Thank you for the dose of reality.
My life is a mess. My house is a mess, I am a mess. Cancer is messing with my body. My thoughts mess with my mind.
Some days I just wanna wake up and like a Magic Eraser, have everything be perfect. A clean house, life, body, love. I do achieve these things on occasion, but then all the sudden things go horribly wrong. Like that little kid who spills grape juice all over the white carpet.
Like I was loving my new job, then all the sudden, they weren’t loving me, it seemed I just couldn’t do anything right. I truly do think cancer is messing with my mind and leaving me partially incapable of holding down a job and doing it well. I used to be able to do that, now why am I not able? My inability to function leaves me feeling messed up.
My checkbook is messy. For the life me I can’t figure out how to balance it, maintain a positive sum or even save a damn bloody dime. I used to rely on Nick to do that for me, and since he’s gone, so’s my account balance.
My lovelife is messy. I have a boyfriend. He’s messy too, from being a slob to being mercurial and unpredictable, he’s inextricably in love with me. I want out, he’s not the right person for me, in fact he often says that too me – we’re incompatible, we don’t communicate very well, our sex life sucks. How am I supposed to feel when he says things like this to me? He hates the fact that I can’t manage my finances; hey so don’t I, but like everything in my life, I just don’t seem capable of doing it. I want out but I can’t leave because I lost my job and lost the financial resources to be able to do so. I tried last year, ran into the same problem and crawled back to him begging for forgiveness and we tried to rebuild our relationship. For a while it worked, we cleaned up our messy details and things were better, tidier. But then, like anything swept under the rug, the messy issues started to poke out again and I don’t feel like I can take this new (same) messy pile any more.
I ran into an ex-boyfriend who’s got his own messy life to deal with and is grappling with major life decisions. Me too, I have to figure out what I need to do next and try to clean up my act. But what he doesn’t know is that I still love him, maybe not in the true, all-encompassing l-word way, but I care for him deeply and want to see him happy. Do I wish he’d see the good in me and want to take things to another level – sure. But like I said, I’m a mess, so why would he want to be involved with me? And now that I’ve written this, he’ll probably get out the can of Raid and aim toward me.
I still have cancer; it’s never going to go away. Right now it’s neat and tidy, all contained in one little spot, its previous invasions to my bones and lymph nodes seem to have been cleaned up thanks to the Scrubbing Bubbles of Adramycin. But I know, like everything in my life, it’ll return someday as a bigger mess.
All of these issues mess with my mind. What’s worse is that right now I am off my antidepressant because I ran out and my insurance company won’t let me have the dose my doctor wrote the scrip for and so it has to be appealed; but it’s moot now because I no longer have that insurance since I lost my job. What a freaking mess. Can I just have my drugs please?? I got new insurance through the healthcare marketplace at nearly $300 bucks a month; money I don’t really have, but I need the insurance more. I just hope my docs take it.
I have a cat who’s a mess. She old, blind and has stopped taking care of herself. I often feel like her. I’m lucky I can get out of bed, take a shower and get dressed these days. Makeup? Bra? Ha, why bother? She can’t seem to find the litter box anymore so she’s making a mess of the house which also adds to the mess of my relationship status. He’s getting awful tired of cleaning up cat pee. So am I. I need to let her go, it’s time, but it messes up my heart. I can’t bear to say goodbye to this sweet little soul who’s been by my side through a good part of my messy life. But it’s not fair of me to make her suffer either.
How does one clean up the messes life throws your way? In this case, Bounty’s not gonna work. Sure, get that Swiffer out and start sweeping up a little at a time, but don’t make sweeping changes all at once. You’ve got to start at the corners and work inward, til you get to the center of it all and finally pick up that pile of dirt. So, which corner do I start? Maybe I should start with what I can change, my attitude.
Where’s Mr. Clean when you need him?
