As Stevie Nicks in the lyrics of Landslide would say, “But time makes you bolder, even children get older, and I'm getting older, too. Oh, I'm getting older, too.” I went from feeling young and healthy, almost invincible, to feeling old and ill within one day. I went from planning my retirement in 15 years, to wondering if I would live for another year. I watched those who I considered my best friends disappear quickly from life after I was diagnosed with cancer, but saw new friends rally to my side, driving me to scans and treatment appointments. It was an incredible experience. This last year, my structured, organized, and driven life was thrown into a tailspin.
At first, I felt sorry for myself. I was in shock. I was scared. I didn’t want to die. This isn’t a story about my battle with cancer alone, although anyone who has been diagnosed with a life-changing illness can relate to the fear, confusion, and sudden thrust into the medical world. It is a story of self-discovery, as I thought about my step-father, who raised me and died of pancreatic cancer. I didn’t understand then what he had gone through. Watching from the outside was significantly different than living through it.
As my friend Barbara, a 78-year-old survivor of nine bouts of cancer, once said to me, “It is God’s Will that you had to come off the mountain.” My life was happy. I loved my husband, my three West Highland terriers, being a psychologist, my job as a professor at St. Bonaventure University, my research on Internet addiction and traveling all over the world sharing my experiences on the impact of technology on our society and families. I loved my life; it was perfect. I was sitting on the mountain until all of this.
I thought about my mother. As an only child, I wondered why she had abandoned me for 15 years and why she had no interest in my life. I had rekindled some kind of relationship, while distant, with her before I was diagnosed. For some reason, the phone call to her was the hardest I had to make.
When I look back on this last year and all that I had accomplished, I was pleased with the way my life had turned out at 50. I really was happy. I didn’t want that taken away. I was a fighter and writing this book became my therapy. Looking at all the things that made me who I was – the first in my family to go to college and become a person who toured the world speaking about her passion, I became reflective with each chemotherapy and each radiation treatment. I thought about the choices I had made as a woman, waiting to get married and not wanting children as I was afraid I would make the same mistakes as my mother.
As I write, I continue to wait to see if I am in remission, and that is okay. I discovered that I can be still be happy. I can enjoy the simple things in life. I have experienced what God wanted me to learn -- that His Plans are not my plans. There is a higher purpose that we all need to find. In sickness, I found my character. I found my faith. I have been reborn physically and spiritually, and I have finally found peace and hope for a future.