Cancer Isn’t a Dirty Word » Kat’s Corner
Thanks to my friend Drew, I have finally decided to tell my story. It’s time we all stop hiding behind cancer… time we stopped living in silence. It’s time we stand and shout it out. It’s time we fought back loud and long. It’s time we win this epic battle once and for all.
I started college as a single mom in the fall of 1999. I enrolled at our local community college, forgot what the word sleep means, loaded up on student loans and credit hours… and somehow managed to pull off nothing but As at the end of that first semester. Two weeks later, I received an invitation to join our chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. I thought “Whoo! Scholarships!” and joined immediately. I attended a meeting just a few days later, to get an idea of what was in store for me. I had no idea that night would change my life in so many ways.
Phi Theta Kappa is built around four cornerstones: Scholarship, Leadership, Fellowship and Service. A heavy emphasis is placed on service work. This intrigued me, as I had always done community service when I had the time, or was able to find something in my area to participate in. At the end of that meeting, I was nominated to be the chapter Secretary, and accepted. We were busy planning a trip to Nashville in April, in order to attend the International PTK Conference. The college was to pay for Officer expenses, so I jumped at the opportunity.
I sat in a beautiful conference room at the Grand Old Oprey Hotel on the night of April 16th, 2000 with thousands of others. We were anxious, waiting for PTK to unveil the new International Service Project… most of our chapter service work would be centered around this for the next year. A few moments later, in front of all of those people, I completely fell apart. I sobbed uncontrollably, while people I had never met before wrapped their arms around me, or laid a hand on my back. You see, our service project was to be a partnership with the American Cancer Society. That night marked only six weeks since the night I lost my hero – my oldest brother Jimmy – to his own cancer battle.
I threw myself into the service work. We raised money. We gave rides to treatments. We organized blood drives. Anything and everything I could think of, we did. I dragged my daughters along to the Relay for Life – something us girls still participate in all these years later. I have become complacent and content with this, thinking that’s all I needed to do. I was helping raise money – doesn’t that fulfill my obligation? Oh, how wrong I have been.
Jimmy first realized something was wrong in the early 90s. I honestly cannot remember now when it first began. All of those years blur together at times. He had a large lump on the side of his neck. You’ll immediately think of Hodgkins.. but it wasn’t. He had some rare form of Testicular cancer that actually shows up in the neck area, instead of the testicles. I’d have to call and wake up my mom to find out the technical name of it, and I’m not THAT dumb! It’s 5am after all.
So anyway, the cycle began. Tests, treatments, chemo, radiation, pills, injections, surgeries. “Oh that surgery went well. We got it all. Come back in six months”. Six months later, they discovered “OOPS”, they in fact missed some, and it had spread. Years of the same followed, including flying across the country to try experimental treatments.
In November of 1999, Jimmy was told that the cancer had spread to his brain, his blood, his bones, and nearly all of his organs. It was at that point that he decided to call it quits on all treatment, and focus his remaining time on being at home, with all of us. Hospice came to help, and he stayed home until the night we lost him, on March 8th, 2000.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. There’s not a day that I’m not still pissed off that he’s gone. I’m angry – and I have a right to be. Instead of sitting here, QUIETLY raising money once a year… I should be out in the World. I should be telling people what happened. I should be screaming it at the top of my lungs. I should be doing something – anything – to help make people aware.
We shouldn’t suffer quietly. We shouldn’t think of Cancer as a dirty word. We should be out there, getting in Cancer’s face, and kicking it in the ass. We shouldn’t be meek and mild. We should roar, and yell and throw things at it. We should fight long and hard.
Thank you, Drew. Thank you for having the guts to spit in the eye of this stupid-assed disease. Thank you for standing up and showing me (and so many others) that having been touched so deeply by Cancer isn’t something to be ashamed or afraid of. Thank you for remembering to laugh – every damn day – even when it hurts and sucks.
Thank you, Drew… for being you.
Keep fighting the good fight.
I love ya, my friend.