A Reflection on a Cancer Diagnosis

 In News

Three weeks ago, Kate Middleton told the world about her very personal experience with cancer. I remember watching her video and was moved by her precise choice of words. She exposed her vulnerability to a disease over which she has no control and so eloquently explained how painful her diagnosis has been for her family. Even with so many resources available to her, she told us about the difficulty these past couple of months in processing the news, healing, and talking to her children.

Her words echoed those heard daily from families nominated to our Respite Program by oncology professionals. Our FPS families need time to wrap their heads around what is transpiring within their unit because of cancer and the uncertainty that greets them every day. Choices are made immediately, and the balance between life and death becomes real and fragile!

I recall those first few weeks of Pete’s diagnosis. Days were blurred with tears and tense conversations about the future. Two weeks after this diagnosis, I recorded my first journal entry (I would go and fill six journals in total) – and those entries from the first week of treatment capture devastation, desperation, faith and hope in one sentence!

August 16, 1998

As Pete peacefully rests in bed for the last two evenings, I reflect on the events of the past two weeks. Reach out and touch someone. The telephone is a device to transmit good news, but I will never forget his call, the fear in his voice, and the endless drive to be by his side. The whirlwind has started, and it seems almost fantasy that nearly two-plus weeks have passed. So many thoughts, so many tears, so many kisses, so many fears. But God has led us to the present, to this special moment when the only focus of appreciation is the presence of your best friend being alive and able to share another day together. 

I remember my brother Brian telling us as we left on Wednesday, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff,’ and now I appreciate Pete as himself: his smile, his eyes, his touch, his words, and how he has changed my life forever as he has become a part of me. And now I ask God, in this new beginning, to bless both of us so that one day, as we grow old together, we will look back on this summer and say thank you for giving us each other, then and now.

August 17, 1998

It is late afternoon, and Pete is resting while I offer my prayers for his safe recovery along with that of Mr. Hardimon, Jeannie Magee, and Mr. Gerardi. It is difficult to imagine that chemotherapy can be so devastating on the one hand and yet so life-sustaining on the other hand. The analogy can be a rainbow with gold pots on either side. I sat here and reflected on the words of St. John Neumann. It is difficult to imagine a man with such a complete devotion to God that fear of death is non-existent.

August 18, 1998

A brief time has passed since my last writing, when we were paid a nice visit by Dr. Vaughn. We talked about protocol and the two arms, and all agreed that if we could look beyond treatment to outcome with a sure path, then we would automatically know the direction. But life is not a certainty, so once again, we have that fear of death creeping up on us—our fear of our own mortality. 

I read about the life of St. Teresa, and I am perplexed by the devotion to God and her own surrender to mortality. Maybe I have not been there yet—maybe we are too selfish to consider death the ultimate life. My own concern is that for my husband and our life together, to walk in Jesus’ footsteps and to share our love with all those whom we encounter. I ask God, St. John Neumann and St. Teresa to give us the strength and courage to conquer this illness and to be able to hold each other’s hand as we grow old together. I want to remember something that happened today. When Pete awoke, he asked me to come and sit next to him and hug him. As we embraced, he started to cry and tell me he missed my hugs, my touch, and our own bed. He just wants to get better, and now God, I ask that you comfort him and reach out with that spiritual hug. 

Kate ended her remarks by speaking to all cancer patients worldwide and reminding them they are not alone. Pete, wanting to start FPS, envisioned a program allowing no person to walk this journey alone! And we brought Pete’s vision to life, giving the gift of respite and community to over 11,000 people and counting!  

My prayers are with Kate, William, their three small children, and our many FPS families. I am immensely grateful for our tremendous supporters that give so unselfishly to families that need the gift of respite, and time, time to families in crisis.

“For everyone facing this disease, in whatever form, please do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.” Kate Middleton

Thank you to our amazing FPS community for ensuring that no young family facing cancer walks alone! Stride for Respite at our walk at Citizens Bank Park on 4.28.24!