I wish for just two weeks I could have my life back without cancer…or anyone else’s life without cancer. Life was so easy then. I had two beautiful children, 8 and 10 years old. My husband had a great job, so I was able to stay home and enjoy my children. I was room mom every year for at least one of them and often both. I was involved in the school fundraiser, I did a ton of volunteer work and had a wonderful group of girlfriends – which I still have and couldn’t do without.
And while I do get joy and pleasure from running my foundation – every now and then it’s all too much for me. The other day, my vice president and I were interviewing candidates on the phone for a position at the foundation. After the call, Michelle called me back and asked if I was OK. I said “yes” and asked her what she meant by that. She told me I was slurring my words on the phone call. I was shocked. She said that maybe I was tired and should get more rest. After we hung up, all I could think of was that my slurring words were a symptom of cancer moving to the brain. That has been my greatest fear, but I decided to put it behind me since it had only happened once, and if it happened again, I promised myself I would take action.
My husband called me from New York shortly thereafter, and I casually told him what Michelle had said. We both agreed that it was probably nothing and that we’d wait a few days to see if it happened again. If you knew my husband, you might also know that at times he freaks out. So in freak-out mode he calls my doctor, and then of course my doctor calls me.
Talk about caller ID hell. His number is the last number you ever want to see on your BlackBerry. I thought about ignoring the call, and actually to tell the truth, I did ignore the call because I was working at the computer. But sure enough, 60 seconds later, an e-mail appeared. You can run, but you can’t hide. I was busted. So I called him, and while he said it was probably nothing, and we could wait if I wanted to; he told me, “Knowing you as I do, you won’t be able to put it behind you until we see if the cancer has spread, or see if you may have had a little stroke.”
So off I went – alone– at 8 p.m. to UCLA. I am telling you, it never ends.
Fortunately, the next call I get from Dr. John is a good one. The scan is clear. With that said, I jump in the shower and go off to work. It wasn’t until I was sending my girlfriend an e-mail to tell her everything was clear that I broke down. All alone in my office, I just fell apart. Living with cancer is such a rollercoaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have post traumatic stress disorder. I’m constantly dodging a bullet or a grenade.
It’s exhausting to put it mildly. Tonight I’m going to take a hot bath and make some cocoa with marshmallows. I’ll get all snuggled up in bed and either watch “The Hangover,” “School of Rock,” or Reese Witherspoon in “Legally Blonde.” Laughing always makes me feel better. Tonight, for one more time, I’ll try to laugh off my cancer.
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Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org