(Me and Julie, all dressed up for her radiation appointment. She's beautiful here, but when she's finished with steroids, her cheeks will be shrinking back to normal again. )
About two years ago, thanks to facebook, I was privileged to get back in touch with a dear friend from my youth, Julie Garvin Luce. It had been 30 years since we'd seen each other but the years faded into nothing as we slipped so easily back into friendship, only deeper and wiser from the joys and heartaches of the years that had passed. I had survived a painful divorce, Julie had survived debilitating chronic illnesses. But what we had in common was our dogged determination to find lessons in loss and to grab joy with both hands wherever it could be found, the way a drowning person grabs a life-preserver. That and our faith that God was never absent from us, even in the darkest days. We saw each other several more times and caught up with long phone calls as well.
Then, Julie went through another huge trial: a divorce after her longterm marriage. While she was still in the earliest days of recovery from that ordeal, I received a phone call saying, "Becky I wanted to call you and tell you I love you and all is well. But I am going into surgery for a brain tumor they just found today, and just in case I am unable to talk to you again, I want to thank you for your friendship and all it has meant to me."
Julie went through that surgery and to the absolute shock and surprise of the medical staff, came through it with flying colors. There were some rollercoastering times following this, however... a seizure that did affect her speech, ability walk, swallow,and read.The doctors could not get all of the tumor but as Julie explained it, it was the size of a lime and they got all but the "rind." With Julie's joyful outlook and unwavering faith and great medical, friend and family support, she learned to walk, talk and read and eat normally again in just two short months.
Julie just finished 7 weeks of chemo and radiation. I was privileged to fly to be with her in California a couple of weeks ago, and while we were eating a simple stew dinner she said, "I am the happiest I've ever been right now." And when I asked why, she smiled and said, "Because I don't have to try so hard, I can just live."
Before I left for Colorado, she crossed another huge milestone and drove herself to her treatments: the first time behind the wheel since she had surgery in July.
There seems to be a certain clarity that comes to those faced with their own mortality via a potentially terminal diagnosis. My daughter's pastor, Matt Chandler, was also diagnosed with a brain tumor this year and in a recent interview he said, "The reality is that I could die in the next couple of years or I could live another 20, and that’s exactly where everybody is. I just get to live on the cliff without all the fog. Most people live on the cliff with a bunch of fog, unaware that today could be their last."
Julie has her first appointment with the doctor to hear the results of the chemo and radiation on October 20. (And if you are the praying sort, I know she would appreciate prayers on that day.) I truly believe that the results will be startling and positive, simply because Julie's been amazing the doctors from day one. But no matter the results, Julie will choose joy and live every day of her life with gratitude, the same way she lived it before the cancer.
What if, without a serious diagnosis, we could learn from Matt and Julie and live with less fog, see more clearly what mattered? And what if, we stopped trying so hard and just decided to live? What would that look like in your life, and mine, today?
Happy Postscript Added to This Blog Post, October 21, 2010
Good News!!!! The tumor is gone! Today at UCLA Nuero-Oncology they had all three of my brainscans up next to each other on these special monitors. It was amazing to see the stages of my brain cancer recovery right on front of my own eyes!
Here's what it looked like:
Scan #1....(7/27/10) pre-operation MRI showing my huge, lime-sized tumor in my brain.
Scan #2....(7/29/10) post-op MRI shows empty cavity where tumor had been thick piece of tumor "rind" left.
Scan #3...(10/18/10) the post treatment MRI shows the cavity completely filled in except for a pea-sized indention surrounded by a tiny scar.
As a preventive measure, I start the maintenance "standard of care" tomorrow. Chemotherapy, in pill form, at home for 5 days then off for 22 days...then 5 days on 22 off...to continue for one year. I'll have labs and scans throughout the year.
So please keep praying! I guess God is still in the business of miracles!!
Lotsa Love to all,
Also, as a result of Kristi's comment below, Julie has joined up with the Tribe to help cover her medical bills. Such a fun easy way to show some tangible love. Thank you, Kristi! Most of you know the statistics of a woman's income following a divorce... in Julie's case, not only did her income drop to nothing, but she was unable to work having to put every but of her flagging energy into Survival Mode to beat this tumor.
Hello friends & family,
So many of you have ask for ways to financially support me as my medical costs rise and I am unable to work. This week a friend shared with me a creative way to do just that through the Human Tribe Project. This organization was created to help cancer patients bridge the gap between insurance coverage and real costs. As in my case despite having insurance, many cancer patients incur large debts as they undergo treatment.
At the Human Tribe Project, they sell really cool, custom dog tag, jewelry that can be purchased for as little as $20. 100% of the money is given directly to pay a bill or cover a medical expensefor me. The Tribe Tags include three charms: a Human Tribe Project tag, a Tribe Print charm symbolizing the common thread that connects us all, and a personalized charm bearing my initial, "J". They can be worn as a sixteen inch or eighteen and a half inch necklace or carried on a two and a half inch key chain. Tags are sold in the Tribe Tag Store on my Human Tribe Page.
*Nickel Plated Steel Tribe Tags sell for $20, $15 of which is given directly to me as a tax-free gift.
*Sterling Silver Tribe Tags sell for $100, $75 of which is given directly to me as a tax-free gift.
If you'd like to purchase Julie's Tribe Tag go to http://humantribeproject.com/tribes/julies-tribe You'll have to register as a member as you did here on my Caring Bridge site.