Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Cheer in Trying Times

By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
AANP Past-President (2008-2009)
Photo by CCAC North Library via Flickr, used
under the Creative Commons License.
‘Tis the season to be jolly! … A whole season to be full of joy, conviviality, glee and laughter.  I reflect on that as I think about two patients. One is an extremely vivacious, fast-talking, go-and-get-‘em young woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She concluded integrative therapy early this Fall. She felt great and her motivation to continue to live healthfully was strong. She even took her mile-a-minute self into a Tai Chi class and is learning to love the peaceful gracefulness of this exercise. And then, a follow-up scan just before Thanksgiving found several new tumors in her liver.  Just after Thanksgiving, she began a new round of chemotherapy. She understands that her that her prognosis is guarded and yet, her jolliness has not diminished in the least. She ends every email with a salutation of love and gratitude. She wishes her providers good health and happy Holidays. Her sense of exuberance in daily living continues to reverberate in her being.
The other patient is a woman that I have had the honor of providing naturopathic care to for the past 2 years.  She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer with an inflammatory breast cancer component. This is an ominous diagnosis, to say the least. Over the past two years, she has had sequential chemotherapy, surgery and radiation therapy. She has also maintained a comprehensive regimen of diet, exercise and supplements. She has exemplified health and radiance throughout her treatments, amazing all of her care providers. In September, she was without evidence of disease. Then, the week after Thanksgiving, a follow-up evaluation revealed metastasis in her bones and more inflammatory breast cancer. Upon hearing what, for most people, would be a devastating blow, she absorbed the news and, as she put it, “picked up the shattered pieces of myself and got right back into the saddle.”  She too, continues to shower her care providers with gratitude and well-wishes. She understands the seriousness of her situation and, at the same time, has managed to focus on the opportunities, the hope and the love around her.
For me, these two courageous women personify the true meaning of holiday cheer. They have taken being joyful and jolly to a whole new level. They are giving life a big bear hug and are squeezing every drop of its vitality into their attitude, communications, actions and ultimately, into the lives of those around them.  So, in the spirit of the season, and with deep love and admiration, I thank them for their splendor. 

1 comment:

  1. These are amazing stories and even more amazing women. We are also lucky enough to be surrounded by some absolutely awe-inspiring people at our hospitals and are so grateful that they share their joyful spirts and strong attitudes with us - they inspire hope and strength in everybody around them. Thank you for sharing these stories. Happy Holidays!
    Laura Malamud
    Cancer Treatment Centers of America