I talked about chemotherapy and the kindness of nurses who helped me to make those early days of the treatment chair easier: the value of listening, the importance of a smile or touch, the validation of my fears and hopes.
Suzanne Lindley has been living with metastatic colorectal cancer since 1998. She is the founder of YES! Beat Liver Tumors, an organization for individuals living with metastatic liver tumors, and an advocate for Fight Colorectal Cancer.
On Tuesday morning Ronnie and I dropped Chloe off at school, then Ronnie dropped me off at the airport. I enjoyed an unusually quiet flight to Memphis with no one seated in the rows to the front, side, or back of me. I felt as though I were on my own private jet. I settled into the hotel and answered emails before getting ready to share my story with 30-plus Memphis Chapter Oncology Nurses.
I arrived early to the hotel and walked in with the other presenters. There was a nurse sitting at a table as we entered. One of the others asked, "How are you?" Her reply was, "finer than a frog's hair split three ways!" I immediately knew that my Texas accent would need NO interpretation and that I might even get by with a "y'all" once or twice.
I sat at a table near the front, welcomed by the nurses at my table. I enjoyed watching all of them interact from table to table; obviously a close knit group. I heard stories of the unsung simple heroics that nurses offer to patients every day. One talked about rolling with her patient to radiation to ease fears, another about the experienced art of listening, and yet another a fellow nurse who was having surgery. The meeting started and the room was buzzing with the voices of comradery. I listened as the dinner fell into a routine or minutes, updates and a special presentation on radioembolization. The room had fallen into a hush.
As I was introduced, I decided to stand in the center of the tables to speak so that I could look around and see all the faces. I wanted to connect with every nurse in every seat. I began with my diagnosis at 31...and reminded everyone how important it is to have a colonoscopy at 50 but in addition to be cognizant of their family history. I talked about chemotherapy and the kindness of nurses who helped me to make those early days of the treatment chair easier: the value of listening, the importance of a smile or touch, the validation of my fears and hopes. I opened up about how my personal fears of being diagnosed with cancer that had spread to the liver - terminal cancer - and how that had affected me.
I shared of how I had reached out to Keith Lyons, a social worker at CancerCare, with my very real terror of the thought of dying and having no hope. I then told of his response that so many of my friends know helped shape much of these last several year. They are words worth repeating.
Keith said, "You have no control over how you will die, but you have all the power in the world to choose how you will live. Today, you are alive. He then said that hope was mine and that no one could take it away." A few days later he emailed me photos of Hope in the Sand and said that when hope seemed to disappear, all I would have to do is look at the photos.
I looked around the room and saw nods of approval and even a few tears of understanding. I discussed the renewal of hope I felt with the possibility of SIR-Spheres microspheres and the reversal of tumor growth that I expereienced. I explained how an outpatient procedure literally changed hopeless to hopeful, how my tumors had shrunk, and I was once again able to receive other treatments and move forward.
That brought conversation about the importance of awareness and the necessity of support. I showed a video of the accomplishments of YES! (beatlivertumors.org
) and ended with the wonderful celebration of my seven year old's birthday. I left the room with great memories of my talk and of meeting some phenomenal nurses.....some that are newfound friends.
So here's a big shout out to ONS - Memphis! 'Til we meet again!