The Next Day…

Life is so often a story of contrasting moments. Contrasting emotions. The highs in stark contrast to the lows.

When it comes to cancer, each day can be its own microcosm of the full emotional spectrum. Some days start with challenges; all days require hope. Jeanne Frazer has experienced the cancer rollercoaster in full force.

Jeanne is a horse lover, business owner and survivor – a type 1 diabetic, stage 4 lymphoma survivor, to be more specific.

Eight years ago, yes 8 years, Jeanne was diagnosed with lymphoma after a biopsy revealed that numerous lumps were indeed cancerous. For Jeanne, whose father and grandfather both died of cancer, it was a devastating shock. The sort of shock that can leave even the most optimistic of people in a state of fear.

The news came around Thanksgiving. Jeanne pushed to start treatment prior to Christmas. With the first round of treatments scheduled, Jeanne turned her focus to things that seemed more controllable. As she said, “she got her affairs in order.” She spent more time with family and held onto the healing power of being at the barn with horses and friends.

As a diabetic, a critical aspect of her health hinged on managing the life-threatening impact of the steroids and chemotherapy on her blood sugar.  Her normally upbeat endocrinologist warned, “call me when you are in the hospital…and you will be in the hospital.”  This statement alone was cause for alarm.

From alarm and dread to hope and joy.

When she arrived for her first treatment, Jeanne received incredible news that just the day before, a German medical team had a breakthrough in research, yielding a drug combination that was far less toxic, yet even more effective – a drug that would alter the course of her treatment plan.

Suddenly, hope. Great hope.

Contrasting moments. One moment, she had been a diabetic in stage 4 cancer with a very difficult family history to overcome. In the next moment, she learned she would be the beneficiary of cutting-edge research, research that she credits with making her treatment much easier and keeping her out of the hospital, maybe even saving her life.

Research has now given Jeanne 8 years cancer free. Time to spend with family, friends and horses!

There are times we all question the progress we are making in the global fight against cancer. Jeanne is living proof that cancer research is making a difference. Cancer research gave Jeanne hope, cancer research gave her life – the ultimate gift.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Unedited…

It might seem like a simple thing. Perhaps even an easy thing. When you break it down, it is not simple or easy, but it is so important.

“Please don’t edit for me.”

That was Kathy Brawn’s biggest request of her group of 18-22-year-old soccer players at Colgate University. Kathy is a coach. Her sport is life. Her team, her staff—they are family.

Maybe it is the way of coaches – the ability to set a goal, engineer a plan, and stay focused on the end result. Maybe, in this case, it was a survival instinct kicking into overdrive. Whatever the case, when Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer, she pushed worry aside and focused on her treatments and the goal—beating cancer.

But there was one concern.  Her team.

How would they respond? It wasn’t a question of how they would perform on the field, the question was bigger.  How would their coach’s battle with cancer impact their young lives? As it turns out, many of them were already too familiar with cancer. Now this.

Thus, her request, “Please don’t edit for me.”

Kathy met with her team, stating her request. She provided the example that 3 days prior, a player had asked her to write a recommendation. She happily wrote the letter. She explained that she hoped that 3 days later, after the news of her cancer, her players would still make such requests. After all, she had cancer when she wrote the first letter. Why wouldn’t she write another, and another?

Bottom line, she did not want life to change. Even more importantly, she did not want the people she loved the most to change. She wanted to be given the option to be normal. If she had to take things a bit slower, that would be her decision.

It is a simple request, but one alludes so many of the “helpful.” It seems many survivors, in the midst of an uncertain journey, desire normalcy. For those eager to provide support, the tendency is to edit.

Editing is the problem with cancer. Too often, it is the editor of lives – making unwelcome, uninvited changes.  Usually right when the story was getting good.

Kathy, like Coach Yow, considers herself fortunate to have been able to continue coaching, continue living a full life, even in the midst of adversity. Her family, friends, neighbors, her staff, Alyssa Manoogian (Colgate ’13) and Jenna Gibney (Colgate ’15) provided the best kind of support. The unedited, unabridged kind that lets the author make decisions.

