Editor’s note: Suzanne Lindley is an eight-year survivor of stage IV colon cancer. She has received a variety of therapies and is still undergoing treatment. Along the way Suzanne found ways to support herself by supporting others. She is an active participant in a colon and rectal cancer email list and was the coordinator of a cancer buddy program. She continues to provide local support for those whose lives have been touched by colorectal cancer, facilitates a support group for survivors and caregivers, and is working towards her master’s in social work. Her recent activities include speaking at conferences and meeting with her elected officials to make cancer a public priority.
Suzanne wrote this article in commemoration of her eighth year of survivorship, and she has given C3 permission to reprint here. I’m sure you will agree that she is a fine example of an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. – Dusty Weaver
I wrote last year about my anniversary with “The Seven Year Itch”. I can’t believe that yet another 12 months has passed since then and that I’m alive to capture it. I said last year that moving forward meant moving in a direction that wasn’t always expected. I’ve traveled in many unexpected directions since my experience with the “seven year itch” and can say that all of them have led to the title of this journal entry – “Eight Is Particularly Great”.
I still have two legs to stand on and celebrate that every day, tumors that should be growing seem to be stagnant, and ones that are growing are not yet bringing forth the physical ramifications that have been promised. All the chemo, the gamma knife, the radiation, and the sir-spheres, most especially, are miracles that have brought me to where I am now and as much as I loathe this disease without it my life would have surely been different. I like to think that the muchness was always there and that I felt every moment with the enthusiasm that I have now, but it would have been without the wisdom of finality. I doubt that I would have met many of you, I may not have savored every inch of life that my family explored, and I certainly wouldn’t be lending my voice and experiences to anyone. This year has given me many opportunities to share, to facilitate, and to reflect.
I appeared on the Today Show for colon cancer support with two very dear and amazing friends, I’ve spoken in front of dozens of audiences (both physicians and survivors), I’ve added my voice to those that speak out for cancer issues and have met with my Senators and Congressman – thanks to Dusty and Jim at C3 – hopefully convincing them of the importance of our war on cancer, I’ve been able to rally for continued Medicare coverage for brachytherapy (without it – I would not be here), And I’ve been allowed the privilege of shaking the Vice Presiden’ts hand. These accomplishments seem small compared to the real life living of every day. I’ve cried through the many battles this war has won during the past year and often find the tears streaming as I think of those friends that are now keeping watch from above. I’ve felt the triumph of other friends as they have kicked this disease and are now NED (No Evidence of Disease) and encouraging and inspiring the rest of us to continue on. In the midst of the two, loss and triumph, there lies balance. For those of us who find ourselves in this strange place it is important to see the great promise that lies ahead. Around the next corner there are more options, better treatments, and in the not too distant future a cure.
As I cut apron strings, watched my daughters mature and grow, celebrated another year with my unbelievable husband, and moved forward with my own diagnosis I’ve had time for a lot of self-discovery. I’ve found weaknesses that I once thought were strengths and have stepped over them, things that I once thought were important seem trivial and I’ve grown from that discovery, and I have even learned that peace can be felt in the midst of fear; all knowledge that has given me strength. I’ve become very comfortable with my disease in this past year and as much as I would like to hear and experience the letters NED in my future, I honestly can’t imagine the magnitude of life without cancer. Life as it is now seems about as wonderful and full as it could possibly be.
I think that the same words I used a year ago still hold true: Living involves finding miracles in circumstances that are less than miraculous, uncovering meaning in the meaningless, looking for sense in the senseless, and most importantly believing that there is hope in the hopeless. We each have the ability to make these manifest…..our perception holds the key.
Here’s to bright perceptions and dreams coming true!! Love, Suzanne