Well this is a heavy topic, so much so, that these newly typed words already seem weary under the weight of the title looming above. Well, let’s dive in, shall we?
The days after being diagnosed with a rare pediatric bone cancer in 2010 at age 43 are wobbly in every sense, surreal even. I was back home in Upstate NY from MSKCC in NYC, in order to prepare for my first treatment. I was in my normal, but nothing was actually normal. Calls to friends and family contained frightening, sad news and tears – not the usual sarcastic banter about The Bachelor, the rude waiter we encountered or school activities of the kids.
One of the normal things I found myself doing, was driving to work – to my job that I loved doing with people I loved being with. On this particular day, I was driving there to clean out my office, as I would not be returning for a while. Or, was I returning? I was feeling pretty low. As I drove the quiet, wind-y road, I came upon a completely stopped car ahead of me. As I cautiously rolled closer toward it, I could see that a large tree had fallen on the car windshield, crushing the hood, shattering the glass, ultimately and obviously, killing the driver. The tree had fallen at the precise moment, in the exact position across the car, for maximum damage. Once I fully realized the facts of the scene, an ambulance siren approached from behind me.
My first thought was, “what if I had left my house two minutes earlier?” That could have been me. Maybe I was the better candidate for a tree-falling-on-a car accident, after all I had cancer. My prevailing thought, however, was probably the mentally healthier one. I held on to this thought, this revelation, as my year of many surgeries, loss of a normal leg, painful treatments, debilitating nausea & vomiting and worst of all, the loss of the kids around me to cancer, unfolded. The thought was simply “I GET to fight.” I get to go to battle. If I don’t beat this cancer, I will get the chance to say goodbye, forgive me, I forgive you, I love you. The gentleman in the car in front of me didn’t get to do any of these things. His family got a phone call – that’s it. As grievous as my diagnosis was, Stage 3 High Grade Osteosarcoma of the Left Proximal Tibia, I was still here, still able to drive my car, hug my kids, kiss my husband, say I love you, forgive me, I forgive you, goodbye. I get to fight. I get to try.
Fight, hope, pray, love, forgive, get forgiven and vomit I did. A lot. Of all of it. What else happened a lot, too much for one human to endure, was the death of so many children to cancer. Statistically, seven children each day die of cancer. I was 43 years old – they were 10, 4, 8, 17, 12….so many children dying, while I slogged through barely tolerating the treatments, but alive. In a way, of course they were dying – no new treatments for pediatric cancers in TWENTY YEARS. Less than FOUR percent of the Federal Budget is allocated for Pediatric Cancer -ALL PEDIATRIC CANCERS! Parents of seriously ill children are holding bake sales and fundraisers to fund much needed research for treatments their child will not even have the benefit of. Seriously.
So why did I leave two minutes later on that day, why did I survive when so many little ones didn’t (and don’t)? Survivor’s guilt? Yep. What to do with it? Be grateful, love the gift of my life today, love the best person I will ever know – my husband, the best people I know – my family, and even that cranky lady next to me in Pilates class. Keep fighting. Don’t leave a man (or child in this case) behind on the field of battle. Create awareness. Fund research. Find a cure. MAKE IT BETTER.
Thus M.I.B.(Make It Better) Agents was born, out of survivors guilt, a desperate need to make it better, to shout from the tallest mountain WE NEED A CURE!!! We GET to fight. WHO IS WITH ME?