playing night games with the kids in the neighborhood, raking leaves in a pile then jumping in the pile, building snowmen, having snowball fights, never having a care in the world.
We dreamed of being a nurse, doctor, cook, teacher, pilot, a wife, a mother, a grandmother... having a husband to love and who loved me to grow old with... living a life and never uttering words such as murder, drugs, cancer, diseases, or death. Our parents, friends, and everyone we loved were going to live forever.
Of course, I know now it was all foolishness. As nice as it was to dream like that, I grew to know that without adversity in my life, I didn't really know what love meant nor did I really appreciate what it was to be happy.
Back in the late 1980's, my childhood friend Carol was going to Utah State University in Logan, Utah, living her life, preparing to be a teacher, which she always wanted to be. She discovered a rather large lump at the base of her neck and she thought it was part of the flu because she hadn't felt well lately. Being a student and working too, it's hard getting the rest we need so she brushed it off.
Next time she came "home" to the Ogden, Utah area, she saw her family doctor to show him this funny thing that had started to grow and was just getting bigger. She thought perhaps it would be a "give me some antibiotics and get some rest" type of an appointment. But oh, no. Not this time.
Turned out she had cancer. Hodgkin's Disease. Of course everyone around her was freaking out, including yours truly, who never really dealt with this type of illness before. Plus, chemo treatments being what they were back then, were awful to go through. But it wasn't about me and I kept the focus on her. Although she was scared, she knew life wasn't done with her yet.
If memory serves me, I think she took about 18 months away from school to battle this rather large and cancerous nodule at the base of her neck, that she called Norma. Norma was a formidable opponent but she hadn't met Carol. Carol kicked Norma's butt to the curb. She returned to school, earned her degree and teacher's certificate and she's been teaching 8th grade English at the same school since.
I admire Carol so much after she won that battle. I always did but after that, even more. I actually applied a lot of the lessons I learned from her - a lot of it her sense of humor. Between Carol and my dad, I have learned so much about how important a sense of humor and a positive attitude is. In fact, it's hard to do battle without being armed with the attributes.
Then, back in 1997, my family received the first really awful news we'd ever received as a family. My brother Bob's wife, Lisa, had breast cancer.
I'd heard it but had no idea just what a dirty word cancer was. Never do you know what it's like to get news like that do you really know what it's like to live it. Not that I lived it but I saw my brother, mid thirties, and his wife of about 15 years going through the biggest battle of their young lives. They were not alone either, they had four kids, between the ages of 5 and 14 to live through the battle.
Lisa battled the breast cancer like the warrior she was and she had it well on the way and had the cancer beat when they found cancer in her brain fluid, which affects about 5% of women with the type of breast cancer she had. The chemo treatments were such they removed the brain fluid at the exact time they put chemotherapy drugs in her brain through a shunt at the top of her head... which was a very delicate procedure. However, during the procedures, she developed a large blood clot and had function in one half of her body. Then we got the news that there was nothing they could do and she was losing the battle, or should I say her body was losing the battle. Lisa never gave up her strength. She fought valiantly and on April 12, 1999, she passed away.
As hard of a lesson as it was, through the eyes of my brother and his kids, I learned that things happen for reasons. Reasons which we knew but won't find out in this lifetime... other than knowing that God needed Lisa for a higher purpose. Through the years, Bob and his kids have struggled but over all, they've done really well. I've mentioned Bob's wife Joan, whom he married two years ago and I'm sure that Lisa had a hand in sending her to us through my Aunt Jan (who knew Joan for many, many years and set her and Bob up on Facebook and it was pretty much love at first hello).
Then about two years ago, I got a call from my dear friend Linda to tell me she had a very aggressive form of breast cancer.
She had a clean bill of health less than six months prior (including a mammogram) but she discovered a lump and went right in to the doc and she was already in stage 4. However, she wasn't going to let it stop her. She immediately found the best doctors in the state, had a double mastectomy and started treatments as soon as she was able.
I knew in my mind that Linda had a different form of breast cancer than Lisa and that there had been SO many improvements over the years, but deep down, it scared the hell out of me to think of losing Linda. She wasn't just my friend, she was a sister of my heart. However, I wasn't going to let any negative feelings reach her - she was going to beat it and that was that.
Linda was amazing the way she fought and won. Nothing was going to stop her from living her life cancer free and her life was going to be on her terms, not a disease's. Two years later, she's still cancer free.
Yesterday, I heard from Carol.
They are still doing tests to decide course of treatment but so far, it's not related to "Norma" but is breast cancer. However, once cancer is in the lymphatic system, it hides and likes to play games so this nasty cell could have been hiding for years. Rotten bastard-ette. I think I'll call this thing Babbs. Just irritating enough and it is close to boob and will probably make Carol laugh.
Carol found a good team of doctors that she feels very confident in their abilities and treatments so I feel the same about them. I think she's going to be OK, in fact, I'm going to do anything and everything within my power to ensure she is.
Friends like Carol only come around once in a lifetime. Back in June 1974, a little brown hair, blue eyed girl rang our doorbell just after we'd moved in and asked if there was any 7 year old girls who wanted to be her friend. This new kid on the block jumped up when she heard the girl and was eternally grateful to have such an invitation.