Linda's Relay for Life Speech
When I was asked to be the Relay speaker this year, first of all I was very honored. Second, I asked myself what I wanted the speech to be: I want it to be a song of love, a song of gratitude, and a song of hope.
My journey began during our second honeymoon last summer in Montreal. Montreal is a beautiful and romantic city. We even stayed in the same quaint hotel as our original honeymoon. But, there I started to get symptoms a lady my age shouldn’t be getting any more. As soon as we got home, I went to MercyCare, and Megan Pospisil referred me immediately to Dr. John Olson, a gynecologist, who suggested I have a complete hysterectomy, with a 99% likelihood of a benign outcome. We agreed and, on September 4, I had my first ever surgery — I had never even been admitted to a hospital before.
After surgery, Dr. Olson came with some sad news. Adenocarcinoma cells were discovered in and around the ovaries. “Oh my goodness, CANCER!” The nurses at Mercy set us up for an oncology consult with Dr. Wood of the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, who had even worse news: stage 4 colon cancer, with maybe only 2 to 3 years to live. A CT scan indicated the likelihood of widespread cancer. Surgery was off the table, because it couldn’t add more years to my life. “WHAT! But I feel fine. Maybe you have me mixed up with someone else. But no.”
When we left, Joseph and I just crumbled. We had pictured going for long walks together well into old age, taking in the seaside of Maine. All of a sudden, the things I enjoyed didn’t matter to me anymore — thrift shopping, leisurely visits in coffee shops, the next season of "Doctor Who." The only thing on my mind was Joseph’s welfare; he’s going to be lost, he was already looking rather lost. We were both so lost.
It never occurred to me to think this was unfair because God’s own Son died at 33. And so many people in the world are suffering terrible fates: small children falling victim to cancer, people whose hope is snuffed out by war, so much needless suffering in the world. I want my illness to somehow be a tool to heal others’ suffering.
Well, a most amazing thing happened. Dr. Wood scheduled me for a PET scan that changed everything. The cancer had not spread as widely as we had feared — two enlarged lymph nodes were actually the result of surgery trauma, not cancer. It was still metastatic disease, but with hope. Surgery was back on the table, and the highly skilled Dr. Reid, also of Hall-Perrine, removed all gross cancer from my body, including a portion of the colon and the tip of the small intestine, as well as the appendix, which actually may have been the original source of my cancer.
People’s responses have given me so much encouragement and have been a major source of healing for me — the outpouring of cards, prayers and love. We felt so upheld, supported and loved by family, community, work colleagues, and our church. One Cornell professor offered his blood, being a universal donor, and another offered to make a pot run to Colorado if needed, but thankfully that hasn’t been needed. My wonderful friends at Mount Vernon Bank, who are my second family, along with Cheryl Russell, raked and landscaped our very large yard last fall, and brought us many delicious meals. You guys are awesome!
People ask me how I can be so positive. It’s because I am surrounded by the presence of God in all of you. I’m very grateful to Hall-Perrine, whose doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers have been so kind. “The Mercy touch” isn’t just a slogan — they really embody mercy. Thank you, Monica Meeker, for your tenderness and the good care you give me. And the biggest thank you to my love, Joseph, my caregiver, my rock. And thank you to all of you for coming out today to show your support for finding a cure for this heartbreaking disease.
-- April 26, 2014