I went to find something in my old college crate today. The crate was something I acquired nearly 30 years ago. It was a simple, handmade wooden steamship crate with rope handles that got me back and forth to school and held all my treasured possessions. Thirty years later it’s still in remarkably good shape and it still holds my treasured possessions. It’s kind of like a Pandora’s Box, I’m not really sure what’s at the bottom any more so I haven’t yet dug down all the way to see what’s hidden in the depths. Maybe Hope’s still lurking there.When I opened the crate today I gasped. It was a jumbled mess. What had been so carefully laid to rest was in a musty heap. Then I remembered. It had been out in the hallway of his house, and one night he stubbed his toe on it and to retaliate against an inanimate object, he kicked it over sending the contents tumbling helter-skelter. Looking at it now, I wanted to cry out of anguish and anger. I have never reordered it because it was too painful to want to go back and make sense of it all.
My life is kinda like that, jumbled and messy. Full of memory; looking for Hope. I do retain some Hope in the form of the fact that my cancer scans keep saying I’m still with NED, but now I’m also dating the Stable Boy, i.e. my scans are holding steady, nothing new to report. I stopped taking Ibrance because it was ruining my digestive track so the only thing that stands between me and cancer these days is one tiny hormone blocker pill. Pretty remarkable, eh? Especially since I keep reading how many seemingly stable metsers are suddenly dying very quickly. It makes me very sad and angry and scared. I don’t want to be that person just yet.
I went back to my old college crate to try and find a piece of myself that I’d stashed away. Some former vestige of myself, the person Before Cancer. It’s in there somewhere along with scores of old, old family photographs that were my grandmother’s. Pictures of her and my grandfather as raccoon-coated Cornell students, baby pictures of my Dad, old photos of all the foster babies my mother had cared for. There things I’d squirreled away, high school photos, my varsity jacket, high school and college mortarboards. Buried in the bottom are also all the cards and love letters from Nick. I couldn’t bear to just throw them away; it would seem emblematic of the trashing of what we’d once shared. Down in the bottom too, are love letters from high school boyfriends; why I saved them I don’t know, I guess I’m just a sentimental fool. I can’t bear to read through them thinking of young silly love that seemed so mature at the time, and how hurt I was when the relationships ended. Back then, it seemed like the world had ended, but now I think how much those relationships shaped me and I think that’s why I kept those letters, to remind me of who I am and how far I’ve come.
I just spent a fantastic weekend on Cape Cod with some of my oldest friends. Ten of my college friends all met in Chatham and stayed for the weekend in a lovely home where we could catch up, stay up late, reminisce and laugh. These women are my friends for life and I am so grateful for their love and support. As one of my friends said, we are all strong, beautiful women because of each other. They’re still as strong and sturdy as my old college crate. Chatham is my happy place; I can touch the ocean, hear the gulls and look back fondly on special things that happened there, like my wedding. I cherish the times there, old and new.
I recently connected with another bit of my past; one of the boys who sent me those old love letters. He’s grown up now, with a family all his own. Like me, he’d married his college sweetheart and built a life with her only to have it end in divorce. The good thing is that he too remains close friends with her, like I do with Nick. He’s got kids to think of, we only had cats. I vividly remember our relationship; he was my first real boyfriend and my first true love. He took me to my first rock concert, the Police. Our love song was “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and we’d even exchanged rings. He went to a different school, so I felt special wearing his varsity jacket. He was a great writer and always sent me handwritten notes, and I faithfully wrote back. Since he was a senior, he gave me a promise ring before he went off to military school. I still have that delicate gold ring. I cherish it actually. Then, as stupid young girls are wont to do, I broke his heart. I met another boy while he was away and dumped him cold. Over the years, I’ve come to realize I’d probably let a good one get away, he was open, honest and sweet and I didn’t realize how good I’d once had it until I met Nick.
Yet here he was, reaching out to me, to say hi, to catch up; and I was scared. Here was someone I hadn’t seen in more than 30 years and I was nowhere near the skinny, braces-glasses-80s-perm girl I once was. We had a long conversation on the phone one day, and it was wonderful. Turns out, he and I share a lot of the same interests and passions. It warmed my heart. We then met for dinner and I almost dropped my martini when he came in. Of course he’s the same good-looking guy I remembered, just a little older and wiser. Time has given him soft crinkles around those baby blues and my heart fluttered when he smiled. Time melted away as we talked, and I felt a little envious of the man he’d become and the woman he’d married. As Jana Kramer sang, “I got the boy, and she got the man.” I felt so inadequate.
We met for another dinner one night and talked more. Turns out he’d had his heart broken again in another relationship, and this time he may not get over it. That breaks mine, how could someone do this to such a nice guy? I almost want to hate this unknown woman. I want him to be happy, not broken like me.
