I was excited to catch up with my Grandma Pat last night here in Denver as our family celebrates the life of of a dear family member, Phil Bailey (Lisa Sullivan's husband, who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer). G-ma was rocking her fancy yellow pin that Susie made for all of us to wear on the day of mom's surgery.
It made me happy.
Yet, as we all gathered in a beautiful home with a beautiful sunset and even a rainbow, the reality is that we were brought together because of what cancer has done to another family. A few cousins, who I hadn't seen since we were children, are grown up now. They live in Denver and Aspen, and commented on how beautiful and fun Kansas is during the summer. But, alas, they rarely travel there except for a funeral. Of course, we all immediately began plotting a family reunion, but it was hard to not sense the sinister wash of that terrible disease lying in wait, ready to come and wallpaper our walls of life.
It's sad, but more importantly, it's truly difficult and mind-breaking to fight cancer. Some win, some lose, some are still hoping they won. Some are buying Aflac at age 32 and assuming they will need cancer insurance in the near future. "I just figure it'll happen," a very young person recently said to me.
If only we could not have cancer among us, it seems like life would be easier, but there will always be something to break and challenge humans. It's so important to fight for healthcare reform that provides equal and fair access to treatment and post-cancer care to Americans, to have an insurance industry that doesn't force a family to fight daily or forgo that valuable MRI or round of chemo because they can't afford it, to have more research and development focused not only on the "big" cancer areas, but also the small and rare, to have patients feel empowered to become cured and and not lose their minds and bank accounts while doing it, and to allow their families the basic knowledge about how to get the best care possible and keep their minds clear to make sound decisions.
Cancer is a part of everyone's life anymore. I remember it as a child, lying in the back of my mom's jeep with my brother, my cousins Devan and Amber, my mom and my Aunt Patsy. I remember it being very late at night, and the group of us rushing to the high school in Ulysses on a pre-summer night to find my dad's youngest brothers and retrieve them from the prom so we could rush to Denver where my Grandad Cliff had spent eons of time battling cancer at University Hospital, where he was not doing so well, and where we feared it might end.
Fast forward to 2004 and getting the call on a February night from my parents that my own father had cancer. Freshly diagnosed and told he didn't have many options.
The thing is... you don't believe that crap when you hear it. Or, at least, we didn't. So we rallied and flew him to NYC and got him in the MRI machine and a surgery scheduled. It sounds easy, but it wasn't. We were fortunate to have found a surgeon and hospital system that properly diagnosed and treated him.
Even though I never wanted to get that call again, I did. Again, we rallied and fortunately for us, made some smart decisions. We found the astounding Mayo Clinic and mom's surgical team, and as September rolls around and she and I travel once again to the Charlton building on Mayo Campus, we can only hope for cancer-free pathology reports.
I guess hope is better than nothing, right?