Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cancer's many "FACES"

     "Cancer-ville" can be a very lonely place to live, even if you're fortunate enough, like myself, to be surrounded by family & TRUE friends who are there to cheer you on with each step. Soon enough, however, people who you thought would be by your side until you're old & gray start to slowly pull away; and soon after that, the blame for their distance is put on you in some manner, perhaps with a tad merit of truth.  The reality is, cancer changes you - in any & every way it can, it changes you. It plucks a little of you here & a little more of you there & soon enough, you're a very different person than you were before you heard those 3 bone-chilling, life-altering, every-other-possible-hyphenated-word-combination-that-forever-haunts-your-soul-phrase: "you have cancer".
      Chad & I have always had a very open-communication based relationship {well, after I got over that whole "run in the other direction" tactic ;)} so when cancer came into our lives, we talked about every decision & step we would ultimately take & we knew we would take them together. The same was with my family; we've always been extremely close, but even more-so after losing my brothers, so they were always part of "Team Lisa" discussions. I was (& still am) also very fortunate to have a handful of extremely amazing friends who, no matter what was happening in their own lives, were constantly checking on me & doing whatever they could to remind me that I was always on their minds & in their hearts.
     I KNEW I had a solid support-system; I could FEEL that support surrounding me from all angles, but still, it felt like something was missing. As much as my family & friends loved me & as much as I loved them, there was still a void in my life. As much as they wanted to & as much as they attempted to, they couldn't possibly understand what I was or wasn't feeling or what I was or wasn't thinking because, unfortunately (for me) & fortunately (for them) they, themselves, were never part of the community in my current residence: "Cancer-ville", USA. Little did I know that this awful, disgusting, selfish disease was about to bring about another change in my life, but this was a sweet, unexpected surprise.
     On a normal, random post-chemo day, I was laying in bed, gallivanting my way around a social-media site & for an unknown reason, still to this day as I type out these words, I decided to type "rectal cancer" into the search bar, not necessarily having much hope that anything of substance would appear. Thankfully, how wrong I was! The first group I saw was "FACES" - with a simple click of the mouse, my world was transformed & fate was directing me exactly where I needed to be at exactly the right time.
FACES, which stands for Families Affected by Cancer Embark on Survival, is an online support-group which was created by two very brave women, Lisa Pissanos Moore & Joan Zebraski Buck, whose husbands are both Rectal Cancer Warriors. I spent hours reading stories, stopping every-so-often to read one out-loud to Chad. "Can you believe that?! She was 29 when she was diagnosed!" "Oh my gosh - 28 & absolutely NO symptoms; this is incredible!" I added. It was as if I had unlocked some secret-society code. For the first time since being diagnosed, I could feel the void slow dissipate from my mind more & more with each story I read. Within days I was welcomed into the FACES family with open-arms. I was meeting people who were just like me - other "20s" (dx between 20-29) whose lives were twisted by Hurricane Cancer & then left alone to pick up the mangled pieces of who they were before cancer and, now, who they were after cancer.
      It was an instantaneous bond that I can't really explain - here I was, finally in a place where others "got" me. When I said I didn't have the energy to get out of bed or that the idea of being able to, one day, feel my fingertips & toes again seemed impossible, they "got" me. It was the little things, that in actuality were really BIG things, when being surrounded by other warriors made me feel "normal" again & that was a really, really good feeling - a feeling I had been missing for quite some time.

**Lisa & Joan - I could never THANK YOU enough for all you have done for our FACES family. Your dream gave me a place to find comfort, support, and, ultimately, a place to find myself again. I am forever "IN IT TO WIN IT"!***

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