Thank you. All of you. I am overwhelmed by the response, love, and support received here this evening. There are no words to express my gratitude. Just know that I stand here today because of you.
This moment has been running through my mind for years now. I have always believed this moment would happen and as I stand here in the now, my life makes complete sense to me for the first time.
I can stand here and talk about my journey in terms of diagnosis, treatment, and survival; however I choose to tell you all a story about a little girl.
As many of you know my family was involved in a near fatal car accident when I was 7 years old, just about the age of my son. My earliest memories are not that of a playful, happy little girl. They begin with memories of fear, pain, and discomfort as this accident nearly took all of our lives. I spent many years battling dreams in search of comfort and peace and I have always associated it with this accident. The dreams were always in search of that thing, that thing that would make me feel safe. The dream is one of those re-occurring dreams and in the dream I am walking endlessly through unfamiliar streets looking and searching and wanting that thing. I know my husband has lived these night terrors with me. So many nights I am crying in my sleep and Rob is trying to wake me “Joanne, Joanne, it’s ok…it’s just a dream”….Just a dream. A dream that crippled me…what is this? What am I always looking for? Why can’t I be happy here? Well, maybe this degree will be the answer to my search, this is the job for me, maybe this city, yes, this it it…if we move, I will find it there in the new place… On and on and on for my entire life. What a torturous way to spend a lifetime.
On August 10th, 2010 (which happens to be My loving mother’s birthday) I was diagnosed with Lymphoma and life as I knew it ended. That moment is indescribable. A moment of fear, pain, and discomfort all over again, just like that little girl, but on a much larger level. You can read the story in detail on our website. The next couple weeks were weeks filled with hate and why me’s. So many things were running through my mind. How do I go on with these beautiful babies? What kind of mother can I be for them? Haven’t I suffered enough in my life? 18 months is not enough? Why would God do this to me?
I have come to realize that there are no mistakes in life as it all happens just the way it’s intended to. It is no mistake that our daughter’s name was chosen( by her daddy) to be Zoe which means life in Greek, my constant reminder of life and all that is good. The constant reminder I needed in order to survive those first few weeks. Ahhh Zoe! My baby who was only 11 months old at the time. Simply amazing.
It is no mistake that I met my dear friend Lori outside on the Witco patio at lunchtime some 15 years ago because she was able to provide me with my mantra throughout this entire process that meditated me to sleep every night and that runs through my mind constantly “My body is restoring itself to its original perfection” There is no disease my body can not heal”
Is is no mistake I decided to go back to school and befriend the quietest girl in my class back in 2008 because Julie was my calm voice in the storm. She was my unbiased shoulder to cry on, my sense in all the non-sense.
And the list goes on and on and on…Not one single mistake in life.
Each and every one of you who has supported me throughout this journey was placed into my life to provide me with the ability to survive : whether it was the beautiful cards letters received, the messages of support on facebook, the delicious foods brought to my house, the wonderful wives of Highland Square who made sure my children didn’t miss a single school event while we were away for treatments, or whether it was the glorious and very popular tool, provided to me by my friend Jim, of giving my bags of chemo love and prayer before having them injected into my body…no mistakes in having you all in my life. I can honestly find a connecting story like these with each and every one of you here tonight but I know you all probably want to get home at some point this evening J
I honestly believe God knew what he was doing when he led me into The James Cancer Center. Not only are they the best, but Dr. Flynn just gets me and has from day one! Dr. Flynn and his team gave me my life back and for that I am forever grateful. Finally there is some clarity on the course of action and I was reassured that things would be fine. Combined with the expertise, knowledge and naturopathy of Dr. Nick Parrason of Natural Wellness Center…we got this! I know you all feel much better about my care after hearing what these two fabulous Doctors are doing! Aren’t they awesome!!!! I am so lucky!
Wow, what a difference the right Dr. can make. So now my head is clear and I love deeper, I smile more, and life truly begins for me. I say that life begins for me because for the first time in my entire life the searching is over. That little girl I was telling you about in the beginning is a grown 39 year old woman who no longer feels the torture of wanting that thing because I found it. What is it? I know you are all so anxious to hear right? That thing is believing. I believe! I get it! Finally! God came to me and filled my heart and soul and I got this now. And for that I thank Colleen and Chris for bringing me here, to Church of Our Savior, one cold December morning J My healing truly began when I walked through these beautiful wooden doors.
I have learned so much and have woken up, and for this I thank you Cancer.
I must add this quick story here because I often think of it and feel so happy.
My wise son beyond his age Adam asked me at some point during chemo “Mommy, why would God give you cancer if he loves you?” What a mind that boy has. Geesh, how do you answer that one huh? Well, I made the decision early on in this process to be honest with him about my sickness so now I have to make some sense of it for him. “Adam, I say to him, God did not give me cancer however he did allow it into my life, you want to know why? Why Mommy? Adam, it is because He loves me so much He allowed this into my life in order to save me and make me a believer “… And of course…Adam totally got that.
I no longer search because I found it! No more night terrors, no more dreams of searching endless streets. I am so lucky to have a disease that hasn’t knocked me out and gosh darn it I am going to spread the word and do something about it! As long as you believe you will be cured. No matter what form your cure comes in, whether it’s leaving this physical earth in 6 months or achieving complete remission and starting a charity to spread the word, it will be your cure. Just believe in it. Believe that God has a plan and He knows what is best for you. All else will be cured.
I believe in research. I believe in education. I believe in cancer prevention. I believe in medical bill relief. I believe in God and I believe In The Cure.
Thank you all for joining me