Posted in cancer, Chemotherapy, friend, healing, help

The Things People Say………….

It has been very interesting to have my new diagnosis and run into people in the community at events. I have had the strangest things said to me. I will list some of them here in efforts to help people communicate with folks who have a difficult diagnosis. First I will list some of the things said:

1. “OH, I thought you had passed” My common response to this one is, “well thanks for coming to my memorial”. Yes, this has actually been said to me 3 times. This one is obviously nothing that you want to say to anyone. The first time someone said it, I felt like I had been slapped. My new oncologist actually said this to me. Very bad form.

2. “You look awesome for a dead woman walking” This one is funny when I say it (jokingly)but not so funny when others say it. It hurts me a bit and I don’t see myself as a dead woman walking. I see myself as a person living with and managing a cancer diagnosis.

3. “How are you really doing”? This one bothers me because I am fairly transparent. If I was not doing well, I would be pretty vocal about it. One of the things that I try to strive to be is authentic. I am not much of a complainer and I am the cock-eyed optimist so unless things are tragic, I will be focusing on what is right in my life, not what is wrong.

4. “OH, you are out”? I am not bed ridden. I am still very active. You may run into me shopping, at the gym etc. I have pulled out of many community activities mostly because I have to steel myself against the things people say and the pity that some people exude. Let me just say this here. I hate pity. I am not pitiful, I am OK. I am doing really well and I appreciate genuine concern but I hate pity!!

5. “OH, wow You still have hair”? Yes, I am not doing chemo or whole brain radiation. Cancer does not equal no hair. Many people who are in the midst of cancer do not lose their hair.
That is a stereotype. And although, I have been bald before. I have a healthy head of hair now.

I know folks are well-meaning and most do not know what to say and do. I have a suggestion. Why don’t you just treat me like Dawn. Treat me as you always have. I don’t mind genuine inquiries about my health. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have, especially if you want to know what I am doing and you want to pass my name or information to someone else so that I may help or encourage them.

I believe I am still here to help others and I have done much research, scientific research into the routine and regime I am using daily. I am always happy to talk about that.
I love people and I know most of them mean well. These are just some guidelines when conversing with me or anyone who has cancer.

Thanks

Posted in cancer, Chemotherapy, friend, healing, help

The Power of Small Gestures

I have spent considerable time thinking about what made the biggest difference and had the largest positive impact on me, while I was going through cancer.  After much reflection and careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that is was the small genuine gestures of people around me.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate EVERYTHING that was done for me……….EVERYTHING.  But whether it was a phone call, a card, a gift card, a touch, a smile.  It was these gestures from people who lifted my spirits when I was at my lowest.

I encountered my fair amount of people in the places I traveled, who looked at me and pitied me.  Cancer patients HATE pity.  We do not want pity, we want compassion.  And it is palpable folks.  A cancer patient can tell the difference between what is done out of pity, obligation or true and genuine compassion.  When your head is bald, it is like hanging a sign around your neck saying, I AM SICK!!  And there were times I wore my wig just to not have to deal with the stares, the pity and occasionally contempt.  When I see someone with scant hair on their head, it takes me instantly back to those days when I was in that same boat.  My heart becomes full, I know how they feel.  I soften, I remember and I try to engage.  I rush in to encourage and try to help them to envision a future.

So many people do not understand my passion to surround myself with cancer patients and face my demons daily.  Someone has to help cancer patients and it needs to be people who love and understand them.  People fail to remember that inside every body, healthy or not is a SPIRIT and SOUL.  That soul is not sick, their body is sick.  Their spirit is intact and very interested IN LIFE and HEALTH.  They are not defined by their disease.  They need you to see them not just the cancer.  Look them in the eye, don’t avert your gaze.  SMILE and say HELLO and engage them as you would anyone else.  You have no idea that just that can be so refreshing from where they sit.

If you know someone in the fight…..call them, write them a note, bring a meal, just visit them.  I still tear up when I think of the genuine gestures that were demonstrated to me when I was in the fight.

I know it is tough, I used to run away from this myself.  Until my own cancer diagnosis, and having watched 3 family members die up close & personal, I ran away like my hair was on fire.  I get it, it isn’t  always easy to do.  BUT remember……………………….

Small gestures………when we are beaten down and feeling alone in our pain/ disease, it is the powerful small gesture that elevates. It is not grandiosity that warms and connects us to others, it is small and genuine gestures of caring that bring people back from the brink.

Chemo cake

Posted in Chemotherapy, God, heart, Love, Survival, Uncategorized

Grace……..a poignant human portrayal. The story of John Bibby & I

Grace, we hear the word in church, at mealtime and when something unexpected and undeserved happens.  I have defined it for years as “unmerited favor”.  I have known for quite sometime that it is what God extended to us, “while we were yet, sinners”

Romans 5:8

New International Version (NIV)

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

But what does this look like on a daily basis and do we truly extend this to those around us, as we are called to do?

I do not have to look very far, in my life to remember the most poignant example of grace I have ever experienced, in human flesh.  It is the story of my boyfriend John and I.

