Her name is Janet. I met her in the Walmart checkout line last week. Yes, I know. Even my husband asked incredulously – “Even in the Walmart checkout?” She was sporting a neckbrace collar and pushing a stroller with a small baby sleeping in it and trying to get her items onto the checkout counter. All I said was, “That doesn’t look like fun.” And we started a conversation…
This is her story.
She was in a bad car accident 8 years ago and her neck never recovered but she said that it was the least of her concerns.
Janet is the grandma to this little baby boy. Her daughter is fighting cancer. She was 21 and engaged when she was diagnosed and went through surgery and chemo. The dr. advised her that if she was planning to have children, she should do it now in case the cancer came back. So she got married and they had a baby BUT during her pregnancy it became increasingly obvious that the chemo drugs had damaged not only her lungs but also her heart and she was getting sicker. More tests were done and because of the pregnancy hormones, the cancer was back and growing fast. Grandma Janet was taking care of her grandson while her daughter and husband were seeing a specialist. This girl is now 23 and fighting for her life.
Janet was crying in the Walmart checkout as she told me her story. We shared an awesome hug – stranger to stranger and yet if a friendship can be formed in 5 minutes or less, it was sister to sister.
I told her that I would pray for a Christmas miracle.
Would you join me?
I had a day last week where, in two separate incidents, people recognized me as the writer of “that book”.
It’s so humbling because I’ve never enjoyed the spotlight. I’m not sure what God was thinking when he chose me for this assignment – kind of the Moses thing. You know, he says, Ask my brother because he talks better than I do. I guess I’m learning that he knows what he’s doing.
The first incident happened at lunchtime. I was meeting some family members at a restaurant and I was standing at the entrance waiting to be ushered to a table, when 2 women walked up and one of them asked me if I was Sherri Hildebrandt, author of “that book about cancer”. We talked for a bit and they left. The young waitress working at the restaurant was standing there waiting to show me to my table. And she heard us talking. And when they were gone, she asked, “You wrote a book?” I answered her questions and then she asked where she could buy a copy. I don’t think she was older than 20 so I told her it wasn’t a feel good, pretty story because cancer isn’t pretty. I asked why she would want to read it. She told me with tears in her eyes that her own mother had fought a bout of cancer before she was even born and she was convinced that her mom was the way she was because of her cancer battle. But her mom won’t talk about it. So this girl was thinking that the book might answer some of her own questions and maybe help her talk about it with her mother. She asked me how anyone can possibly get through all the treatments and survive. I told her that without God and my faith in Him, I didn’t think I would have been able to. But I said he gave me the strength and the courage and the peace to get through some very difficult times. And she wiped her eyes and led me to my table.
Later that same day, I went to my niece’s Christmas piano recital. After it was over, people were milling around eating Christmas oranges and oreo cookies and greeting each other. I really didn’t know anyone. The recital was at an unfamiliar church in the big city. But I met some old neighbours from my childhood years and they also commented on how they hadn’t found a copy of my book but wanted to read it. We chatted and then the woman left to talk to somebody else. This older gentleman and I delved into a great conversation about how he had quit his job the day before and was wondering what God had in store for him for the next chapter of his life. We discussed how God can use us no matter where we are or what we’re doing if we’re committed to His will and trust Him. It was an interesting conversation because that’s the same dilemma I’m having – what to do with the next chapter.
I don’t want to waste my story of God’s grace and intervention in my life during my cancer year. But what does that mean? I felt so led to write it down and get it published. But now what?
The book signings have been such a great ministry avenue but now the doors have been opened to encounters such as what I experienced in this one day last week. I am excited and empowered to see what this week holds…
Not sure where to start…
Someone told me a story today that knocked my socks off. Yes, it’s about my book but it’s so much more.
This person travels for her work and in July of this past summer, she visited an office here in MB. One of the staff had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was scheduled for surgery in the next few days. This person told them about my book.
She found out recently that the manager of this office went out and bought books for her entire office staff. They all read it so they would know what their colleague was facing during treatment and discussed the book together. When the woman going through treatment would tell them about what was happening, they knew what she was talking about and were able to understand better because of reading the details of treatment in the book. Kind of like a book club/support group. Isn’t that unbelievable?
I’m absolutely humbled by this. I didn’t know what to say when she told me. It’s so exciting to know that this book has a life of it’s own and special people are spreading the news by wordofmouth and it’s getting into the hands of the people who need it.