Nick shattered my heart and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. My body is broken from cancer and I’m unhappy with the state of my life. I’m unhappy with the relationship I’m in; I know he’s not the right one and yet I feel paralyzed to do something about it. It’s comfortable, it’s easy and simple. But that’s not what I want. I long for more. I want deep, meaningful conversation, traveling, wine, music and mellowness by a crackling fire on a long winter’s night. I lost a piece of me when I lost Nick, and I want it back. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to be myself, to be the real person I am; I’ve always felt guarded and misunderstood. Have I ever really opened my heart and let him in? Maybe I haven’t, because I don’t want it shattered like what happened to my old flame. Yes, he says he loves me for all my fatness and sickness and accepts me for it. But I don’t really believe him because sometimes his hidden anger comes through, and he’s mean and nasty and says hurtful things to me. How do I let myself continue to live like this? Again, it’s because I don’t have the strength to lift my broken wings. He says I’m the girl with far away eyes, and I guess I am.
But I’m also the girl with Hope lurking in her old college chest; I just have to find her and let her out.
I took my love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down.
Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
So Snowzilla has stomped away leaving behind so much snow, D.C. looks to be paralyzed for a few days. It’s prompted me to sit back and ponder both the past and present. I posted some oldies but goodies photos on Facebook of friends and events nearly 30 years ago. It’s hard to believe that I’m 48, just two steps away from 50. How the Hell did I get here? It’s been a journey all right. While sometimes I struggle with the thought that I’ve not amounted to much, I can see in my photos, Facebook posts and looking at the lines on my face, I guess I have gotten somewhere. It’s been joyful, tearful, easy and difficult. I’ve gained and lost friends and family and I wouldn’t trade any of them for the world. They are everything to me.
I haven’t written in a while because I wanted to step back and reflect on things. Sure, I was all gung-ho to participate in the October Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness activities and raise my voice loud so that people hear our plea: Stage IV Needs More. Sure, I still rant on FB about the injustices that women facing breast cancer go through. It’s gotten rather ugly at times and that makes me very sad. Why are we fighting about the issue we’re trying to raise awareness about?
My life has also been a bit tumultuous. I had a job, left it; took another, got fired (thank God); was unemployed (with no health insurance) for three months and then finally landed at a job that I love and makes me feel wanted and productive. I nearly left my boyfriend, but we worked things out and I can honestly say things are better than ever; we finally are communicating and understanding one another better. Sometimes you need to take a step back and look at your reflection.
That’s why I’ve been quiet; I wanted to take time for myself. I am feeling really good right now, my cancer seems to be under control. I have scans next week, so we’ll see if the scans agree with my feelings. I wanted to enjoy the life I have now for ever how long I’ve got.
As I turned 48, a couple of things struck me. I am the same age my mother was when she died from cancer, and that was 40 years ago. I am going to outlive my mother; how sobering. I’ve watched a lot of women younger than me suddenly pass away from cancer, Holly Kitchen most especially comes to mind; she leaves behind two little boys. How did I get so “lucky” to still be here and she’s not. Life (cancer) is a roulette wheel; you never know where you’re gonna land.
I’m grateful for little things, like having hair again. I was able to retire my wig over the summer. It’s very curly, thank you chemotherapy. Since I was a child of the 80s, I used to endure perms to get my hair this curly. Who knew cancer could provide it for me at the price of an infusion. I’m waiting as long as I can to see my hairdresser, but my hair is starting to grow like a femmullet, so I may have to break down and go see her so I can tame the unruliness.
My chemofog seems to be going away too, which is helpful on the job. I’m finding I can concentrate better and feel more focused. Thankfully too, I’m not as dog-tired as I used to be.
I can actually say that the only thing menopause has gifted me with is dry skin. As a person with formally oily skin; I’m pleased. My face requires very little maintenance these days and I can go out without heavy makeup.
The oral chemo seems to be working so far. My tumor has shrunk and my oncologist said that the redness and swelling seems to be gone too. Hey, I may actually have same-sized boobs again, not the freaky grapefruit on one side and normal boobage on the other. I only hope that it continues to work, so many people have said that all the sudden, drugs stop working and the next thing you know, you’re starting down your demise. That scares me to death.
