Sunday, March 21, 2010


Never let it be said that I am capable of learning a lesson.  Quite clearly, I'm not.

A month ago I accompanied my thirteen year old son on a field trip. Two days later, I got sick.

Yesterday, he took part in the Science Olympiad Northern California Regional Competition. The regional's were held at Sacramento State University, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00. p.m. Team pizza party after, win or lose.

Not only did I go, I volunteered to assist at an event.

Three days after full chemo.

There is only one word for what I did yesterday, and that is endure.

I have never been known for my physical strength. I am afraid of balls hitting me (because they hurt), so I don't play sports. I was blessed with a great metabolism so exercise never became part of my life. Why move and make your muscles hurt when you can sit and read a good book? Holding my arms up to blow-dry my hair, or wearing four inch heels is about as challenging physically as I ever wanted to get. I will suffer for beauty.

And, my son.

Only those of you who are going through chemo, and especially those who are at the end, like me, can understand the physical challenges I faced yesterday. They say the effects of chemo are cumulative, and they are right. I am more debilitated than I was a month ago and am ten times worse than when I started 3 1/2 months ago.

Yet, for 11 hours I sat in the cold weather, outside, all day. I walked around a college campus to various events. I was on my feet for several hours at least, cold and shivering most of the time. Neuropathy and 60 degree temps made my hands completely numb. My feet too. My head hurt and my bones were aching, and I was nauseated.

On a normal day, getting dressed and taking a shower requires a long rest and recovery period. Yet, there I was.

By the time of the awards ceremony, I didn't think I'd make it through the presentation, much less a pizza party. My chest hurt. I was beyond weary. I was in pain. But, seeing the bright faces of the kids as their teams were called to pick up medals kept me going.

And, the thought of my son, maintaining As, participating in community service, and staying after school 2 hours a day to study for the Olympiad - for months - kept me there too. If a 13 year old can do that much, certainly, I can put up with discomfort to watch the fruits of his labor.

So, I did. I wanted to give up and go home, but I wouldn't let myself.

My son's team won, and he and 15 other kids will be going on to the State Competition in central California next month. That will be 3 weeks after my last chemo, and my plan is to feel better by then.

If I don't, it doesn't matter. I'm still going. I will still volunteer to help.

Today, I feel like a contestant on the Biggest Loser after they finished their first week on the ranch. Aching, bruised, weak, sick, damaged, wondering how I can possibly continue.

Yet, knowing I can, and will.

After seeing those talented young scientists and the camaraderie and good sportsmanship exhibited by all, win or lose, I am hopeful for the future: both theirs, yours, and mine. In that group of shining kids may be the one who solves the problem of cancer. And, I will be there to cheer them on.


  1. Congratulations to your son on his achievement - and to you on yours for being there for him. I know it meant the world to him to have you there.

    I hear you on the cumulative SE's - My last treatment is in 2 weeks and my oh my, it IS getting harder.

    Hang in there Ann!

  2. You amaze me, Ann! You are living proof that we as moms (and dads) will endure anything for the sake of our kids. Anything.

    Hope you get some well-deserved rest this week.

    Glad that you were able to make these long-lasting memories for you and your son - to enjoy for years to come!

  3. You (and your son) are a rock star. Or rock stars. Whatever the correct plural version of it. That was quite a marathon.

    I was at the school spring fair on Saturday and after standing up for two hours had to come home and take a nap. Can't imagine how long you slept on Sunday! Well deserved, of course.

    Rock star.

  4. This is one of my favorites of your posts so far. I found your blog after seeing your "My Last Days" video. I started reading your more recent posts and then decided to re-read from the beginning.

    I am a 25 year old actress living in New York and my mother is a two-time cancer survivor (two separate primaries, not a metastasis... I know you like to know the science of things, and that's as far as my knowledge in that arena goes.)

    For years I've raised money for the ACS or through the Avon Walk... I started a breast cancer event through my sorority at NYU several years ago.

    Then, three months ago, my father died suddenly of a heart attack... He was a work-out fanatic, lived a very healthy lifestyle and dropped dead at 67 years old without any warning.

    My dad was a novelist and wrote a lot about life and death and religion (though he was not religious), and the preciousness of time. He was the kind of person who would have a fraught argument and end with, "Who knows? It may not matter. I could drop dead tomorrow." And then one day he did.

    I wish he were here for so many reasons, but one is that I wish I could tell him about his death--he would find it ironic. He would shake his head and laugh in a way that indicated what had happened wasn't really funny, but just a part of life--both beautiful and cruel.

    I started reading your blog three weeks after he died. I read it almost every day. I've read like a hundred and thirty of your posts. Your blog makes me think of my mom and what she went through. She was only 38 the first time she had cancer (40 the second). My sister and I were 4 years old and 3 months old during round 1.

    It makes me think about the future me. With my genetics I fear one day, whether it's heart disease or cancer, I will find myself in your place and I hope to be as awesome as you.

    But strangely, I read your blog because it is helping me cope with the loss of my father. It makes me think of my father. My dad's one man show was called, "Life's Not Fair. So What?" Just because life can suck doesn't mean you can stop living it--it doesn't mean that you can stop striving every day to find the moments of joy behind the illness, and the death and the tragedy.

    Anyway, I know you're mostly about inspiring the ladies going through cancer, but you've accidentally inspired me as well. Know that somewhere in Manhattan there is someone who is reading your story and thinking of you everyday. I hope you see your son graduate and keep checking off items on your bucket list--after is too short to waste a moment.


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