If you’ve poked around this blog much, you probably know that I have terminal/incurable stage 4 kidney cancer. It is aggressive. It shrugs off nearly all traditional cancer treatments. The five-year survival rate is about ten percent.
Long story short, this is not an easy burden to bear. A cancer diagnosis thrusts you into an alien world of medical jargon and procedures. Never-ending scans and blood draws and biopsies. You, as an outsider, have to learn to navigate this strange new world so you can make nearly impossible choices about your body and your life every single day.
In this experience, I cannot even begin to express the value of having someone to talk to who knows exactly what you’re going through. I was lucky. I met two women just like me. Young(ish), navigating a cancer that primarily affects older men and people over sixty, receiving treatments at the same hospital I do. We talked. About drugs, doctors, clinical trials, side effects. Because they understood. Because we were on the journey together. They were my support.
Today, I mourn. Both of these women–Brandie and Ann–have died in the past ten days.
And I didn’t see it coming. Not at all. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. I mourn for their children and partners. Their friends. I mourn for everything they will miss, for all the years of life they didn’t get.
And I am selfish. I mourn for myself, because I have been cast out in a stormy sea without a life jacket. And I don’t know why I am alive and they are not. It’s a strange thing, survivor’s guilt.
I took for granted that we could beat the odds, the three of us. I took for granted that they would be there, that the next treatment, the next FDA-approved drug would be “The One” that saved us all.
Alas, we are still so far away from a miracle.
If you read this blog or have poked around on any of my author pages, you also know that I donate a chunk of the profits from my book sales to kidney cancer research. Because it’s a cancer that’s desperately underfunded. Treatment and understanding of the disease are twenty years behind more well-funded cancers, such as breast and prostate.
I donate as much as I can, but I am a small potatoes writer. I’m not raking in millions. I can’t change the world alone.
But every little but helps. Today, I’ve donated an extra $250 to the Kidney Cancer Research Alliance in honor of Ann and Brandie. KCCure awards $100,000 research grants to scientists working on treatments and cures.
I don’t ask for money lightly. If you could join me, and donate in honor of Ann and Brandie, even if you only have $1 or $5 to spare. It would mean the world to me.
It’s too late to save Ann. Or Brandie. And me. But you might save another person like us in the future.
If nothing else, remember life is short and fleeting. It doesn’t last forever. That is why life is beautiful. Hold the people you love closer to you tonight.