“Fifteen years ago – even ten years ago – this diagnosis was very different.”
Those were the first words my nurse practitioner said to me after diagnosing me with breast cancer three weeks ago. I wasn’t really listening. I had already retreated to my own head, immediately believing that she was talking to the wrong patient; this was most certainly not my diagnosis. This wasn’t happening to me.
But it was happening to me.
I’ve spent most of my adult life working in non-profit. For the past 9 years, with JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and before that, with two different cancer research organizations. My work has always involved convincing individuals and corporations to give generously toward our mission – research.
It’s hard work sometimes.
I can’t show off a fancy brick and mortar building, bought and paid for by generous donors. I don’t have fancy products or invaluable services that are made possible by community philanthropists. I only have this abstract notion of research that I promise will change lives and save lives.
So many people don’t believe in my promise. But I do.
I believe that the work I’ve done over the last 9 years has made a difference to ‘my families.’ I hear the updates on research and I know that ‘my kids’ who are being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes today have better ways to manage their disease than those who were diagnosed 10 years ago. I know that the research that was bought and paid for 10 years ago is producing amazing scientific breakthroughs today with so many more on the immediate horizon.
I know that research is making a difference.
And now that I’ve processed what my nurse practitioner said to me in those first moments of my own diagnosis, and now that I’ve heard the same words repeated twice more from the oncologists treating me, I know that research is going to save my life. I know that my prognosis and my eventual outcome is the direct result of the research that was bought and paid for 10 years ago.
I know that – eventually – I will be ok.
So with these thoughts, my family and I will start this unnerving journey this week. We will dodge the negative thoughts that threaten our sanity and ignore the well-meaning but unhelpful comments (because really, what is the right thing to say?) from friends and family and even strangers.
We will stay focused on the research that is about to save my life.