Oh, I asked, and the woman in treatment is doing okay.
Two significant things to talk about.
The first is about my dr.’s visit yesterday. Relax – it’s all good. But again, the stress and trauma of knowing you have an appointment coming up and driving to the appointment and then sitting in that office again never gets old or boring. I’ve tried to keep extra busy so I don’t have time to worry but I had some hellish nights trying to sleep before the appointment. This particular one was with the surgeon who performed the biopsy and was the lucky one to inform me of the diagnosis. She is also the one who performed my two surgeries – the initial lumpectomy and then the complete axialliary dissection. Anyway, it’s good to see her and have her check things out and just talk about how things are going. She’s great and I came out of her office smiling and wondering why I had been so worried going in. Oh, yeah, she’s the bearer of bad news… But the good news is that she is referring me to see another oncologist who is knowledgeable about the aromatase inhibitor that I’ve been on for 2.5 years and will need to be on for another 2.5. I asked if I could speak to someone and get a second opinion on how the incidence of recurrence is actually affected by this drug. I need to know if there is a chance that I could stop taking it and not ruin my chances of survival. Because then I’m taking it and I’ll try to continue to live with the side effects as well as I can.
The second October fun news is that I’ve started to attend a fitness program for Breast Cancer survivors through Breast Health Centre at St. Boniface Hospital. And it’s been great to get to know other survivors but I didn’t realize that getting into a formal exercise and strengthening program would make such a difference in my overall outlook on life. I’m doing something very tangible in trying to get better and hopefully be healthier and be able to ward off a recurrence. The ultimate motivation for me is not only to live longer, but to live with more stamina and endurance for playing with and taking care of my grandgirlies and the new baby that’s coming in March. The two year olds can run circles around me and I’m usually quite exhausted after taking care of them. It’s always fun and I love them dearly but man, I can get tired. So hopefully I can stick to the plan and eat healthier, maybe lose a bit of weight and with the exercise regimen, I can keep up with those lil’ critters.
Our team, Remission Accomplished made up of family and friends raised close to $2000 this year. Yes, Run for the Cure is an event intended to raise money for breast cancer awareness, research and treatment BUT the actual event is so much more than that. Speaking from a survivor’s perspective, it is a gut-wrenching emotional experience coupled with a euphoric celebratory high. You remember the tough road you walked during the fight and how others came alongside you and helped you get through the journey. And you feel the glorious thrill of knowing that so far, you have survived and you are alive and living life.
I experience all of this when I participate in Run for the Cure. It’s a great way to raise money and do my bit to fight for a cure.
Yesterday, I was involved in an experience at Run for the Cure that brought the reality of cancer home to me and everyone around me. A young woman whom I had never met before, stopped me as I was joining my team on the floor level getting ready to start our walk together. She was with her own team – her team buddies were wearing not much more than bras and panties and pink toques. This girl touched my arm and said, “Thank you for being so brave.” I stopped to look at her and she had tears in her eyes. I answered, “I’m not being brave – I’m just surviving.” She started crying. I took her in my arms and asked her, “Who have you lost?” She told me that her mom had died of cancer a few years earlier and she lost her dad this past year. I let her know I was very sorry and told her to hang in there. This complete stranger and I shared a hug and then we went our separate directions. But we shared a moment of stark painful reality – cancer isn’t pink and fuzzy and fun. It hurts and touches people all around us. I was glad I was there. I will never forget this particular Run.
It’s been a whirlwind past few weeks.
I celebrated my birthday by speaking to a wonderful group of young mothers at the Bethel Morning Out for Mom’s. What a great bunch of women. They inspired me more than they’ll ever know. I realized, again, that cancer is not a fun topic – even if you throw in a joke or two. And as young mothers, I can only imagine the fear of a diagnosis. I know how profound and traumatic it was for me and my kids were young adults, not babies! The Q+A time was eye-opening and informative for me and I know that when I speak at upcoming opportunities, I’ll think twice about who the audience is. I don’t know if I would have changed anything about what I said to these mom’s but it helps me know what to expect from a group of younger women the next time. Thanks, Bethel MOM’s, for allowing me to spend the morning with you 🙂
And this past week…it’s been a whirlwind of unexpected blessings. I went for an innocent dental appt. – check up and cleaning and ended up selling 3 books kind of accidentally. I can’t help telling others what I’ve been up to. I mean, what are you supposed to say if they ask? So I tell them. The hygienist happened to have been at the Wild Pink Yonder party in St. Annes the night before and so we had lots to talk about. (see previous post) It was difficult because she had tools in my mouth and kept asking me questions that I couldn’t answer! Great morning.