I am glad to be a part of a network of women dealing with breast cancer on Facebook. It’s been informative, supportive and sometimes heartbreaking. There are amazing women out there and many of them are strong advocates for the cause of research, education and funding. I cheer them on and am proud to be a friend.
Sure, I could be and have been like them, but right now, I’m standing back letting others take the charge. Some could say I’m copping out, giving up; bur I’m not really. I’m just looking at my reflection on the snow covered hill and appreciating all I’ve got before the landslide of death takes me down.
It’s cold and snowy, so I’m going to leave you with a warming drink.
- 1 shot bourbon
- 1 shot Bluecoat Wood-aged gin
- ½ shot Allspice dram
Muddle a cherry (preferably bourbon soaked) in the bottom of your shaker, then add ice and all your liquor. Shake well and pour in an old-fashion glass. Add cherry or bourbon-based bitters and garnish with another cherry and an orange slice.
I am a fat woman. There, I said it. It’s something I have to come to term with. I am fat; actually morbidly obese, if you go by the BMI index, my height and weight send me there. Yay. So I’ve got that going for me, in addition to cancer.
There are those out there who say cancer is a direct cause of my weight; that it feeds on the excess estrogen and cortisol my body produces. There are those that say that if I lost weight, my cancer odds would go down, even be cured. I do know I’d feel a lot better about myself if I lost this weight.
I have tried Weight Watchers twice with varied success, a doctor supervised very low calorie diet and on my own too. None seem to have sticking power. I lose then regain, that familiar cycle we all know so well. I know how I gained weight. Thanks to surgeries that put me on crutches and drugs that fine-tuned my psyche, I put on the pounds. After my affair, I hid behind food, feeling that if I were less svelte I wouldn’t be noticed anymore. That food could get me back into my husband’s heart, that it would give me solace. When I got divorced, food gave me moral support, a means to make myself feel better when people couldn’t.
I love to cook, I love to eat. I love to drink. It’s hard when you have a new man in your life and you want to make him happy; to impress him; to love you for what you put on the table before him. I am more worried about him being happy with his meal than my own. He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so vegetables and fish can be a challenge. Fortunately, he loves to cook so we have a lot of fun in the kitchen cooking meals together. That’s a trap too I guess, cooking meals that are mutually satisfying, and we all know that love involves cream, butter, eggs, indulgences that are just as good as what’s between the sheets.
Cancer forces you to come to terms with things too. You’re forced to realize your own vulnerability, your own mortality. Sometimes it can make you angry, or sad simply glad to be alive. It can also make you hungry. People often wrongly joke “oh now you can lose weight” thanks to the “Chemo Diet.” I’m sorry to say that chemo didn’t affect my appetite. The docs loaded me up with so much anti-nausea drugs that it didn’t phase me. On top of that, they added steroids to help ease pain. So instead of not wanting to eat, I wanted to eat everything in sight. I’m also one of those people who when thanks to the altered taste in my mouth (another side effect of chemo), I want to keep eating to try and get rid of the taste…
Many people with cancer change their diet in an effort to combat their disease. I haven’t changed mine, nor do I intend to. During the summer I enjoy hitting up the local farm stands and buying tons of beautiful produce. I spend my Sundays often cooking great meals with the harvest I’ve gathered and there’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting down to a meal filled with colorful fruits and veggies and meat hot off the grill. Oh and a glass of French rosè in my hand as well.
Being fat still lurks in the back of my mind. Especially when I put on clothes. Suddenly thing that weren’t tight shrank in my closet overnight. It’s a struggle to find flattering work clothes. Why do many clothing makers seem to think that every fat girl wants sleeveless tops or ones that fall to their knees? I’m short; I don’t want to hide behind an overly large top. Or they assume that larger sizes mean taller people, again, I’m short, while the waist may fit great, I have to take the pants up a couple of inches. And often the clothes are just downright ugly. Not every fat girl wants to wear bright colors and sequins. Thank god for Modcloth; I can’t tell you how many awesomely cool outfits for fat girls I’ve found there.
