Last night a group of family and friends got together to make some music, share some community and raise a little money for my medical expenses. It was a really incredible evening. I laughed and cried and cried some more, but they were all good tears. It was a really incredible experience, a testament to the power of community and the good people can do. I was so honored.
A few people asked that I put my speech up on this blog so that others who couldn't make it to the celebration would have a chance to know what I had to say. So here it is. My thanks again to all who came out for the evening, brought their hugs and good cheer and helped remind us of the power of love.
Good Evening everyone!
Thank you all very much for taking time from your lives, I’m sure your very busy lives, to spend the evening with my family and me. If love and good intentions could cure cancer, I would be the picture of good health.
My illness made itself known last year, and this spring we had a brief but beautiful remission. In June the doctor told us about the return of the cancer. Richie, Madeline, Charlie and I talked about our new reality. We choose to look at this as a chronic illness. I don’t like the word cancer – too many negative connotations, and I can live with an ‘illness.’ And I still feel lucky. My legs still work, my arms work and my head still works. And as Jane reminded me, my heart still works too! And tonight it is very evident my heart is working! It is about to burst.
I can’t talk without talking about ovarian cancer, which is called the silent killer. Because ovarian cancer presents few early warning signs, most patients are diagnosed when the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Some of the early symptoms of ovarian cancer are associated with less threatening ailments such as gastrointestinal or urinary tract disorders. Any of these symptoms that are manifested daily and remain for a few weeks should be a signal for a woman to see her gynecologist immediately.
Every year in the US over 25,000 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 14,000 women die from this deadly disease this year. In Kansas in 2004, approximately 360 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer and about 300 women died. These are alarming numbers and unless all women are aware of ovarian cancer symptoms, the cancer will continue to burden women and their families for years to come.
I brought some information tonight (you can find it on the table near the entrance) and I encourage you to take a pamphlet or two, maybe a bookmark or bracelet. Read the symptoms of the disease and pay close attention to your health. There is no definitive test now for diagnosis, but by being aware of the symptoms and staying connected to your own health, maybe you can save yourself from this disease.
In regards to my own health, I am doing relatively well considering the circumstances. I am responding to the current chemotherapy, and my CA125 number, the marker for ovarian cancer activity, is going down! Generally, I feel pretty well for a gal with a chronic illness. I am tired from the chemotherapy, but I am always hopeful. I imagine I will have periods of active disease, which will mean chemotherapy, and then remission in my future.
And I have been unbelievably honored since the beginning of this journey to be witness as so many people have offered help, brought meals to our house, given extra hugs to Madeline and Charlie, mowed the lawn, donated money to help with the medical bills and smiled at me on the streets of Lawrence. It has been a humbling experience. I never knew how many friends we had. I know Richie and I are nice people, but never did I see us deserving this kind of response from people desiring to help our family.
Richie and I have said since July of last year, “It is what it is…” - we can’t change yesterday and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but we do have today. Today I would not want to be any place but here amongst my friends, and I feel unbelievably lucky to have all of you in my life. Thank you all from the whole of my heart.