The gifts that cancer gave me

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By Nancy Plummer, Columnist, The Times

My Dear Readers,

Well, I’ve been looking forward to writing to you all with good news…and of course, I was always having to prepare myself that that day may never come…

However, miracles do happen every day, and I am one of them.

I am in remission from my Ovarian Cancer!

Remember my writing to you in September about my ordeal with having Ovarian Cancer since the end of June? And to make matters worse, that I had gone to my OBGYN of over 26 years in November of 2015 and made a special appointment with him in his office to tell him that as he knew how very intuitive and aware of my body I’d always been, and that I was one of those who ate healthy, and exercised every day, that I was convinced that I had Ovarian Cancer.

Especially with my horrible family genetic history of BRCA 2, my father having had breast cancer twice, my only sister having had breast cancer, plus many more family members having BRCA 2 various cancers, and having unending weird pains in my ovarian region and having worse constipation than normal, it was shocking and dismaying that he just looked at me and said that I looked like a specimen of health and beauty and that he did not believe I had anything seriously wrong with me. (FYI – if this ever happens to you or a loved one, run as fast as you can out of their office and go get a second opinion!)

But of course, the truth catches up with you…and the following June my world turned upside down – and everyone’s I knew. Me, the one who did handstands every day, who was the one who said yes to dogsledding near the arctic, who had a booming, fulfilling business where I helped men and women find their confidence and strategies to find the love and life they’ve always dreamed of, and I myself had the life I’d always dreamed of, was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer Stage 3C/4, and given less than a 50% chance of living one to three years.

My surgery was with a team of experts that took over a week to assemble and the operation lasted well over ten hours. Unfortunately, many complications followed and thus I kept having to be readmitted into the hospital during most of the summer – my favorite season was lost to me – over 30 days in the hospital…and then months of weekly chemo sessions.

Yes, I keep saying, I don’t know what was worse – the weekly chemo sessions that never gave me a chance to take a breather, or the horrible complications of having to self-catheterize, or having an ostomy that never seemed to be able to produce normal bowel movements, but instead, explode all over me, all over my clothes, and all over my bathroom walls. I’ve had so many disgusting nights, and painful days…but I must confess, I rarely let anyone, including my husband, know of those dark moments. If anyone thought I was down or frustrated, they have no idea just how many prayers I had to say to God to get through it, because I was determined to make this horrible journey just a game of life, a time to love with all my soul, and to live out the words “Thy Will Be Done.”

But…do you know what surprised me the most? Something remarkable? In the end, and, actually, even during the entire journey, Cancer GAVE me a lot of gifts as well. I wish to share just of few of them with you, just to perhaps inspire you or anyone you know with an illness to look for the gifts that come with the sacrifices.

The FIRST gift Cancer gave me was a “Get out of jail for free” card. No, seriously, it’s like you can do no wrong. No one can be upset with you if you don’t get back to them right away, or if you are late to an event, or even if you cancel an appointment. And, if you ever did do something hurtful to someone – even years ago-you really do just get the chance to apologize…heck, who’s going to stay mad or angry with you when you have a huge chance of dying in the next couple of weeks or months? Who needs that on their conscience?

Now, please know that I did reach out to people that never did reach back, or forgive me. That wasn’t the point. I was so near death so many times that I needed to say I was sorry. We never can control the outcome. It only starts and ends with ourselves. And, I did feel better for reaching out every time, even if my words of apologies fell on deaf ears or hardened hearts.

The SECOND gift Cancer gave me was less a wow factor, but it was still a big gift to me – a parking spot right in front of the door to the oncologist office. They have parking signs that read “Parking for Cancer Patients ONLY!” and you can’t imagine what a gift that was to me. I guess because I was at the Oncologist office so often, and there were so many times I was shaking with exhaustion, that I loved my parking spot…and oh my gosh, even all of you who are healthy…don’t we all want that perfect parking spot, the one closest to the door?

Chemo and the resulting hair loss did have one upside: wigs and a new look at a whim.

The THIRD gift Cancer gave me was a fun one…a reason to be obnoxiously vain, gorgeous, with sexy wigs of all lengths and styles, and never have grey roots again! Since I lost all my hair and my real hair (if I had to tell the truth) was totally white underneath all the dye, and totally unmanageable without the expense of Keratin treatments every six months, and so thick that it took almost an hour to dry and straighten and then curl each day…well, wow – I took to those wigs like a woman takes to diamonds! Yes, I ended up buying at least six (I quickly donated the ones I realized didn’t look too good on me to others who could use them)…but what fun…imagine having any look you wanted in a matter of seconds? My real hair could never have straight gorgeous bangs, but wow-wigs these days are awesome. Now I can sport a new look in a matter of seconds, depending on my outfit, the event, even just my mood! So, from light brown poker straight hair with perfect bangs…to long, dark brown and perfect curls that don’t go limp, to sexy, long blonde hair for the summer and a Bahama look, and anything else I want, it’s made Cancer much more fun and sexy than I ever dreamed it could be.

