Ann and I first met at Birch Trail Camp for Girls located in Minong, Wisconsin. We were ten. I remember Ann as a bright eyed, energetic, and talkative camper who appeared older and wiser than her age. Her energy was explosive. Unlike Ann, I was painfully shy, timid, and terribly homesick.
My interactions with Ann were limited. We were in different cabins, with a similar circle of friends. Her and I exchanged a few hits during a competitive game of Biffer, which resulted in us being covered head to toe in flower and paste.
We were distant acquaintances nothing more.
This past December when I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, my fifth grade- far removed friend- reached out and slowly told me about her journey with Cancer.
Thanks to Facebook, Ann and I twenty years later were able to start a deep friendship that helped me get through my diagnosis, treatment and perhaps more importantly the months, days and moments thereafter.
Ann was my “unofficial angel”, my soul sister, my 9/11 call in the middle of the night when I was managing a new side effect, or when the fears of my mortality had become unbearable.
Ann was my voice of reason, the “your going to be ok, better than ok, and when you realize this I am going to tell you- I told you so.”
I asked Ann to share her “Twist on Cancer.”
I share this with you because I think it is important that you know just how special Ann is.
Thank you Birch Trail, thank you Facebook, and perhaps thank you cancer for bringing us together. I don’t know what I would do without you.
One will often hear cancer patients or survivors say that their diagnosis was the best thing that ever happened to them. While I wouldn’t say it quite so starkly, I will say that having cancer changed my perspective and my life for the better. It made me Grateful.
I pulled myself through my diagnosis, treatment and healing process by reminding myself, and others, every day, that if Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, 6 months of chemotherapy and its’ after-effects were the worst thing that ever happened to me, I continued to be one of the luckiest people I knew.
And I knew, I knew exactly how lucky I was – to be otherwise young and strong, to have great health insurance, to have my sister nearby and parents in the position to travel 1,300 miles every other week for my treatment, to have patient and adoring friends, and to have a disease classified as eminently treatable and most-likely curable – I was Grateful every day.
Yes, I cried when I was diagnosed. Yes, I cried when I lost my hair. Yes, I cried every day because I felt crappy, or had to go to another doctor, or was just plain scared. I wasn’t brave. I wanted my early-20s back. I didn’t want to worry. But every day, I counted up all of the things for which I was Grateful. The list was so long. Even now, 8 years later, I still do this.
Being Grateful when I was sick taught me to be Grateful now that I am well. My Twist on Cancer is an attitude of deep Gratitude.