Saturday, August 20, 2011


That's a loaded word. One that elicits many emotions:






(insert virtually any of your own negative adjectives)

Twenty years ago Vera Jane Williams Hoffmann, my paternal grandmother, died after a valiant battle with breast cancer. My highly-impressionable mind and often overly-sensitive nature absorbed the experience as one of incomparable physical pain and discomfort. I watched as her strength dwindled and her spirit waned. I overheard stories of the tortures of cancer treatment—chemotherapy to be specific—and those second-hand tales left me smarting.

I became familiar with the descriptor, 'a treatment worse than the disease.' My mind formed a conclusion that suffering from cancer and living seemed oftentimes to be only marginally better than dying from it.

I was young and it was a formative time for me. I mean, what thirteen-year old girl is rational anyway? I took these morsels of incomplete information and allowed them to mushroom into a profoundly irrational basis for judgment. Chemo became something I equated with the sheerest physical misery a person could endure and this tiny monster of fear in my mind fed on ignorance born of the trauma a young girl experienced watching her grandmother die of a disease she'd later contend with herself.

So, when my oncologist, the illustrious Dr. Elizabeth Prystas, gave me her professional opinion suggesting chemotherapy, I went into a severe state of shock.

It's possible I uttered the words, 'I'd rather die of cancer than go through chemo.'

And it's also possible I didn't so much utter the words as I wailed them.

But, let's not split hairs...

I knew what I had to do. I knew there were too many people who loved me in all my mostly-perfect glory.;) I knew there was a whole wide world of opportunity waiting for me; children to be raised, friends to be made and a soul mate to find.

I don't think there can be a much more compelling case than that.

So I started chemotherapy the following week. Monday May 2, 2011. I went in to said oncologist's office and confronted that monster that had taken up residence in my head two decades ago. It had indubitably grown in size, but I conquered it with impressive veracity. I'm a very strong person, something I've never had the luxury of doubting.

But even I was surprised to know just how strong.



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