Friday, October 28, 2011

Love Stories: The Strongest Person

After reading the touching story written by Toki on the ShopRuche blog, I wanted to share my story of my best friend’s battle with cancer.
Grandmas. Most people only have sporadic visits with grandparents, and deal with the loss of a grandparent at an early age. I’m different. My grandma is my best friend.

Name: Granny
Age: 65
Occupation: Small Business Owner
Quirks: Can’t cook, can’t sew, loves to drive around in a motor home.

Granny is young, sprite, beautiful, and a slightly goofy. OK, really goofy. Growing up, Granny was the strongest person I knew. I didn’t think anything could break through that skin. She water-skied with the best of them, looked fantastic in a swim suit, made everyone around her laugh, and owned her own business. On top of all that, she was helping my mom raise me. She taught me that I can do whatever I want, and I was the smartest, most beautiful person in every room I entered. (In reality, I knew I’d never be as smart and beautiful as her.)

Then, I received the call. Granny had been in surgery on a Wednesday morning to remove a cyst on an ovary.  I was waiting on a call letting me know that she was awake so I could talk to her when she was still goofy on meds (I think it’s hilarious!). Instead, my mom said “Can you talk?” My stomach dropped, and my heart jumped to my throat in the same instant. She proceeded to tell me that the surgeons found cancer while removing the cyst. They were 99% sure they removed it all since they caught it early, but she would have to undergo chemotherapy, just to be sure. I did not panic. I did not cry. Through many teary phone calls from cousins, my mom, and other relatives, I remained calm and assured them that she would be fine. I had no doubt in my mind.

About four days after finding out the news, I went shopping. I had been shopping for about an hour and was perfectly fine. Out of nowhere, I burst into tears. I had to leave the mall immediately. I cried in my car for a long time. Why did she have to go through this? Why did she have to lose her hair? Why did she have to poison her body with this treatment? She didn’t deserve this, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I do not get emotional, and tend to always stay calm in all situations. This was a time when I couldn’t be the calm one. My Granny was sick.

Defining moments of Granny’s battle:
-        The day every employee at her business wore hats to work so she would feel more comfortable.
-        The Hat Party my aunt threw for her, and the next morning when she shaved her head. (She rocked the bald look, by the way.)
-        The day my cousin and I drove her to chemo and sat with her throughout the treatment, cracking jokes.
-        The several times that I called to talk to her and she was so tired and nauseous that she couldn’t speak.
-        The day she told us that if she had to go through this again, she’d rather let herself die.
-        The relief in her voice when she called after her last chemo treatment.
-        Rubbing her head on Mother’s day when her hair had started growing back.
As horrible as this ordeal was, it was only part one.

Granny was cancer free. All of her blood work was great. During her treatment, her doctor had tested her for any genetic issues that would make her more susceptible to cancer. This is standard practice with ovarian and/or breast cancer patients.

Part Two:
Granny tested positive for the BRCA2 gene. From Wikipedia: “Certain variations of the BRCA2 gene cause an increased risk for breast cancer as part of a hereditary breast-ovarian cancer syndrome.”

This meant that Granny had a 75% chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 70.
It was a terrible blow. Granny had just grown in a cute pixie do and started feeling like her normal self. In a few weeks, she would have to undergo a double mastectomy, and proceed with reconstruction, which is a very slow and painful process. My mother and aunt were tested for the gene. Mom was negative, Aunt Bennie was positive. Aunt Bennie went through the same reconstruction as my granny. I will have to have the same test in a few years, as will my sister and female cousins.

The Finale:
Granny has finished the reconstruction process after many months. She still has pain. Her recent blood work is free and clear of any signs of cancer. She’s back at work, traveling, and having family get togethers again. Her hair is the same length as it was before chemo. She is still inspiring me every day. She is still the most caring person I know. She is still my best friend.

A recent text from Granny: “you can do anything you want—ask, pray, seek”

The effect that this ordeal had on me was profound. The strongest person I knew was so weak, so sick, in so much pain. I wanted to be there for her and take all of that pain away, just like she did for me so many times. I couldn’t do anything to help her. Then when it was done, she was immediately hit again. As a family, we remained positive and knew that we could get through anything together. I’ve learned to love life and make sure that I’m always happy. I’ve learned to cherish time with my family. I am now thankful and optimistic. While there are always uncontrollable aspects in life, I believe that life is what you make it. Happiness can be found in almost any situation; life is too short to waste on negativity. 

Magen from Crumpled Fantasies

See the previous Love Stories here! If you would like to submit your story, please send an e-mail to You may attach up to 5 photos. Please try to keep your stories to a 1200 word limit. You will receive an e-mail when your story is selected.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I've been working with kids who have leukemia and I know it can be hard. Your grandma is admirable!

Thanks Ruche for posting all these beautiful and motivational stories.