The Fourth gift that Cancer gave me was something almost all parents with teenagers and adult children can relate to…a hotline to my kids! Can you believe that my children now don’t just answer my texts, or come visit me more often, or say yes to my selfish requests to play the piano in front of all our guests…but, and this is a big wow – they answer my phone calls, and usually on the first ring! Now, this has gotten them into a little bit of trouble of course, because my youngest one is at NYU and she’ll even answer her phone during a lecture – so, now I have to remember to text her first. Just as incredible, even in the middle of an NBA basketball game my son answered my phone call, and even while my oldest daughter is finishing Law School at University of Penn – no easy feat-she answers my calls in the library. Wow, it has truly been an amazing year of feeling my children’s caring and compassion, plus all of us making more of an effort to spend more time together.

Lastly, and most importantly, Cancer gave me the gift of Love beyond my wildest dreams. I have never felt so much love and support in my entire life. From my loving husband, to my dear ex-husband (who is now one of my best friends), to my amazing, dedicated and brilliant children who were my finest advocates, to my huge close family, to my dearest friends since I was five years old, to my colleagues old and new, to my clients present and past, to all my doctors and nurses and all their staff, even old boyfriends and old childhood neighbors, to new neighbors and strangers…the list goes on and on…it was so overwhelming at times that I actually felt so guilty, I’d ask God to please take all the prayers he had heard for me that day and pass them around to those less fortunate.

I feel at times as if I have already witnessed my funeral…when people have given a toast in my honor for never giving up, or a phone call that came in from far away from someone I knew so long ago and they reminisce about something I did for them once and I don’t even remember it, but they say thank you and tears just flow from me gently…tears of joy and disbelief and just how special relationships are…how lucky I’ve been to be given this opportunity to reconnect with so many loving, open-hearted people that have passed through this crazy, adventurous and happy life I’ve had.

It is why I love what I do…being a relationship coach and life strategist…because this journey with Cancer made it so real to me that beautiful relationships are all that truly matter in the end. That we are all connected, and we do all need and deserve love. And it really helps to have strategies to have the best relationships and make your life the best it can be. I feel like I’ve come full circle…All About Connecting, my business that has helped hundreds of men and women of all ages find the love and life they deserve, helped me the most.

In fact, just a few weeks ago, I tried something new, that I feel now might be the ultimate secret to making all our relationships alive and special. To my husband, my children…really, to all my loved ones…I ask them each day what I could do for them “today” that would make them feel loved and supported and hopefully the happiest person they could be.

It’s been amazing to hear what they request. Most of the time, they’ll say “Oh, nothing, everything is great. Thanks for asking though…” However, sometimes, they ask for large and small requests, and if I can’t do it that day, I’ll tell them that I can’t but I will try to the next day, or perhaps there’s something else I can do that day instead.

So, from driving my daughter back to school, or reminding them to get done an errand, to going to a special movie that night, or finding time in the afternoon for a fun little playtime in bed, or to just sitting on the couch and watching a TV show, it’s made a huge difference. Rather than guessing about how I can be love and supportive, I get to hear from each of my loved ones what they need that day, since every day we all need love in a different way. I truly recommend you all try it – it might make all the difference in the world!

To put it all in a nutshell, the words from the song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” are words I have tried to live by as I went through this journey (of course, I failed many times) …perhaps they might be yours…

”Oh, Master grant that I may never seek,

So much to be consoled, as to console,

To be understood, as to understand,

To be loved, as to love with all my soul.”

 

If you must know my secret, there have been many times, late at night, when I’m just with my own thoughts, that I quietly say out loud,

“Thank you Cancer, for giving me so many gifts, and I promise to honor them to the best of my ability.” As I drift off to sleep, I sing again and again, “…Oh Master, grant that I may never seek, so much to be consoled as to console…”

Please do check out our newly renovated website, www.allaboutconnecting.com, presenting a revolutionary way of creating the life and love you deserve.

Thank you again for all your prayers.

I am truly grateful,

Nancy

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