Every member of our staff and board has been personally affected by cancer. Our collective experience fuels our passion for serving families currently living with cancer. Here are just a few of our stories.
Cancer doesn’t necessarily sneak in and just steal elderly grandparents. It also claims our youngest…those on the cusp of adulthood, excited to see what their future holds.
Brain cancer was the demon that stole my incredible 24-year-old nephew Alex from a loving family and a band of devoted friends. Alex was an absolute joy ~ a loving son, a fiercely loyal brother, and the friend that most hope for, but few ever find. During his 12-year battle, cancer slowly robbed him of abilities all young men take for granted ~ the ability to shoot hoops, play pickup football, or even walk without a cane. However, cancer never touched Alex’s heart. He made it his mission to not only put a positive spin on his experience, but to be a source of comfort for others. His signature tagline on each of his Facebook posts was #legendsneverdie ~ and we were all betting on it.
Alex endured five brain surgeries and countless hours of chemo and radiation yet ultimately, his fragile body couldn’t take any more. I held him the day he was born and, 24 painfully short years later, on September 1, 2014, I whispered my final goodbye to one of the sweetest souls I have ever known. He was surrounded by an adoring family that still aches from his absence every single day.
I’ve personally heard those three awful words twice now. Once for myself back in 2002, and again for my daughter in 2015. When you hear those three awful words – you have cancer – it doesn’t really sink in for a few minutes. Then, you are jolted back to this world in disbelief. I’m young and feel great! What are you talking about? In my case, I was 46 years old, married, three young children, extremely active, and lucky. The bladder tumor was caught very early – stage 0 – and removed. No follow up radiation or chemotherapy was needed. I dodged that bullet!
Fast forward to 2015 when my single, beautiful, full of life 25-year-old daughter heard those three awful words. I consider her lucky, but not quite so. She was diagnosed with a fast moving, rare form of cervical cancer. She ended up having a radical hysterectomy. No follow up radiation or chemotherapy was needed. Really, age 25? No future children or grandchildren, at least in the way we expected. She’s wounded, but still very much alive. I think it was harder to go through this with my daughter than myself.
These experiences, however, help me understand what our families at New Day are going through. We have walked that walk, and I feel your pain, anger and fear. It’s a path. It’s just a different path than the one you thought you would be on. That’s o.k., road trips are important, and there is much to learn at every turn. We certainly have a new appreciation for everything. Travel safe my friends.
I was 17-years-old and had just gotten home from dance class, when my Dad said he needed to talk to me. Recently my mother hadn’t been feeling well and had been having some tests done. My father sat me down and told me that Mom was very sick, she had non-hodgins lymphoma. I didn’t know what that was, but I knew it wasn’t good. Next thing I know he’s talking about future chemotherapy treatments, possible hair loss, and how she’d probably be tired and sick for awhile… slowly my brain started putting pieces together and I realized… My Mom Had Cancer.
In the following months, my Mom received multiple Chemotherapy treatments, she was very sick and tired but didn’t lose her hair. Family and friends rallied around our family and together we endured. During my junior year in college, my mom had some complications and we came very close to losing her. I was a two-hour drive away from my family, and though my friends meant well, I needed someone else to talk to. This was my first experience in counseling. I met with a very nice lady once a week and was able to talk about my fears, concerns, and sadness. Ultimately, my Mom pulled through and so did I.
Its been over 15 years since my family unit was devastated with a cancer diagnosis. I can’t help but wonder if my life would have turned out differently if we had never been touched by this darkness… but I live by the creed that difficult roads can lead to beautiful destinations. As a result of my mother’s illness, I’ve gained empathy, understanding and compassion for those going through their own battles, I’ve found a place where I can use my own experience to help others, and everyday I remember my mother’s strength, determination and desire to win her own battle. Love You Mom!