What a difference five years makes! August 23, 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of my last chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. My oncologist, Dr. Stacy Nerenstone, told me that this was my official anniversary date. It’s also the day of my mother’s birthday. So I have a lot to celebrate. I’ve just completed the ultimate bonus: a five year extension on my life!
How Do You Celebrate Something Like This?
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about exactly how I should honor this day. I reached out to my friend and fellow ovarian cancer survivor, Pam Lacko, author of Laughing in the Face of Cancer. I asked her how she celebrated her cancer milestones. Surprisingly, she told me that she doesn’t celebrate milestones. Instead, she celebrates each and every day, because they are all gifts. She then told me that each month an organization she is affiliated with, Cut Out Cancer, provides free spa services to anyone going through treatment at Milano Day Spa in Bloomfield, CT. As a volunteer, Pam comforts cancer patients during their time at the salon, telling them her story and listening to theirs. She gifts them her inspiring book for extra encouragement. But the real present, of course, is in her presence.
p.s. You can be part of helping cancer patients and caregivers by purchasing a case (or partial case) of Pam’s book. You, as the donor, are recognized with a sticker on the front of the cover (see mine in the example). Pam then provides books gifted by you, to local cancer centers and to those attending Monday’s at Milanos.
The Cancer Connection
Many of you know me as a master networker. In fact, I teach networking skills classes to corporate employees, college students, and entrepreneurs. I believe in the power of connecting people and ideas. Magic is the result almost every time.
Having cancer is an unusual way to expand one’s network. When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March of 2011, I didn’t expect to meet so many wonderful people. People like Pam Lacko, Sandra Centorino, author/speaker Kris Carr, Kim Doty, Dr.Beth Nelson, Ann Schultz, and most recently, Lisa Sullivan, who just emailed today letting me know about her diagnosis.
When you have cancer, you are never alone. There are millions of people with the shared experience of having cancer or caring for others with cancer. This is enough to connect you on a very deep level with cool people all over the globe!
Following in Pam Lacko’s example, I spent the afternoon today visiting the cancer treatment center that I used to go to. There were only two patients receiving treatment today (a slower than normal day at the center). I shared some homegrown zucchini bread muffins, copies of Pam’s book, and my good cheer with two patients: Barbara and Janet. We started out as strangers who had something in common: cancer. But by the end of our conversation, we felt like we knew each other. What I found remarkable about the two women was their positive attitudes and their spirited dispositions. There was zero amount of self-pity, doom and gloom, or depression in their demeanor.
Attitude is Everything in Your Cure
I firmly believe that a positive attitude, along with a healthy dose of creativity and connection, is what we can best use to overcome adversity, whether it’s cancer, or some other life-threatening illness.
Below is a video excerpt from the first public talk that I gave about my experience with cancer. My message was that while you may not be able to control what happens to you when you have cancer, there are things you can do to shape your experience.
Please SHARE this video with other cancer patients and caregivers that you know and whom you think it might help.
I had truly hoped to have my book, Alive and Kicking Cancer, published by this five-year milestone. Instead, I will be releasing a business book, Stop Global Boring. In the back of my new book in the Acknowledgement section, I thank my cancer for helping me to get this work published:
“And lastly, to my cancer, for giving me the “fierce urgency of now.” This empowering phrase comes from one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speeches. It has become my new mantra for living. I am motivated to share my work, passion, and resources with as many people as possible, including you.”
Second Chance at Life
As I walked out of the cancer center today, I was drawn to the private room where I used to receive my chemotherapy treatments. They would put me in this room so that they could close the door and keep the noise down. You see, I always brought a group of friends with me during my chemotherapy sessions. We would dress up, bring food, and have fun. Our parties ranged from Hawaiian Luau, Mexican Fiesta, Blast from the Past, All-star Sports, etc. Their presence and energy would help me get through the six-hour chemical infusion sessions. We called them “theme-o-therapy parties.” A special thanks to all my special friends!
Stenciled on the wall behind the green faux leather barker lounger chair, was this inspiring message: “May you live every day of your life with joy.” This reminded me that I have been given the ultimate bonus – not in money, fame, or promotion – but in a second chance at life. I intend to make the most of it. I hope you do too!