As most of you know, Jessica Richelieu, my incredible daughter that I love with all my heart, is in her third year of Medical School. I’d like to share a story about her.
Last July when we were at the Mountain Home Country Music Festival, we happened to make friends with the lovely ladies sitting behind us for the three day party. Four gals in their sixties who were all retired school teachers from Pocatello, ID…which is where Jess lived and went to undergrad at Idaho State University. Turns out, the gal she was talking to the most of this group, also graduated from ISU. She found out that Jess had gone on to medical school and wanted to know the specialty Jess would be pursuing. Jess explained that it was early in the game and she wouldn’t be deciding that for some time to come. This gal said, I am a two time cancer survivor. I had breast and uterine cancers and I kicked em both! She further stated that what she found was that the oncology community is sorely lacking in female doctors. She really wanted a woman oncologist since she was a woman with female cancers. She had to go all the way to Salt Lake city and get on a long waiting list in order to see a woman. Jess said; “I think that so much cancer and possible death might depress me, so I’ve never given it much credit for being a strong interest of mine”. The woman put her hand over her heart and looked Jess in the eye and said, “Oh, honey…it’s your doctor that gives you the awful news. Your oncologist gives you HOPE. Please don’t dismiss it until you research it. We need you.”
Honestly, I had goose bumps at that moment and I have experienced the goosebumps again every time I tell this story. I also find that I am telling the story quite often lately.
I believe in fate. I believe that everything happens for a reason. My cancer has already changed my life for the better in more ways than I can count and it’s teaching me a lot about myself. I absolutely ADORE my oncologist, Dr. Nitya Alluri, who is 34 years old and looks 24; but I’ve decided not to hold that against her! She DOES give me hope. She calls to check in and she’s honest about what’s going on, but she has the tools to help me and the desire to cure me and I’m confident in her ability. And when she speaks to me, I look at her and I can 100% see my daughter in her position. I just can. Could this be one of the bigger reasons that I have cancer? My girl, who loves her mom, and has held my hand, and done the research…that girl could potentially decide that she might belong in this hopeful place, building relationships with great people who need her intelligence and kindness and problem solving skills and bedside manner and even her beauty and light….all of these things…to give them HOPE and to give her the satisfaction of doing something really really important. For the rest of my life, I will appreciate the great work these people are doing here at Mountain States Tumor Institute. What an incredible, selfless way to spend your medical career.
Jessica’s truth is that she is far from decided and she has at least one other specialty at the top of her list right now and she continues to pursue the correct avenues to possibly go into that specialty as well. The “newer” truth is that she has now decided to put oncology with the other specialty as the two currently at the top of the list. She may not end up in either specialty, but its amazing to see that a little lady from Pocatello that Jess knew for 3 days, opened her mind to think about something that was important to her, Oncology. And then, Jess experienced her worse nightmare on the day that I was given my diagnosis. But the result of this diagnosis is that she opened her HEART to the possibility of Oncology. She has found that there is a great deal about this specialty that appeals to her and would also work well into her personal skill set.
Her career advisor send her a 150 question career personality assessment. She blew it out of the water on Internal Medicine, which is the residency you’d do and then you’d follow that with an oncology Fellowship. For her other first choice specialty (Anesthesiology) , she scored very high putting these two specialties as her first and second best matches. I guess she knows herself! Wherever she ends up, I will be supportive and proud, but I really felt this was a story worth telling. Each of us should keep our minds open to the possibilities. Never take life or anything else for granted and be ready to take the fork in the road and see where it leads.
For me, this past week was pretty good. I felt a lot better and got more work done. My hair started falling out by handfuls, so I went to my hairdresser and had it all cut off. That left me with stubble and a lot of (gross alert), pus-y pimples and ingrown hairs…so there’s that…but also I have been wearing my two fun wigs, one blonde (looks just like me), one brown (my chance to go incognito), and my fun scarfs, hats, turbans and doo rags. Lots of choices make an easier pill to swallow. When I’m home, unless my head is cold, I just go bald. It doesn’t bother me at all.
I’ve had some headaches, which are treatable with Motrin. I have some very good days and then I suffer from fatigue usually hitting in the late afternoon and evening, but I’ve managed to go out and do some evening activities because I don’t want to be held hostage by this bitch.
The best news of all, I’ve saved for the end. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that the chest CT I had after the first chemo indicated that the cancer was already shrinking. However, today when I met with my surgeon and he took measurements he was blown away. He asked me if I was sure I’d only had one chemo. Yes, I’m sure. It’s not something you would forget. Just sayin. So, anyhow, the 6 cm tumor has shrunk to 3 cm. What???? He said that I’m not just a good chemo/cancer warrior, I’m a great chemo/cancer warrior. He said he can only remember one other patient who responded this profoundly, this quickly. I prefer he call me (language alert) A FUCKING KICK ASS CHAMPION CANCER NINJA WARRIOR!!! It just has a ring to it that I like. I can’t say why for sure. The fight continues and my intent to WIN continues. And, yes, people reading this, my very best advise is to keep a good attitude, fight like a girl, know you can win it, don’t doubt. TELL yourself you’ll prevail, because you can. Smile and laugh and plan the next 20 years of your life. This is the very best medicine and I’m convinced it makes a bigger difference than you know. HOPE. Let’s all have hope for the best, which is yet to come.