Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Gift of Cancer

Many people have talked and written about their own experiences with cancer and how they are now more enlightened, etc.  Yes, this can happen if you are paying attention and go through the emotional work in a conscious and deliberate way.  I am experiencing this myself.  That's not what I want to share today.

Rather, I want to tell you about the one on one time that I am getting with family and friends that I have hungered for, indeed craved for many years (sometimes subconsciously, but it was always lingering there in my soul). This is not to say that I don't have love and people around me that feed my soul as well.  It is more about recognition that one person (namely my life partner) cannot be the one who is my all and everything.  In fact, now that I've realized this in a new way, it feels downright unfair to him, that I ever felt that way at all. 

John and Lea are still my primary caretakers and I cherish both of them for their unwavering love and coping with my cancer yet again.  This time I'm a lifer with cancer.  Yes, its possible that we will zap all of my tumors and I'll be NED (No Evidence of Disease) for years before they "pop" up again.  This would be amazing.  Its also possible that I'll be on chemo for the rest of my life, I'm grateful that there is treatment like this for me at this stage and since I'm still working and maintaining, bring it on!  However,  the coping for this is something new for all of us.  Its not a few months or one year, its for life.  We are getting there.

When someone new takes me to MDAnderson, the experience is transformed from the rigor of the treatments and appointments to special time with family and friends.  My focus shifts to "catching" up, laughing, staying up late the night before watching movies and eating whatever we want! :-)  Its generally a 48 hour commitment, between the round trip drive and time at M.D.Anderson (I just can't seem to get out of there in less than 10 hours, sometimes even longer).  Its the kind of time, that we don't think about from week to week as being available for something like this.  Yet, when my crisis arose again December 2011, my family and friends rallied.  Because of the circumstance, I have had more time with special family and friends in one year than I perhaps have had since childhood.  These interactions are feeding my soul in a way that I truly needed.  It also gives John and Lea a chance to "have a break" from the front lines; to rest and rejuvenate so that they are ready for the next tribulation.

The "cancer" bracelet fad that was started by LiveStrong, which was seemingly adopted by every cancer group in the U.S.  The color for melanoma is black.  At first, I thought, "really? I can't even have red or purple...knowing that pink was taken," then I thought, "well, black goes with everything!"  I don't wear one, but John has had one on his wrist everyday since our first visit to M.D. Anderson.  He bought several and every person who has taken me to Houston has become a part of his black bracelet club.  My dad and my bestie, Holly wear theirs so often that they have worn them out and had to buy a replacement.  I think John is on his third one.  This is a big deal for him because he has a fetish about jewelry.  He wore his wedding band all of 30 minutes or less.

I want to give a shout out to everyone who has taken time out of their lives to make this experience about more than just being sick.

John Hallmark - partner in life
Lea Kelley Lowrance - sister and bestie since her birth
Leslie Warren Krajmalnik - bestie since 7th grade
Holly Anne Luce Lee - bestie since 4th grade
Aunt Smoey - Rosemary Cox Yowell (my mom's sister)
CC - Claudia Kelley - my stepmom for nearly 30 years
Daddy - Kent Kelley
Leslie Stroud Ulrich - bestie since 3rd grade
and those in spirit: Mom - Carolyn Skokan, Mimi - Maxine Kelley, and so many more friends and family who keep up with me through these treatments with texts and emails.

Is there a better feeling in the world than to feel loved and to return that love?

Grateful for the Gift....thank you Cancer!


  1. You are an inspiration to us all. I am so glad to know you and see you every week at UT. You give me the inspiration to keep on plugging away at this thesis writing and I am truly amazed by all that you have already accomplished. Keep on writing, I think it is so good!

  2. Thank you Kara, that was a wonderful post to read - I recently got diagnosed with cancer back in December 2012.

    Discovered your blog because at 2am the other morning I woke up with a brain wave for a title for a book "The Gift of Cancer" and decided to Google it to see if it had been used.

    Turns out yes it has, in articles, blogs and as an actual book title (back to the drawing board for me)- However it did lead me to your blog, so cancer is a work being a gift again :)

  3. Aaron, I see that you are also a blogger. Have you started a blog about your cancer? Are you planning on this? I want to follow you. I see that you are in Australia? And, you are about 10 years younger than me, or so.....I have been battling cancer off and of for 12 years. It does get easier. Email me anytime kkhallmark@gmail.com