Friday, February 15, 2008

hope... and a contest

My mom's health has always been iffy. That's not to say she's sickly, just that she's always sick. She has always had random-seeming symptoms that end up being diagnosed as really obscure diseases. Wegener's Granulomatosis, chronic Pancreatitis and Osteomyelitis are just a few. (Never heard of 'em? Don't worry, neither had we.) Multiple surgeries and hospital stays have punctuated the last decade or so, and are included in many major life events (most notably, my engagement. I remember my mom being all excited to tell... the nurses, because she was stuck in the hospital. Again.) She's seen specialists from this state, as well as the really big-name doctors in Boston and each has had an opinion. Each has also recommended treatment and most were successful, at least for awhile. Then, just a few months after Magic Baby was born, the reason for all her recent stomach problems (and possibly some of her previous health troubles) was found. She had cancer. Of course, being my mom, she couldn't have a normal cancer. No, she was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Cancer, a super-rare form symptomized by basically every unpleasant stomach thing you can think of.
I remember well the day she told us she had cancer. She, who shares everything with me, had kept the possible diagnosis secret because she was afraid to upset me. (And considering all that had happened in the previous four months- the birth and subsequent hospitalization of Magic Baby in February, followed by the death of my great-grandmother with whom we were all extremely close less than a month after that- I suppose I understand. I mean, think about how you'd feel if all those things happened to you right after you gave birth and you can imagine how stable I was. She was not about to add the possibility that she had cancer to my list of worries.) That is, until it was confirmed. She. Had. Cancer. As a family we had fought all the other diseases she'd had, and we'd tackled them all head-on, too. But this was different. This was The Big C. I'll admit I was scared. I mean, this was cancer. My brother, father and I accompanied my mom to Boston for her surgery that September, during which the doctors removed the tumors, her gall bladder and part of her intestine, all of which were affected by the cancer. This was the first time in my life that I was really scared for her. She'd had plenty of surgeries and illnesses before, but for some reason this one seemed so much more potent than any of those. Sitting in the waiting room while she was in surgery, my brother and I played games and joked around as usual, but there was something in our eyes that told each other how afraid we were. Little things, like my dad taking longer than usual in the pre-op room with my mom, worried us. We were on pins and needles all day. Then, hours later, the doctor called us all in a little room to tell us the news. I looked at his face, then at my brother's. I saw the same fear mirrored on my brother's face as on mine. The doctor didn't seem to have good news for us. Then, he spoke. He told us things went well. They had been able to get the tumors laparoscopically, which was better than they had hoped. I felt myself let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding, and I heard my father and brother do the same. She was going to be okay. Her recovery was painful and marked by more than a few unpleasant setbacks that I won't get into here, but, less than two years after her diagnosis, my mom's doing great. She's back at work and her stomach problems have cleared up greatly. She's able to play with my kids like a "normal" healthy grandmother, and they adore her.

Her diagnosis (and especially the scare it gave me) really made me think, though. Cancer is such a rampant far-reaching disease. I mean, everyone knows someone who has (or had) cancer. It literally touches us all, and I think that makes it everyone's responsibility to fight it. The year my mom was diagnosed, I organized a bunch of family members into a team and we participated in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life in honor of my mom. The Relay is an overnight event that raises money for cancer research, education and support. It celebrates survivors and remembers those who have lost their battle with cancer, and it does so in a beautiful, powerful way. Last year, we also participated in Relay- and there were so many of us we had to form two teams! I love Relay; it's my way to show my mom how much she is loved, while helping ensure others won't have to go through what my family and I did. And I know we're some of the lucky ones. I've heard so many tragic stories from people who have lost a loved one to cancer, and I'm sure you have, too. That's why I'm asking you to help me. Help the American Cancer Society. I've put up a link to my ACS/ Relay page for this year and I'd love if you'd check it out and make a donation. If you Relay in your own area, that's even better. As an incentive (in case fighting cancer wasn't enough), I've decided to award a skein of hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn (dyed by me and graciously spun by Jen) to someone who donates to the Relay, either through my link or to a Relay in your area. (If you give money in your area, just email me and I'll include you in the contest. This is on an honor system, but I trust you all.) The yarn will be dyed Relay Purple, and I've named it (appropriately enough, as it is the Relay's motto) "Hope." I'll post pictures of it as soon as we've actually spun and dyed it.

Edited to add: If you're not a knitter and you'd like to donate, please just let me know and I'll come up with some kind of non-knitting prize.

The contest will run until May 28th, 2008, at which time I have to turn in all my donations.

Thank you so much for your help.