Tag Archive | Lisa Adams

Persevere: A Life With Cancer

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

It’s true:

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.

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The Right To Fight

Lisa Adams

Lisa Adams

I recently came across a disturbing article written by Bill Keller of the New York Times, about a 44 year old breast cancer survivor named Lisa Adams, who “…has spent the last seven years in a fierce and very public cage fight with death.” .  (Read it here.)  One might assume from the title “Heroic Measures”, that this piece of journalism pays tribute to the fighting spirit of Lisa Adams,  but in thinking so, one would be wrong.  What Keller actually does in this controversial article is challenge Lisa Adams’ right to fight.

Keller seems to believe that there are two ways for a human being to die.  On one side of the fence are people like his father-in-law, who, rather than take aggressive treatments for cancer, was “…allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.”  On the other side of the fence are people like Lisa Adams who choose “…endless “heroic measures” that may or may not prolong life but assure the final days are clamorous, tense and painful. (And they often leave survivors bankrupt.)”  While Keller does not come out and blatantly state that there is a right way and a wrong way to die from cancer, his choice of words certainly send that message!   In case there is any doubt as to which side of the fence Keller is on, these words will surely banish them:  “It seemed to me, and still does, that there is something enviable about going gently.”

So if it came right down to it, which side of the fence would you be on?  Being a three year survivor of stage 3 breast cancer, which yields just over a 50% five year survival rate, I have had plenty of opportunity to ponder that question.   For me, it’s a no-brainer.  I would choose to fight like a girl!  While Keller seems to take offence to the “combat metaphor”, I can think of no better comparison.  Having endured three surgeries resulting in the loss of my left breast; four months of chemo therapy; and 25 radiation treatments, I can honestly say that I did not “journey” with cancer, I battled that bastard, and I continue to do so on a daily basis with drugs and significant lifestyle changes.   That is MY choice and I do not judge any person who chooses to refuse treatments, to decline follow up medication due to side effects, or to alter their lifestyle in any way after a cancer diagnosis. That is THEIR choice.  So why should Lisa Adams or anyone else be judged for exercising their right to fight?  One thing I know for sure, nobody gets out of this world alive.  When my time comes, I hope to go gently in the night and experience the grace of a peaceful death…..but death won’t get ME without a fight!