In January, 2014, I wrote a post about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a women who was being publicly criticized for her choice to fight the breast cancer that was slowly killing her, rather than deny medical treatments and “slip gently” into death. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I supported Lisa’s right to fight. Sadly, Lisa passed away in 2015 at the age of 45. Since then, her mother and brother, Drs. Rita and Mark Bonchek, have complied a book of Lisa’s writings entitled, Persevere: A Life with Cancer
Reflections on love and loss, family and friendship, compassion and courage
I often get requests to do book reviews on my blog and I generally oblige. However, when I read a portion of Lisa’s writing, I wanted to share her words with my readers, not out of a sense of obligation, but because they are so eloquent and moving, it would be a shame not to share.
Here is an excerpt from her book:
You Look Great; You’d Never Know
you’d never know.
I look great. I look healthy. I’m not gaunt or drawn or pale. I wear makeup most days, and some days I even wear boots with a heel on them.
I smile, I laugh. I take a slight jog up the front hall steps when I feel like it. I crack jokes, I roll my eyes when standing in a long line, I gossip with my friends.
I wear gloves a lot, I have to moisturize my feet and hands at least a dozen times a day. I buff my feet, I examine them for cracks and bleeding. I stick ice packs on them when they burn from the chemo. I can’t feel my fingertips, yet portions of them crack and peel and are painful and raw. I can’t hold a pen or twist off a bottle cap.
I take pills all day long. I’m swollen, I’m tired, my mind can’t stop racing.
I tell time by “on” weeks and “off” ones. Of course the doctors understand my situation. They know what this diagnosis means. Even ones that have nothing to do with cancer call to check on me.
When I go to my sons’ school some of the teachers and moms cry when they see me. “You look good,” they say. This is a compliment. Sometimes they say, “You don’t look sick at all. You’d never know.” That is shorthand for, “You don’t look like you’re dying but we know you are.”
I hear people in line to buy holiday gifts complain about the sniffly cold they have or the poor night’s sleep their child had. They might be complaining about something more serious, but still something that can be fixed. Time will heal what ails them. I am not so lucky.
I am jealous. I am jealous that this is their only medical concern. I’m not jealous of what they wear or the car they drive or the house they live in. I’m jealous of their health status.
I’m not in denial. This diagnosis is a nightmare. My life will always be full of chemo and side effects and worry and monitoring and drug refills and hospital visits. But my life will also be full of great memories, of laughter, of smiles. There will be tears. There will be pain. There will be heartache. But there will also be joy, and grace, and friendship.
I don’t know for how long. I don’t know if they will be in equal measure. They say I look good. They say, “You’d never know.” For now I know it’s true.
There will come a day when it’s not true. And they will lie. And I will know it. And someday, then, I will know the end is near. But that day is not today.
December 30, 2012
You can buy Lisa’s book here: www.lisasbook.com.