Our story begins in the most unlikely way and like this:  In 2007 I had a very regular boyfriend (who became husband #2 John Smith).  We had been dating off & on since the fall of 2003.  I say off & on because this was a tumultuous relationship and we had significant “off times” when John Smith would become angry or upset about something and he would call off our relationship.  It was during one of these times, I met a guy named John Bibby online and we starting “hanging out”.  He was handsome, fun, very smart etc. but my heart was still wrapped up with John Smith.  John Bibby was a good distraction for me and was “never going to be a serious relationship”.  After all, he was nearly 10 years younger than me and I was seriously bound to John Smith.

Over the course of the next 18 months, when I was tossed aside, I would call John Bibby and we had some really good times, great conversations etc.  John Bibby also really bonded with my son Tucker.  They used to hang out and do things together, even without me.  John and Tucker really enjoyed  hanging out and  Tucker really needed a positive male role model.  John Bibby was always respectful, thoughtful,  helpful, kind, resourceful etc.  On an intellectual level, I knew he was everything I was supposed to want in a partner.  We really got along well……we never fussed with one another.  Never!!  But regardless of all this great stuff…..I was stuck on John Smith.  As soon as the phone call came from him, I would toss John Bibby aside and run back into my unhealthy relationship with John Smith.

In late 2008, John Smith and I were off again.  John Bibby and I were spending time together again.  Now, John Bibby has never been married or had any kids of his own, and one day I discussed the fact with John Bibby that I probably would like to get married again someday.  Some time in the beginning of February we had this discussion and I asked John Bibby if he thought he would ever consider being married.  Then I asked the question that lives in infamy.  Did he ever think he could consider me for a marriage partner?  His answer showed a lot of wisdom.  He said that if I could stay in a relationship with him for more that 6-12 months and I would stop running away, yes he would consider it.

Now get this folks………within a week of that conversation, John Smith asked me to marry him and I agreed.  I tossed John Bibby aside one final time, without much explanation except this:  I knew there was something wrong with me.  I told John Bibby through tears, one final time that I was back with John Smith and I would not be contacting him again.  I could hear the complete and utter confusion and devastation I was causing him.  As I hung up the phone, I was aware that I had just pushed away the one man who had been absolutely wonderful to me for the final time.

John Bibby emailed me about 2 weeks later and begged me to continue his relationship with Tucker.  I was now married and I sent back a 2 word reply, in all caps…….it said  NO CONTACT!!  That was the last time I heard from John Bibby.

Fast forward to the beginning of November 2009:   I am about 12 weeks into my cancer journey.  John Smith has bailed on the marriage and I am living in Melbourne, in a hotel room with my 17-year-old son Tucker.  I am trying to figure out where we are going to live, where I am going to get treatment etc.  I am in the midst of trying to get this huge puzzle put together of our life.  I was really concerned about Tucker, he was a senior at Viera High School and I could tell, he was really concerned about our life.  I just needed some space too……mentally just so I could cry, scream, think and pray.  I was not finding that space with Tucker there.  I was trying to put a good face on things and keep him from worrying.  That was not working out so well.  Then one day in my prayers about Tucker and our situation, I thought about John Bibby.  I knew he probably hated me (and rightfully so) but I knew he still loved Tucker.  I thought about calling him for probably about a week before I got the guts to actually reach out and do it.  My first attempt was actually an IM on Yahoo but he ignored it, thinking it was a bot and not really me.  I thought he was ignoring it because he hated me but I tried again.  This time he acknowledged the IM and said if it was really me, call him.  I no longer had his number so I asked him to send me his number.  He did so reluctantly, still thinking it was not really me.  Once I had his number, I stared at it for 3 days before I got up the guts to call it.

Our first conversation was very tentative and went something like this:      I said hello John, I appreciate you taking my call.  I really would not blame you if you hung up on me right now but I have a problem……… I told him about my recent cancer diagnosis, my subsequent separation and my current situation.  I explained to him that I was calling him to see if he would be willing to come and help me with Tucker.  I told him that he did not need to even see me, I would put Tucker out on the curb to be picked up etc.  Would he be willing to help me with Tucker?  And I took a big gulp and waited for his response ( I was sooooo scared at this point).  He said NO!!!  I was just about to thank him for taking my call, hang up and ball my eyes out when he stopped me.  He said, what I mean is……..I will not just hang out with Tucker, it is a package deal.  I want to hang out with you too.  What?  Really?  I then told him……”look I am shot out, I am NOT in the mood or inclined towards romance or anything like that”.  Do you understand that?  I then said, well, here is where I am going to be hanging out…….I am going to be getting chemo, my hair is going to be falling out.  I am hanging out at the exciting Cancer Center.  You understand that don’t you?  I am going to be sick and sleepy and not much fun for the next year.  Are you getting this?  This is where you want to be?  After I was so horrible to you?

