I thought I had it all. I was building my own business and had been recognized nationally for my sales and leadership accomplishments. I was a wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. I was making money, traveling, remodeling my home, and enjoying life.
Then I got the call. Wednesday, May 20 2009. 3:25 p.m. A moment I will never forget. A moment that changed my life and the lives of those who loved me. It’s cancer.
I heard nothing more that my doctor was saying because I was in complete shock. Cancer? How could that be? Cancer does not run in my family, I don’t smoke, I exercise and eat right. Cancer doesn’t happen to me. It happens to other people, the guy down the street, the woman across town, and the child on the internet. Not me.
As any brave cancer survivor or fighter can attest, when you get that call, everything stops. Things that seemed important are not. It no longer mattered where that next sale or job promotion came from. I didn’t care about the kind of car I drove, or how much money I had in my bank account. The material things and things that I had strived for my whole life were now simply things of no value at all.
For me, what mattered most was looking into the big beautiful eyes of my 11 year old son and telling him mommy has cancer. Who was going to teach him to be a kind and loving man, like his father? What mattered was my wonderful 13 year old daughter. Who was going to shop for a wedding dress with her when the time came, and help her through the trials and tribulations of the teen years? What mattered was my parents and how this news would break their hearts and... And of course my husband. Could he handle raising our two children alone, and more importantly, would he do it right?!;)
The fear and devastation of a cancer diagnosis was overwhelming. That is, it was, until I met my amazing team of doctors and caregivers at the UMass Medicine Cancer Center. I have never felt as cared for as I did when I met my team. When a doctor puts her arm around you and tells you “I will take care of you,” you believe, you trust. When your team of doctors meet with their peers and discuss YOUR tumor YOUR and cancer treatment, you feel you have the power of an army behind you. Suddenly, those feelings of angst and desperation turn to empowerment and purpose. We have a plan and that plan is survival.
I consider myself, and the people of Central Massachusetts lucky. Lucky, because we have a state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility in our own backyard. I can’t imagine driving into Boston weekly for chemotherapy, or daily for radiation. The cost and time to do that is inhibitive alone, nevermind the inconvenience and stress for me and my family. We are lucky because UMass employs doctors, nurses, researchers and staff who care for us as if we are a part of their own family. Still when I walk in to my appointments I feel like I am greeted by an old friend who cares about me, not a number or a case, but a person with a real life and real feelings. And Lucky, because thanks to the research and clinical trials that the Cancer Walk affords UMass to continue, I am cancer free.
Thank you to UMass for the gifts you have given me. The gift of life with my family, the gift to watch my children grow and prosper, and the gift of hope for those who follow behind me on their own cancer journey.
So although I truly feel my cancer journey is over, I invite each and every one of you to continue to walk the path with me. Your participation in this fundraising event is more than a walk around the lake. It is a chance for a longer healthier life for those who are affected by cancer. You don’t know today who you will be helping tomorrow. It might be your neighbor, your friend or your loved one who will benefit down the road from the amazing research being done at the UMass Cancer Center. It might be you.