Their support was the variable that allowed Kathy to continue her journey, not deviating from the life she loved.

Cancer does change us. It changes all of us — the person with the cancer and the loved ones who want so desperately to help.  We continue to rally in support of one another until the time when we can celebrate that cancer has officially been edited out of our story.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Survivor Strong…

Sometimes the hardest thing about being strong, is being weak. That was the case for Rachelle Jones.

Rachelle is one of those strong people. She defines herself in many ways. Christian. Mother of two. Collegiate women’s basketball official. Former athlete. Picture of health. Super woman.

Cancer survivor.

But never weak. Always strong.

When she found the lump, she immediately contacted her doctor. She had never been sick in her life, but finding a lump has a way of injecting a harsh dose of equal measures panic and urgency into any situation.

In what surely felt like an out of body experience, Rachelle was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and began treatment. Life had changed.

That might be one of the most unexpected aspects of cancer—just how life changing it is.

But for Rachelle, it was not her own life that she was scared would change. It was the lives of her children—how would this affect her high school-aged son and daughter? She had always been the one with the answers. She had always been the one they could count on to be strong.

Seeing a person who has always given strength to others show any small sign of weakness, can be a rattling experience—especially when that person is your mom and the cause of the “weakness” is cancer. Rachelle didn’t want her children to have such an experience.  She prayed throughout her treatment that God would give her the strength to maintain a sense of normalcy for her son and daughter.

A year later, with the love and support of her devoted family and friends, Rachelle returned to collegiate basketball. Life was starting to return, not to normal, but the new normal. Rachelle is healthy, she is once again physically strong, but she is forever changed.

In this way, change was good. In this way, Rachelle is stronger than ever before. She came through a situation bigger than her own physical strength and she came through it stronger—mentally stronger, spiritually stronger.

That there are people who have enough strength to overcome and in doing so give us strength, is amazing.

Coach Yow was a giver of strength. It seemed she always had more than enough to go around.

The same is true of Rachelle.

Their greatest gift is that in the face of great adversity, they show us how to be strong, even when they feel weak.

 

To Donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Beginning to End

We live in a result-driven society. A society that values test scores, win/loss columns, box scores, bottom lines. Results.

Maybe that is why so much of our time is spent thinking about endings. How many times have we heard “what is the end result?” or the “end game.” The end is when we get the results and the results are all that seem to matter.

But maybe, our focus shifts to the end not because of the results, but for other reasons. The end seems like a time in the future. An unknown time. A time that could be better than today. The end is somewhere that hope lives.

The end of cancer.

There are times the end and the hope are harder to see.

Katherine Peele is an architect and mother of twins. She was diagnosed in 2010 with stage 1 invasive breast cancer.  At the time, it was hard to think about the end. The beginning was so scary.

She was forced to face an opponent she never truly considered personally facing—cancer. The news came as a shock. Facing her own mortality, not through the lens of her own life, but from that of her daughters—the scariest part. What would the results be? What would the end be?

Katherine is thankful for the advances in cancer research that are allowing doctors to treat each patient as an individual. Each individual receiving custom care based on their specific type of cancer. Gone are the days of breast cancer’s being treated with a generic mastectomy followed by equally generic rounds of chemotherapy. There is a plan now. A plan that is yielding results, better endings.

It is hard for many to relate to the idea of cancer research. It seems abstract. It might even seem like it only applies to test groups, case studies, destined to be written in journals and filed on a shelf. Katherine, like millions of other survivors in America, can relate to cancer research, it is personal. It is the reason she is here.

Somewhere in the recesses of all of our minds, we know the importance of cancer research. We know it is saving lives. Yet, the thing that usually eludes us is that it might be our own life that it saves.  We know the statistics. 1 in 3 women will develop some form of cancer over the course of a lifetime. For a third of us, it will become personal. Too personal.

Katherine’s story gives us hope. The beginning was scary. The days had more questions than answers. But those days are gone. These days are filled with health and opportunities—to watch her daughters grow, to create memories.

The fight against cancer has a lot of days. We are now far removed from the beginning. As the days go by, research moves us closer to the end—the end of cancer. The day can’t come soon enough.

 

To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.