This is the 11th year since it found our family, but I remember each day of its painful journey like it commenced yesterday. The word we all hate to say or hear. Cancer. After the holidays, we all had much on our plates because several family members were battling various illnesses. It appeared the year 2003 was starting off hectic. Then, there were no denying things, bad news was coming. It arrived in March, again in June, and once more in July. Each time it seemed the family came up for air there was another tangle in the web, and the difficulty of learning to
cope with each one mounted. As I reminiscence about all that has been overcome
since then, I smile proudly remembering that while death was delivered, a wonderful birth emerged when words were put to paper.
“It’s cancer,” my mother-in law whispered in to the telephone. I knew she was going in for additional testing after having not been feeling well for some time. I
anticipated her telephone call. The interesting thing I could tell as I
listened to her speak, is that she was smiling on the other end of the telephone.
I wondered how that was possible with the news she had just delivered. We had
become terrific friends over the past seventeen-years, as well as family. As I asked several questions, she assured me there was nothing to worry about and everything would be fine. I found comfort in her soothing tone. But, as the months raged on, we learned this was not the case and we were addressing a losing battle. After daily visits to Valley Medical Center which demonstrated the cruelty cancer delivers on a body I stood outside my mother-in law’s room and broke down, attempting to conceal the sounds of my pain prior to entering. My father-in-law emerged and embraced me in a bear hug as he gently spoke to me. After several minutes we stood there quietly. I wiped my tears and dug deep within to hide my sadness, propped a smile on my face and entered the room. I refused to add to her worries. That day behind closed doors my mother-in law and I shared secrets. I learned of things I never knew were her concerns, the love she had for so many, and her frustration over things that wouldn’t ever be finished. It was in that moment I knew what I wanted to give her as a gift. A special journal for cancer patients which she could write about details of what only cancer patients could comprehend.
The hunt for the journal began, but became frustrating because I couldn’t find what I envisioned, so my mission soon became to create one. As I shared my idea with my mother-in law she became excited too, and questions for the journal came to me in a flood as we spoke. I wanted individuals to be able to write about their struggle sans worrying about what to write, or putting the proper words down. This was eliminated by developing a simple format of questions placed in subcategories. They were guided through various issues faced during their cancer struggle, and could decide which topic they wanted to address or return to later.
It wasn’t long before realizing my mother-in-law, Frances would not survive long enough to see the finished product, but her final words of “use it to help others,”
lives on. Approximately two months after her passing, Cancer Journal for the Survivor in You was born. In 2009 an updated edition (Cancer Journal for the Survivor in You II,) was developed, and 2013 will bring the latest version featuring the Bucket List. A dream started from sadness survives, travels broadly, and continues to support those affected by an illness that wreaks havoc on so many.