We often meet people along our cancer journey who have a profound impact on our lives. They motivate us, inspire us, and help us in ways we couldn’t even imagine.
“Every cloud has a silver lining!” When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, silver linings were the last thing I was looking for. My life had totally changed and it wasn’t for the better. My days were consumed with doctor’s appointments, insurance battles, trying to stay calm, trying to keep everyone around me calm, and fear; there was always fear. Other than staying alive, I certainly wasn’t looking for something positive to come of this experience. I should have! I’ve learned that there is always, even in the worst of times, a glimmer of something good.
Walking the Cancer Journey Together
My surgery was done, my treatment was completed, and my hair was barely breaking through when the most amazing woman walked into my life. She too had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was only a couple of months behind me in her own journey. We had been communicating via an online support system, but the first time I physically met her we just clicked. I can’t describe it any other way other than I instantly knew we would be friends. Her positive attitude and sense of humor was like a magnet. Someone once said “you either knew her or wanted to know her!” This was Chris! Over the ensuing days, months, and then years we would travel an amazing journey together. This crazy friend of mine would teach me the true meaning of faith, hope, love, and healing.
Chris had a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer with a poor prognosis. She dove head first into gaining as much knowledge about her disease as she could. She did her homework and she did it well. She traveled the country to find the best treatment and she eventually taught the medical community a thing or two about perseverance and a positive outlook.
Impacting Change in Cancer Research Funding
Once Chris was comfortable in her own treatment plan, she ventured out to help others. Grabbing me by the arm she pulled me along. We lobbied in Washington DC twice for better cancer research funding. When we were asked to present a bill on Capitol Hill she accepted and didn’t miss a beat. This was not in my comfort zone and I started to decline. She looked in me in the eye and said “you did not come all this way not to do this!” She wasn’t talking about the miles we traveled but the journey we had taken. We presented that bill and a few years later another one. She didn’t necessarily give me courage but she taught me how to reach deep inside, bring it out, and use it. We spoke often at the local level and spread positivity wherever we could, whether it be in the chemo room or across the country.
Starting a Business to Promote Cancer Awareness
She eventually had the crazy idea of starting a business. She wanted to reach as many people as she could and raise money for research along the way. Together with another friend Paula, the three of us were off and running and Choose Hope, Inc. was born. Those years were so much fun. Chris was doing well and it was exciting to get our little business off the ground. Choose Hope gradually grew and we were able to reach far beyond our local community. Twenty years later I am so proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our business is now global and we’ve donated close to a million dollars to the research that was so near and dear to Chris’s heart.
Sadly, Chris’s health declined. She fought harder than anyone I know, living far beyond her prognosis. She passed away in 2003 and there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of her and miss her. Since my breast cancer diagnosis, I probably have cried more than I have in my entire life. But by the same token, because of Chris, I have not laughed as much either. She taught me so much about living and about dying. I may have lost a breast but I truly gained so much more.
Thank you, Chris; my life is certainly better now because of you! You have, without a doubt, been my silver lining.