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Tammy by rtp board member John Wefler
My oldest sister, Tammy, died of leukemia when I was only 7 years old. Her life and death touched so many, but still it was very hard for my family, even to this day. She was a poet and a dreamer who knew her time was limited and attempted to live life to its fullest. It was the 1970's and the science was just at the discovery of bone marrow transplants. My four other sisters and I were tested to see if we were compatible to be donors, but, to tragic ends, none of us were a perfect match. Nowadays, there is a national bone marrow registry (http://marrow.org/) and the survival rates for Tammy's cancer are now hovering around 90%. Progress was too slow for her, but the fight is proving successful over time.
At my sister's old college, there is a yearly award in her honor to the student: "whose inspiration and enthusiasm have promoted the highest standards of character and integrity in others".
When I was diagnosed with a lethal form of cancer at the tender age of 40, I wrote myself off until a group of family, friends, and complete strangers convinced me to fight for myself, even in the face of dire circumstances. And now, five years into remission, I've become a much better person thanks to the connections I've realized were important and the new ones I have forged. With this forced perspective, I live every day as if it could be my last, try to be true to my word and to be my best in most circumstances.
In all the good ways, I'm following in my sister's footsteps.
11/25/2012 Darrelyn Marx
I was a first-year university student when I got the news that my mother had cancer. She was in the third-stage of Hodgkins lymphoma and was only 39 years old. Needless to say, the news put me into a tailspin. I went to the library and started reading everything that was written about this terrible disease and it wasn't encouraging. Presently the chances of full recovery are high, but in the 1970's all we could do was hope for days that were pain free and comfortable for my mother.
Unfortunately we didn't pay attention to early warning signs of my mother's compromised immune system. For about five years before her diagnosis she would have severe bouts of illnesses that would send her to bed for weeks. One event that scared me to the core was when the nodes in her neck and arm swelled to proportions that made her unrecognizable. She would always get better and go on working at JC Penney's, maintain our household, and continue all of the crafts that she so enjoyed. In retrospect, she didn't want to worry us or burden us financially by going for additional tests.
My mother and I grew closer over the nine years that she battled the ups and downs of this disease. I was amazed by her strength and courage in view of all the doctors, hospitals, and medications that she had to face. She was burned by medication that was given intravenously, had way too many surgeries to count, and became a human pincushion. The week before she passed away was glorious - we took a road trip and visited everyone she wanted to see, and stopped at every store she pointed to. We talked, laughed, and sat in silence way into the night. In true form, she waited until I left for my own home before slipping away into a world free of pain. I still miss her terribly.
Love you mom,
11/03/2012 James Sparling
Here is my story about my father.
My father, daddy, died a wee while ago now, just before his 70th birthday and just after my 30th, from lung cancer. My sister and I were very lucky, he didn't suffer unduly and the hospice care he received was thoughtful, caring and considerate. The pain was managed as far as we could tell and his quality of life was respected and maintained as far as possible. I wasn't there when he died, I missed it by an hour or so, on the train from London to Liverpool.
He had a pain in his shoulder that his doctor told him was arthritic. It wasn't. It was cancer. Hopefully in the future a doctor will refer those symptons to a specialist sooner so they can possibly get the early preventative care that might make a difference. On these small moments do lives hang.