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Cherishing Each Moment, Fighting a Deadly Disease

09 Jan

We found this wonderful article in the Buffalo News. Alice Folaron, 75 and diagnosed with leukemia a year earlier, writes about all the healing tools in her kit, and how her journey yielded a bumper crop of gratitude and appreciation for all the gifts of friends and family in her life.  Here is her piece verbatim, as it appeared on New Year’s Day, 2011.

Cherishing Every Moment of Life, Fighting a Deadly Disease

By Alice Folaron

It was the day before New Year’s Eve 2009. Our son and grandson were visiting from Pittsburgh. We were anticipating the joy of calling all our children at the stroke of midnight to wish them a Happy New Year. Another phone call changed everything. That call came from my doctor, informing me that I had PH Chronic Myeloid Leukemia.

I was devastated. The same disease that took the life of my 50-year-old son-in-law was now threatening me. How could we tell our children and especially our grandchildren, five of whom had just lost their father to it?

At 75, I still had a lot of living to do. I began to fight for my life. I leaned on my faith in God and prayed for the strength and courage I would need in the days ahead. My wonderful husband of 53 years, our eight children and their spouses, our 12 grandchildren and immediate family were my strong support network, along with my parish family and countless friends who rallied to my side.

The cards still hang in our bedroom, a year later, as a reminder of the outpouring of love I received when I most needed it.

Our oldest daughter, on sabbatical at the time, began hours and hours of research into “Mom’s Leukemia”—what to do and how to do it. Knowing that I preferred the holistic approach, she researched that avenue first, but soon discovered this was not the preferred way. More prayers. What to do, Lord?

I soon realized that God had been there with me all along, sending the right people to help on my path to recovery. First and foremost, a compassionate oncologist, who, along with prescribing a cancer medication, was willing to send a copy of my medical records to naturopaths in Montreal, to enable them to tailor a program of supplements to help mitigate the side effects, primarily fatigue, of the cancer medication and also to enable my body to rebuild itself.

I had to do my part, too, to help the process. Along with healthy eating and drinking lots of filtered water, came a daily two-mile walk with my husband. Next is what I like to call my little black medical bag — similar to the kind doctors carried when they went on house calls years back.

In this bag are my guided imagery and visualization techniques. I imagine myself walking through the woods tossing out my cancer cells as I walk. Last winter on a trip to Florida, I tossed more cancer cells out into the Gulf of Mexico as we strolled the beaches. Being an avid gardener, what better therapy than tugging at those stubborn weeds, visualizing that they, too, were more cancer cells meeting their demise.

In my black bag is my yoga mat, reminding me to do my daily yoga exercises to strengthen and tone my body. This has traveled with me to hotels in Canada and Pennsylvania as well as to a camping trailer in Florida. Also in my black bag is a prayer card for daily meditation, a reminder of all those people praying for me, and last, but not least, a note to take that afternoon nap, lest I forget that my body needs rest to rejuvenate itself.

My life is a “new normal,” one that requires periodic blood testing and doctor visits, but still enables me to remain active in my church, especially bringing Communion to the sick and elderly, enjoying our grandchildren’s concerts and other family events, and shopping, of course. Oh yes, a recent highlight that brought smiles from everyone, was jitterbugging with my favorite dance partner at our son’s wedding.

I often whisper a grateful “thank you” to the one who has showered me with all these blessings. I may not be in remission, yet, but I am thankful for what I can do. With a positive outlook, a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face, look out world, here I come. There are still mountains to climb, dances to be danced, and songs to be sung. My life is beautiful and I am cherishing every moment of it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award