Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Faith in a Cure

(Note: please see my post of February 26 about the sad news of Faith losing her battle)

I've written before how Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of the more curable cancers, and is sometimes called the "good cancer." Well, if you are like me, a nearly 10 year survivor from this disease and living strong, I suppose you could call it a good cancer, although even that is a bit of a reach. For others, though, it is not a good cancer by any stretch of the imagination.

One of these folks is my friend Faith. She had stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma starting almost exactly three years ago. It was in her spleen, bones, and lungs. She went through many hellish treatments, raised an outrageous amount of money for Light the Night in 2009 with her Team "Faith's Hope," and went into remission near the end of the year.

But think about how difficult it is to kill cancer. You have maybe a billion cancer cells in your body if you have detectable cancer. If you are stage 4 like Faith was, maybe you have several billion malignant cells. During treatment, every single one of these cells must die. Let me emphasize that again - every single one must die! If even one such cell, lurking somewhere in your body, survives, it will begin to divide. And divide again. And again. Repeat that process enough, and suddenly you have a tumor - probably undetectable. Some cells split off and travel through the lymph or bloodstream, lodging in some hospitable spot deep in your body. Another tumor starts up. Then another. Before you know it, you are not feeling so well and get it checked out. And suddenly, you realize your days of being cancer free are over, at least for now. And the worst of it is, these tumors are probably dominated by cancer cells that are resistant to chemotherapy, since they came from cells that survived these harsh and miserable chemicals.

That is what Faith learned recently that she is facing again - stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. And this time, her treatment will consist of a stem cell transplant after ruthless chemotherapy to destroy the cancer and her marrow. Right now, Faith is just trying to get through each day and night - the fear of the treatment, the misery of feeling so sick, the horrible migraines that she is experiencing. Her days are dominated by long and difficult medical appointments. I feel so badly that she has to go through this once more. It is very unfair, because once should have been more than enough.

I ran tonight, going four miles, trying to prepare for the Shamrock Half Marathon in just over a month. Ironically, just two years ago, Faith was there at this race with me and some other friends cheering for the runners. Running rarely feels easy for me. I struggle with it at times. But as I ran along tonight, I kept thinking of Faith and how difficult things are for her right now. Facing what she is facing makes any reasonable run easy by comparison. I wrote the other day how running by itself doesn't cure cancer. How I wish it could, because I would be willing to run a lot of miles if it would cure Faith and some other pals I have going through this nasty crap right now. But life doesn't work that way.

Even so, I have faith there will be a cure for Faith. She is determined to have her life back once again. It won't be easy - far from it. It will actually be hellish. One day at a time, Faith. One hour, one minute, one second at a time if need be. Stay strong, stay positive, stay brave, believe you will get through this, believe in yourself and in your doctors. I have faith in you.

As you go through difficult times in your life - unpleasantness at work, problems with kids, relationship angst, money issues - or even a tough run on a day you don't feel much like running - think of people like Faith and what their day is like. For most of us, our problems pale in comparison to someone facing stage 4 cancer. And if you are so inclined, pause for a second and say a little prayer for Faith - that her doctors will be wise, that she will stay strong and brave, that a cure will be hers someday soon, and that she will have her life back for many decades to come.


faith said...

wait till it is over before calling the chemo brutal. i'm having a hard time talking myself into this.

Racn4acure said...

I hope it won't be brutal, Faith. Take it a day at a time. I know it must be awful facing this. Art

Anonymous said...

Art, what a beautiful post. I found the link from Faith's
Caring Bridge page. Thank you for giving words to what she is facing and for the encouragement you wrote in the last two paragraphs. Thank you for what you are doing and for being a friend to Faith!

Lucy-another friend with faith in Faith

Racn4acure said...

Thanks, Lucy, for the comment. Even as a cancer survivor myself, I cannot really imagine what Faith is going through, but I know it is very tough. Faith in Faith is what a lot of us are feeling. Art