Three of my favorite things in life are: to be surprised, to be challenged, and to be inspired. Never in a million years, though, did I think a cancer diagnosis would bring me all three of those things at once! But here I am, nearly 3 years into my Stage IV diagnosis and I could not be more inspired, challenged or surprised!
Surprised because I have learned through my journey, that the word “Cancer” is only scary when you give it that meaning.
Challenged because the treatments and changing of my lifestyle for survival aren’t always easy tasks.
And inspired because I continue to meet people who are also battling this crazy disease and they too are winning.
I have been surrounded by cancer most of my life. I have lost too many friends and family members to this awful disease. So when I was diagnosed, I was initially terrified. Especially having a diagnosis of not one, but two different types of incurable cancers. That was telling me that I was dying, as I had never met anyone with a Stage IV diagnosis to live past a year and I was just told that I had Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer AND Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma! However, science, technology, and treatments have certainly come a long way. And, truth be told, I simply refuse to let the cancer win!! So, unlike my friends and family that I had lost to a Stage IV diagnosis, I am surviving. I have officially reached remission (even though I will continue chemo for the rest of my life) and that is pretty darn inspiring too!
So for me, volunteering does 2 things. First, it gives me the opportunity to help someone through their scary cancer diagnosis, by putting their mind at ease and answering their questions on what to really expect on their journey. It also gives me the strength to continue battling through my own diagnosis. It’s like a buddy system: my Firefly match and I are in this together. So it feels less lonely for us both and more encouraging. When you’re facing something like cancer, your friends and family may be there for you. But they don’t always understand fully what you’re dealing with, or how they can help. That is what makes being a Firefly Guide so special. I am going through it too. So I can fully understand the emotions, the physical symptoms, and the triumphs (both small and large) that each day of living with cancer brings. My goal as a volunteer is to bring solidarity to my match. To be strong for her on days that she can’t be strong for herself and to help her truly understand that we got this…one day at a time…
Written by Laurie Williams, Guest Blogger. “I am 43 years old and a single mom to 2 amazing young men, and don’t even get me started about my 3 dogs!! I work as an accountant and part time for the MN Wild during hockey season and I volunteer as a Hospice Companion and Firefly Sisterhood Guide (I like to stay busy to keep my mind focused…but could also use a nice Fiji vacation if anyone wanted to pick up the tab!) I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 40, after having my very first mammogram. I had ZERO signs, symptoms or indications at all, but was told that it had already metastasized to 5 of my bones and that I also had a secondary cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So, being as I seemed to have hit the “Cancer Lottery”, I knew that I needed to use my experience to show others what Surviving looked like. If I could help just one person along the journey, that would make my life complete.