Being fat limits your mobility and makes you tired. Just like cancer. The two combined makes things all that much more difficult. Exercise is great for both, but when you’re just too tired and worn down, how can you find the energy to get out and walk? Plus it hurts; bone mets makes everything painful. I know I can find every excuse in the book to not get up and exercise and I’m very good at being self-defeating. Something else I need to work on.
The cancer and obesity link is being studied, which is a good thing. Unfortunately, the studies want people who are Stage I-III, not Stage IV which is too bad because Stage IV needs more research and people at this point in their cancer life are living longer and therefore deserve more studies.
I feel happy and embarrassed that Hunny loves me just the way I am. While it’s reassuring, it’s hard to hear him say “I love all those extra rolls, fat girls are sexy.” He’s referring to me, and I hate hearing someone else, even him, call me fat. It’s a hurtful word and I know many women struggle with this term. Fat-shaming has become a hot topic online and there’s a movement afoot to blunt it. But what do you do when you’re fat shaming yourself? Body acceptance is hard for me, when I look at my face in the mirror, I don’t see the fat girl, but when I see my whole body, I realize that I really am fat and I look away. I don’t like to see reality. It was hard to look at myself in the mirror when I lost all my hair from chemo, I felt like it was a surreal alternate place and that I wasn’t really going through all that hell. That’s why I wore the wig, and still do, I want to feel a semblance of myself before I got cancer, I want to feel “normal.” The wig’s a shield from the truth. Kind of like billowy clothes when you’re fat.
I’m at a new chapter with cancer now. I’m on a new drug that seems to have cancer at bay for now and I feel better, I really do. People have even been telling me I look better. Guess I never realized I looked bad. Huh. So, I have a new lease on life and I should do something about the rest of my health. First thing I need to examine is the how and why and what to do about how I feel about myself. Admitting you have a problem is the first step…
So, I’m Norah and I’m fat.
But since I can’t leave well enough alone, I’m going to give you a cocktail to drown your sorrows, and rejoice because it makes use of summer’s gloriously, fresh and juicy blackberries!
Drown Your Sorrows
- 2 shots vodka
- 1 shot crème de violette
- 14-1/2 shot simple syrup (depends on how sweet your berries are or how sweet you like your drink)
- 2-3 ripe blackberries
- Lavender bitters
Muddle everything save for the bitters in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and pour into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a fresh blackberry and add bitters to taste.
Ok so, this post is in response to a challenge posted by Nancy’s Point. We want everyone who is facing cancer to get the word out that we’re more than just our cancer diagnosis; we are real people, living amazing lives. So betcha didn’t know these things about me:
1. My maiden name is Stoughton, I am a descendant of the 17th-century Stoughtons who came to Massachusetts from England. My ancestors include a judge on the Salem Witch Trials and the first governor of Massachusetts. There are towns named Stoughton in Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Manitoba, Canada. I was married to a descendant of Cotton Mather, the famous Salem Witch Trial minister. Our ancestors knew one another, and their families had married once before! My ex-husband and I always joked that we were cursed by those witches we condemned.
2. I played oboe for about four months. My Dad thanked me when I quit. But I played clarinet for 5 years.
3. I am mathematically challenged. While I was in Honors classes for everything else, I was in remedial math.
4. I am an only child, my parents adopted me at birth. But I came into a family that has many wonderful step-siblings. So, I am the youngest of one set, and the oldest of another.
5. I was a Girl Scout camp counselor.
6. I got a varsity letter in marching band.
7. I had oral facial reconstruction surgery my senior year in high school, my jaws were wired shut for 8 weeks, I got them unwired just before senior prom. Steak never tasted so good.
8. I can’t drive a stick shift.
9. I thought seriously about becoming a chef. I love to cook, but hate to bake.
10. I can use a manual snow blower. Hey – I grew up in the Snow Capitol of the country!
11. I am extremely introverted. I really was a geek in high school. I guess I still am a geek.
12. I can’t speak a foreign language, I took 5 years of Latin.
13. I love gardening. I’m not very good at it.
14. I love wine. A lot.
15. I know how to and have brewed beer. Relax and have a homebrew!
I recently went back to Myrtle Beach to participate in my niece’s Relay for Life event. I felt it was important to be there to support her; it wasn’t about me. But yet, when you have cancer and are a participant in the event, suddenly you are honored and loved for being a Survivor. You get a fancy sash and parade around the track like a pageant queen accepting flowers from adoring fans. I felt like such a fraud. Am I really a survivor since I’m living with metastatic cancer? I’m not really going to survive, it’s going to kill me eventually.