After my appt. I went hunting for pink camo fabric for Run for the Cure. My team is called Remission Accomplished and we wear pink camouflage. I walked right past a bookstore after my shopping and I stopped in for some pre-Christmas ideas. The owner was behind the counter and I discussed my book with him. His wife came over and wanted to hear more. She came up with the idea to have a book signing as soon as possible with October being breast cancer awareness month. They absolutely loved the idea and are supporting me 200%. Wonderful people. So…I am announcing my next book signing will take place next week, Thursday and Friday (10-4) at Fact or Fiction Book and Gift Shop in Steinbach, MB.
And tomorrow is Run for the Cure. This deserves it’s own post so I’ll wait to talk about it more after it’s over. I can’t help but reminisce about the one that took place three years ago when I was too sick from chemo treatments to attend. My daughters were highly pregnant with their baby girls. They, along with about 25 other family and friends, made up Team Sherri and walked the 5k in support of my fight. We didn’t know then that I would be able to be there for the next one, and two and tomorrow will be my third. And my grandgirlies have been there for every one!
I had no idea that I would be so blessed by the evening I spent with the riders who are participating in the Wild Pink Yonder Manitoba Tour. When I was asked to speak at the dinner that a group of town supporters were putting on for the Ride, I thought I would tell my story to people who were already “along for the ride”. But after telling my story, the room was opened up to other people to share why they are participating or to share their stories. And they did. It became an inspiring and at times weepy evening of sharing and encouragement.
It is simply inspirational to hear how breast cancer has touched the lives of others and how either they themselves or their loved ones are doing whatever they can to raise money for the cause. It bonds us as a family.
I thought it would be an evening of pink cowboy hats and pink cowboy boots and country music. Well, we had country music in the background but I forgave them. After all, we’re family.
We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary on Sept. 2nd. I don’t think we realized 3 years ago that every anniversary from then on would take on even greater significance. We had planned a European vacation to celebrate our 30th anniversary but we ended up in the oncology unit having my 4th chemo treatment on Sept. 2nd, 2008. So now every anniversary is a reminder of where we were and how far we’ve come. Every anniversary we feel so very blessed that we are both still here and enjoying doing life together. We don’t take any milestones for granted. Thank you Lord for giving us more time together. We appreciate it 🙂
Yup – Run for the Cure event is just around the corner. On Sunday, October 2nd my team of friends and family will be running/walking the CIBC Run for the Cure to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer. My team is called Remission Accomplished and we wear pink camo to signify not only my own personal “war” but the fight of anyone with a diagnosis of breast cancer. Now that I’m the grandma of two little girls this fight becomes very important. I don’t ever want them to have to experience what I did and if doing my bit in raising funds for research and treatment makes a difference, I’m doing it.
If you read this and are inspired to join the team, please do. You can sign up on the CIBC Run for the Cure website. Go to Winnipeg location, and pick Team Remission Accomplished and join. You can choose to register with a $40 reg. fee or pledge to raise a minimum of $150. Do this by Sept. 16th.
Or if I’ve inspired you to give a donation, please do. You can go to the CIBC Run for the Cure website and pick me as the participant and donate. Any amount will be your own way of fighting the fight.
I’m excited to do the Run again. My grandbabies have been at every run – the first in their mommies tummies 🙂 As they get older they will understand more and I can explain to them the story of the year they were born in the middle of their grandma’s cancer journey.
I’ve had a nice break through the summer but it’s time to get going again. I have my first speaking engagement of the fall booked now and it feels good. I have something concrete on my calendar that is doing something towards my goal of encouraging others with my story and my book. Not that I haven’t been doing that without an agenda. But if there’s something I’ve learned, it’s that when you don’t plan things intentionally and with a goal in mind, they generally don’t happen.
So a shout out to anyone reading this – I have dates open for speaking to your group – whether it’s a support group, a women’s group, a reading club, or just a bunch of friends. Just contact me and we’ll figure it out. I’m excited to be able to share what’s on my heart with others.