After a flurry of inconclusive tests following the self-discovery of a lump in my neck in June of 2007 (which my then-internist thought was a lymph node), I continued on my merry way. Fortunately, I have an excellent dentist, who, when I called his attention to the lump at my regular cleaning in July, suggested that I see an ENT. Unbeknownst to me, he suspected that I had lymphoma.
A CT scan quickly followed my first visit to the ENT and a definitive tumor growing in my parotid gland was identified. Surgery took place in September by Dr. Richard Arden, an outstanding ENT possessing additional skills as a plastic surgeon. Epithelial myoepithelial cancer (fortunately, stage one) was lurking in that tumor. So NOT what I was expecting to hear!
While waiting for the recommended seven weeks of radiation treatments to commence, I read an article about Imerman Angels in my school’s Tradition magazine. Just what the “doctor ordered!” I quickly sent off an email and, to my surprise – a GOOD one, this time, – I received, in typical Jonny fashion, an email written all in caps! Jon was a former student of mine (an intervening name change prevented my initial recognition of this fact)!! That was the turning point for me to begin to feel like this journey was going to turn out okay.
Jon paired me with a parotid gland cancer survivor named Tim. He was truly an angel as he guided me through my fear of the treatment side effects, which were the “icing” on the dark spot in my heart. I had CANCER! The underlying message of all of Tim’s tips for dealing with the sore throat, lesions in my mouth, dry mouth, loss of taste, nausea, etc., was HOPE! He was my beacon in the darkest of days. If he came through this journey, safe on the other side, I could do it, too!
I just “passed” my two year MRI a couple of weeks ago – stable. Who would have ever thought that those six letters could hold such meaning? Miles Levin was a young man who could not overcome his own battle with cancer –rhabdosarcoma. However, during his journey, he started a blog, read by legions of faithful followers, myself included. He even appeared on Anderson Cooper’s show. Miles said that “cancer is an ugly blessing.” That phrase resonated with me then and still does now. It allowed me to see the blessings that came with my diagnosis and trip through cancer world.
As I now mentor other cancer fighters as a volunteer through Imerman Angels, I often find blessings in the new friendships I make and through the powerful, powerful connection of survivor to fighter. I would have NEVER experienced this intensity of association with another person were it not for the cancer which led me to Jon and his INCREDIBLE organization. Thank you, Jon, for the gift you have given to all of us. I love you!