He answered yes……this is where I want to be.  I have been a dead man walking for the past year and I can not believe I am getting this opportunity to help you now.  I guess given what I had been through with my husband, I did not dare to believe that it was true.  I protected myself and my heart for quite some time.  I kept waiting for John Bibby to run away like his hair was on fire, at some point.  I thought well…..wait until my hair falls out, then he will leave. ……….  Wait until I am very weak, helpless and no fun at all, then he will go away.  It was not until nearly March of 2010 when I had thrush so bad and I gave it to John for his 40th birthday (he was sooooo sick)…I thought surely he would run away then, but he never did.  He never left Tucker’s or my side for over 6 months.  He cooked, he cleaned, he helped Tucker get the best grades of his academic life, he taught Tucker how to drive.  He brought me food and drink when I was weak and slept for days on end.  He took me to all of my appointments (and there were hundreds).  He sacrificed himself financially to be there for me through it all.  What do you do with a man like this?  I tell you what you do………you love him back.  I finally have allowed myself to have the partner I have always dreamed of.

This portrait I have just painted is the closest thing I have ever experienced God’s grace, in human form. John Bibby would have been well within his rights to tell me to “go fly a kite” when he heard from me in November 2009.  No one would have condemned him if he did so…….myself included.  But he was compelled by his decency and love for me to extend himself beyond what was common.  This was an uncommon act of GRACE!!

I thank God for John Bibby daily.  We still don’t fuss with one another.  I have NO DOUBT of his love and devotion to me.  And at this point, I have had the opportunity to give back to him uncommon support when he has needed it.  He does not doubt my love for him either.  We have weathered one of life’s most harrowing storms together, it has made our bond incredibly strong.  He is my greatest supporter, in whatever I choose to do and I am his.  This is the way it supposed to be.  It is because of this large measure of grace I have received, that I am able to extend myself in uncommon ways.

Thank you God for your grace & mercy, it is new everyday!!  Thank you for the gift of a great friend and partner……..John Bibby!!

Here is a Poem John Inspired me to write:  It says it all.

A Caregivers LOVE………by Dawn Faust

by Dawn Faust on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 7:28pm

 LOVE sits beside me in a chemo chair

He says I am beautiful without any hair

He smiles reassuringly when I am afraid

He gives to me peace tho nothing is said.

LOVE brings me a drink

And gently kisses my cheek

He says that he loves me

And yet does not speak.

LOVE watches everyone

That works over me

My vigilant sentry

To the highest degree

LOVE  brings me home

He tucks me in bed

He checks on me frequently

He kisses my head.

LOVE wakes me for food

To help keep me strong

He fusses and fetches

At times all night long.

LOVE is not angry

He is patient and kind

He is always helpful

And does not mind

LOVE continually gives

Without self-regard

It is not a burden

It is natural, not hard

LOVE does not keep track

Of all that he’s done

All that matters to him

Is the battle be WON.

 God Bless the caregivers………………LOVE = John Bibby.


Posted in cancer, Chemotherapy, faith, friend, God, Grace, help, Love, Post Cancer, Survival

Help my friend Keri

I met Keri when I was still married to John Smith, I hired her husband to drive for our company.  I was diagnosed in August of 2009 with breast cancer and Keri was diagnosed 6 months later with cervical cancer.  Both of our husbands departed our cancer journeys but we have remained in touch and supportive of one another.  She is in MD Anderson, in Texas right now where she is fighting for her life.  Her attitude Inspires me…..she is incredible.  If you would like to help Keri, let me know.  She needs much prayer, support and any money you may feel moved to give.

We walked this morning to raise money and support.  There were at least 150 people who walked/ran.  It was great!!

Read below:

In October 1, 2011, both Family and Friends of Keri Morrissey will host a walk/run in her honor to help support her fight against Cancer, followed by an afternoon barbeque at the Dog N Bone British Pub, Cocoa Village. Keri is a 33 year old, single mother of two beautiful children, Jillian (age 9) and Jake (age 5). (Pictured)
In the spring of 2010, Keri was diagnosed with Stage IIIB Cervical Cancer and after an intense treatment program that included chemotherapy and both internal and external radiation, Keri was declared cancer-free on October 25, 2010.

During a recent check-up on July 18th, doctors advised Keri that an area of concern was discovered and further tests would have to be run to conclude if her cancer had returned. Unfortunately, the cancer did return and the tumor is large and growing in an area that has already been radiated. When cervical cancer recurs this quickly, it is a sign that the tumor is very aggressive and should be treated as such.

Doctors have set her treatment plans, which include major surgery for 8-10 hours and require the complete removal of her pelvic organs. This procedure will be done at MD Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, Texas at a substantial cost to the family. We are reaching out to our local community, hoping to raise money for Keri and her family to offset the cost of travel, hotel expenses and additional medical costs not covered by insurance. She will need to travel to Texas on a monthly basis for further treatment after the surgery and will be required to cover all expenses associated with these visits.

We need your support to organize this walk/run and/or BBQ on October 1st!! As a sponsor of this event, we will place your company’s name/ logo on event t-shirts as well as any correspondence/ signage associated with this event. We anticipate 250 participants.

We do hope this is something you might be willing to consider. By donating to this family, you will be touching more than just three lives. You will provide hope and relief to a family that is facing a great life experience at their doorstep. Any donation is greatly appreciated, as every dollar generated will go directly to the family to assist with their incurred medical expenses. Should you have any questions, or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at the information below. Thank you for your willingness to support Keri in her fight for a cure.