Survivor is a loaded term in the cancer world. Some people hate the label, some embrace it. As for me, I use the word only to describe those who have truly beaten the disease, those that will never see another cancer cell in their lifetime. They are the lucky ones. The term fighter is also bandied about like we’re at war with our bodies. To a certain extent we are; this disease invades our cells and sets up a bunker that’s hard to breach. We send in an army of treatments and sometimes it breaches the bunker and sometimes it doesn’t. So if my current arsenal fails am I defeated by the enemy? No, I am just another foot soldier carrying the banner of disease. When I die I’ll be labeled as someone who lost the battle. That seems to be a misnomer too, I didn’t want to fight, I am a pacifist by nature. I don’t want it to sound like I went down in defeat. I’m winning by simply accepting my disease and living life to the fullest despite it.
Any chance I get to live life at the fullest, I’ll take. I went back to my old school (thank you Walter and Donald) for my – gasp – 25th college reunion. It was a weekend where I could see old friends and cheer on my classmate who received an Honorary Doctorate and who was the keynote speaker. She is a dear friend who is living life to the fullest, traveling around the world to deliver aid and comfort to those who need it most. She sees a lot of pain and sadness in her job, and I know it haunts her, but her courage is endless. In her speech, she encouraged graduates to believe they can and will change the world for the better and to never lose empathy. It’s a profound statement – if you have care, compassion and hope, you can live life to the fullest. Even if you have nothing else, like those refugees who pour into the relief camps where my friend visits.
Cancer takes everything from you, your dignity, your health, your spirit, your hair. It leaves you with nothing. But if you are armed with care, compassion and hope, you are a survivor. Deep down inside these things live, like the tiny flame that Pandora found when she opened the box and let all the world’s evils out. Cancer is like that, a Pandora’s Box of feelings and emotions that can make you angry, sad and glad for what you have left.
I relished that weekend. I could forget that I had cancer for once and remember why I loved being a part of my college. Most importantly, seeing the friends who still love me and support me even if they’re not right by my side. Nick was a part of my college life too. We were so young when we met and coming back, it felt like we were still that innocent age. Now, we were two old friends who were comfortable together, even after we’ve gone our separate ways. In her speech, my friend said, “we are sometimes gifted with people who come into our lives and see things in us that we don’t recognize in ourselves.” Nick is one of those people; he sees and reinforces my strength, even when it gets lost in my feelings of self-doubt and fear.
I’m placing hope in medicine right now and gaining strength through understanding my disease and my body. I am grateful to be on a new drug called Ibrance that’s supposed to double the life expectancy of people with metastatic breast cancer like me. I had to fight to get it though. Insurance companies are another one who put up bulwarks that need to be surmounted by your will to live. How can one survive when the people who are supposed to be helping you throw out obstacles? Sick patients shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they can afford groceries or their medicines; they should be able to have both. I am grateful for insurance covering the vast majority of my care and I feel infinitely sorry for those who don’t have that luxury. Are they surviving? Barely.
I have survivor’s guilt. I see way too many women dying so young from metastatic breast cancer, it saddens me. They were busy trying to live their lives to the fullest when suddenly it was cut short. It angers me too that most folks don’t know enough about metastatic cancer; that it’s the real indiscriminate killer. There’s no cure, there’s little hope and little funding toward its research. It scares me that even women who have this disease don’t know enough about it. I was diagnosed with it right from the beginning of my cancer dance, so I educated myself and learned every move I could. I can only hope that one day I’ll be able to enjoy a dance with NED (no evidence of disease) but for now, I’ll be content to stand against the wall hoping my cancer doesn’t soon want a dance with death.
I’m thriving because I have the love and compassion of others around me. While I wore the Survivor’s sash at Relay for Life, Hunny wore the Caregiver sash, walking by my side, holding my hand and giving me courage to continue. I wished I could give that sash to more folks, because I have so many people who truly care for me and nurture my soul. They’re the reason I survive. And despite my terminal prognosis, I know I’ll continue to live in people’s hearts and minds because they’ll never lose their care, compassion and empathy.