Another birthday

Tomorrow is Suzanne Lindley's 44th birthday, which makes me smile in a way that no other birthday does. I met Suzanne in early 2010 when I interviewed her for a story on metastatic cancer survivors that appeared in our summer magazine. She was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer when she was 31 in 1998, and more than once she has been told that it was time to put her affairs in order. Instead Suzanne got online and began researching any and all ways to stay alive. She became a huge proponent of radioembolization, which places tiny microspheres of radiation into the liver to kill the cancer. They worked really well for her and she founded a nonprofit called Beat Liver Tumors to reach out to others dealing with liver tumors. In the cancer world, I have known many survivors who turned their energy toward advocacy: They have started organizations that have made a real and tangible difference in the lives of others. Suzanne is one of those. She never draws attention to herself, but uses any platform to talk about radioembolization and how to be an empowered patient. It's been far from easy for her with ongoing chemo. But Suzanne is one of those metastatic patients who lives in a place called hopeful reality. She keeps doing what she loves while hitchhiking from one drug to another, fitting chemo into her busy schedule. In the past few years she has become a popular speaker at medical events, which has given her and husband Ronnie a chance to travel to Europe and other parts of the world. When she is home in the rural town of Canton, Texas, she spends time with her two daughters, Karlie and Katie, now in both in their 20s. She also has a third daughter, 4-year-old Chloe. Ronnie and Suzanne were foster parents to Chloe as a baby and didn't even blink before agreeing to adopt her last year when they had the chance. It's a family that loves and supports each other. Since getting to know Suzanne for the story, I have kept in touch, trying to grab a few minutes at meetings we were both attending or chatting on Facebook or by phone. Suzanne always keeps her medical condition light in conversations because it takes so much energy to repeat it over and over. When she has set backs, as she has with spinal issues lately, she just mentions that it's been challenging. I have to pry information out of her. She would just rather focus on the next trip or event – or talk about Chloe. I don't know why Suzanne has beaten the odds and neither does she. But I think she had a job to do for others and still isn't finished. I certainly hope not. Send Suzanne good thoughts today – or better yet, go on Facebook and say happy birthday.