On Thursday of this week, sometime late morning, Patti will unceremoniously stride into the cancer treatment center and will receive her next and FINAL chemo dose. This is a routine she has played out already 17 times since last November, three weeks apart. It has become, perversely, in a way, just part of her life, accepted, dutifully honored, but with measured hatred.
As we try to wiggle out from underneath the weight of her disease, all we really want now is to move on. We’d like to reacquaint ourselves with our goals and dreams before the diagnosis. We’d like to start thinking about life and to stop thinking about cancer.
It’s been extraordinary to witness Patti’s strength and endurance while she has fought this off. She has shown remarkable courage, has proven to be a fighter and she has refused to let her disease beat her up. She endures, as we have together, and we can now put this all behind us.
Plans for our next hike are materializing. Patti wants to get back on the trail as soon as possible. So, we will be out for a five-day stretch covering roughly 45 miles, subject to getting the plans in place and to change, but hopefully before Thanksgiving. The bitter-sweetness of completing the hike, coming home to family and without cancer on everyone’s mind, is not lost. We both can’t wait.
Strength must run with McCarthy women. Patti’s aunt, Eileen, had lung cancer last December. Shortly afterwards, she had most of her right lung removed. She too, decided to live life and biked her first RAGBRAI this past July. RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is a 400 + mile, seven-day bike ride. We are immensely proud of her.
But while we embrace Eileen and Patti’s victories, and we move on to the future, we are sadly reminded that cancer, in all kinds of forms, burden hundreds of thousand of people throughout the world. Just last month I lost a friend to lung cancer after a long battle. And I’ve also been reminded by Emily Walsh, Community Outreach Director for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, that mesothelioma is a completely preventable cancer (caused only by asbestos exposure), and that knowing more about the disease and its risk factors truly does make a difference. It’s amazing that we still tolerate the use of asbestos in everyday use.
Emily also authored an excellent post about mesothelioma where you can learn more about this awful disease. “8 Things You Should Know About Mesothelioma.” www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/emily/8-things-you-should-know-about-mesothelioma.htm
Back to my friend, Mike Stevens, who died last month of lung cancer, he was greatly involved with the Lung Cancer Alliance and was active in the community events and fundraisers the group sponsored locally. He often stated in total amazement and disbelief, that lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer and yet receives the least amount of government funding for research. Mike explained, too, that a lot of people associate lung cancer with cigarette smoking. However, Mike was not a smoker. Neither was Elizabeth, another dear friend we lost in 2007. It’s very possible that most of the mesothelioma patients are non-smokers, too. Lung cancer can be caused by many things, cigarette smoking just one of many. Coincidentally, November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. We feel it important to share the information and increase awareness.