How does one begin to explain their life journey at only 42? I haven't even hit the presumed middle age of 50. I think growing up I always thought I was going to live to 100, don't we all think that? Well we should!
It's been my thought process throughout my life, when things don't go as expected and cut into your time line, one needs to adjust accordingly. That being said, I never thought MY timeline would shrink. Was I being nieve or dumb? I'm still not sure.
On April 8th, 2013, I heard those words you never want to hear, "You Have Cancer!". My life will never be the same from that day on. Fortunately for me at that time they found the mass in my sigmoid colon and it was operable. Despite the diagnosis, they found what was causing my grief and it was going to be removed! This was my FIRST Silver Lining moment. What's that you ask? Well for me the easiest way to explain what is a Silver Lining, is when people are put into difficult situations they need to look past the hardships and find the light at the end of the tunnel. Try turning their negative situations into positive ones; finding their inner peace and the "will power," to try to overcome anything. When handed lemons, make lemonade! Cheesy but you know it's a great analogy, and true.
So the first Silver Lining of mine was born, and prepared me for surgery. I was diagnosed with having a Cancerous tumour and we weren't sure what stage it was until they went in and operated. They scheduled me for an operation pretty much immediately as we couldn't chance getting septic & let the tumour grow any more. On Thursday, May 2, 2017 my life changed AGAIN. The mass was removed and surgery was a success...unfortunately, there were some lymph nodes affected so the doctors suggested doing chemo. This brought my cancer to Stage 3. At only 38, I was technically young and healthy so no reason not to do chemo; the odds of it coming back were 50/50, and those weren't odds I liked.
July 2, 2013, a day after my 13th year wedding anniversary I headed for chemo. That Silver Lining was in my brain reminding me that things could have gone bad with surgery but they didn't and even for being in my lymph nodes it was only a few. So as much as I hated thinking of doing chemo I knew it was the right thing in my heart to do. Another Silver Lining was born, this time it was knowing I still had the option for chemo and felt it would help. So many other people don't have that option. I was trying to see past the negative stigmatism of chemo and focus on how many people do it and it helps. So I turned off the negative thoughts invading my mind & went into chemo looking at it as a new fight I had on my hands; And for those that know me, know I don't go down with out a battle.
Life was crazy and chemo SUCKED. Yup, not sure how people can do it and work. Kudos to them! I was not so lucky. Long story short, I did it and got through 7 of my 12 rounds, every two weeks...then things went from tolerable to worse. I was rushed to the hospital in October 2013 on Thanksgiving long weekend and ironically on my birthday. I was turning septic they figured from a small tear in my colon from the first surgery plus chemo knocking down my immune system, I couldn't fight off the infection. I was on high alert as just having finished chemo, with no white blood cells left in my body to fight off the infection or to withstand a surgery. They needed to get infection under control or I could perish from this. Things were not good first few days. What little bits and pieces I remember I'm just glad to say I am here and reason I went through all that was to make me stronger (I guess) and appreciate just how short life truly can be. Never take things for granted. You just never know what life has in store for you; Or god's mysterious plans? I came out of a massive surgery and had an ileostomy bag attached and still had some of the infection in my abdomen and behind my right ovaries so I wasn't outta the water yet. I was in the hospital 26 more days after to make sure infection had subsided and I was good to go home. 26 days is a long time when you have a young, active family of 5.
I bet you are asking what is the Silver lining after all of that in only 6 months? How does one get through it and find a light at the end of the tunnel and keep on going? It was hard I am not going to sugar coat it! I just kept telling myself it wasn't my time and I had to think of it as a new lease on life and I could have the option to change my life. I was going to appreciate my time with my family and friends more. Really make the most out of life as I feel I was given a second chance; Don't take that for granted or lightly. So we started to live and Make Memories, however we could and even in the smallest ways possible. We today are still living by this and acting on it. It became our motto, MAKE MEMORIES.
April 30, 2014, a year after that first diagnosis, I went in to have the ileostomy bag removed and thought this is finally over. Little did I know...
October of 2014 I was rushed into the hospital with severe abdominal right pain and intense back pain. I was told the cancer had returned and was now a large mass attached to my ovary. On November 21 I had my 4th surgery, where they did a full hysterectomy to make sure no cancer would appear on any of those parts. One would think, ok, that's it, let's fight this because there is no way it's coming back again! You wouldn't believe it, I was diagnosed in early 2015 with liver cancer. More surgery. Major surgery and my 5th surgery.
2015. That was one of the toughest recoveries I've had to go through. The year did not get any easier. Later in the year they found more cancer, and I was scheduled for surgery again that fall. It was Halloween and another major surgery that did not go as planned. I woke up and knew immediately something was wrong, of course I later found out that there was nothing they could do, and was given the terminal diagnosis of 2 years. So much more happened in 2016 and 2017, more surgeries, scans, chemo, tests, and "it's cancer" moments. Finding a silver lining isn't always easy, but it kept me going.
Vanessa's journey ended on February 12th, but that does not mean her story and dream is over. Please continue to send your stories to SilverLinings@shaw.ca so we can make Vanessa's dream come true of gathering a collection of stories about over coming hardships and somehow fighting through them. Vanessa alwasy felt we as a society could use a feel good book and help others overcome their difficult times.
You do not need to be a professional writer to send in your story, and it doesn't have to be about cancer...what matters is sharing your silver lining. Your story can be ANY length, and though there is NO DEADLINE for submissions, send them as soon as you can! All submissions will be considered but we can not guarantee to use every story in the book. We can not pay anyone for their stories so Vanessa hoped if you want to share your story it's as a kindness to others and to let your voice be heard, to help maybe someone going through what you may be or have and just get the word out there of how you found your Silver Lining.