Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. It seemed as though the clock ticking in the room was ticking in her head. She sat on the examination table covered with blue paper that matched the paper gown she was wearing. Her skin was starting to feel so hot that she wanted to pull it off. Beads of sweat started to form on her forehead and back. Just as the walls seemed to be closing in and the room began to spin, the doctor walked back into the room. After waiting for almost half an hour, he couldn’t give her the news quick enough. The question was did she really want to hear what he had to say. She had immediately left the house and made the hour-long drive to hear what the doctor had to say so she might as well listen.
The doctor began speaking and the world seemed to stand still. She saw his lips moving but the words were not familiar. Was he speaking a foreign language or words that she just didn’t want to hear? The final two words she heard were ‘one year.’ What did that mean? Would she have one year to receive treatment and get better? Would she have one year before she really started to get sick? What did ‘one year’ mean? The doctor could see that she needed time to come to grips with what he had just said. When he closed the door behind himself, the clicking of the door catching made her finally snap out of her trance. She had mesothelioma. She was going to die. She only had one year to live.
She sat in the room still looking at the door hoping the doctor would come back and say he made a mistake. He never came back. Her emotions were in overdrive and completely out of control. She wanted to scream but the sound would not come out. Then the tears came followed by feelings of sorrow. Suddenly, the warmest feeling she had ever felt came over her. It was not the kind of warm feeling that makes a person sweat. The warmth was angelic and made her feel protected, loved and strong. Her protector had come to reassure her and she was now ready to leave that room and that place and fight for her life.
She was now on a mission to prove the doctor wrong. A year was not long enough to do the things she had planned to do with her life. Thirty-three years is not nearly long enough to be on earth. People aren’t supposed to die young and she was not going to be an exception to the rule. Her family and friends were her support team. She did not allow them to cry for her. This was a fight and soldiers don’t cry. She needed a strong army behind her if she was going to battle death. She also joined a support group with other soldiers like herself. Who better to give her advice on how to beat this thing called death than those who have looked it in the face and have won? They would give her the hope she needed at times when it seemed hope is all she had.
The library at the cancer clinic became her second home and the staff became her second family. There were times when she could see their sadness for her in their eyes but she refused to acknowledge it. They had never seen someone fight as hard for the impossible since Mr. James “Rhio” O’Connor, their former patient, had succumbed to his own battle with the disease. The staff told her stories of “Rhio” and she was inspired and knew that if he could fight for as long as he did, so could she. They all admired her eagerness to learn about this disease called mesothelioma and her refusal to give it any power over her life. She was becoming an expert and, soon, new soldiers fighting for their lives were coming to her for support.
Also known as asbestos cancer, the disease was attacking her lungs at an alarming rate. It was eating away at the lining of her lungs and she needed to stop it. How could she stop it or, at best, slow it down? She needed treatments that were effective and made her comfortable. There were a number of conventional treatments that her doctors were suggesting. She wanted more than ‘the usual.’ She wanted to attack the disease from all sides; traditionally, holistically and spiritually. Her best resources for information were cancer treatment centers, her fellow cancer fighters and the Internet.
Her doctors initially suggested surgery to relieve the symptoms. To her, this seemed like putting a bandage on a gushing wound. Surgery or ‘relief’ was out of the question. She would be aggressive against the disease. Chemotherapy and radiation would be her first mode of attack. As she went through the treatment, she wanted to give up every time she vomited. She almost cancelled her treatment when she saw the sores in her mouth and her hair falling out. She had to be strong. Hair can grow back and sores can heal.
Along with the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she decided to try alternative methods. She turned to acupuncture, yoga and massage therapy to cope with the physical pain. Daily, and sometimes hourly, meditation was her way to escape the reality of a possible death sentence. The meditation took her to a place where cancer did not exist and she lived forever. Her strict diet now included various herbal and nutritional supplements to give her the strength she needed to fight the disease.
With all of the treatment she had chosen, she knew she was doing all that she could do to fight the disease. She was in control of her own destiny and the rest of her life. Her battle was more than uphill but she had to win and prove the doctor wrong. This was not how her life was going to end. She was not going to die as a ‘victim’ of the disease. She was going to die fighting.