As far back as I can remember, cancer terrified me. Cancer always meant death was around the corner. Whenever I saw someone losing their hair and dropping weight, it scared me. I was not old enough to understand. I remember the last time I ever saw my grandmother; it was to say good-bye. My parents told me her cancer was very advanced, and she did not have much longer to live. I remember how eerie it was pulling up to my grandparents street. I flashed back to when my sisters and I went down the big hill on roller skates. It was too steep and if our parents knew we would have been in trouble because it went past an alleyway next to a church where cars went through. At the speed we were going, it was too dangerous to stop, we had to finish the ride out. We were lucky, laughing at first and then screaming when we realized just how fast we were going approaching the alley. I’ll never forget it.
Here I was now a grown woman experiencing death with my beloved grandmother. I got out of the car and walked across the front lawn. More memories flooded my mind of me, my brothers, sisters, and cousins laughing and playing games in the front yard. We made up games and played traditional games like Red Rover, Red Rover, and “Tag!” There were so many kids in our family when we had our family holiday get-togethers. I have so many wonderful cousins, aunts, and uncles that I looked forward to seeing every year, I couldn’t imagine holidays without her. I knew nothing would ever be the same again when she died.
On the ride up I had tried to prepare myself for something I never experienced. I thought about what I could say, knowing these would be my last words to my grandmother. They needed to be important and probably words I would never forget. I wanted to comfort her and take any fear away she had of dying. What could be more meaningful than I will miss you and I love you? I did not want to face her death and tell her I would miss her! My heart was breaking, and I hated cancer. I couldn’t tell her everything would be okay; it was a lie. My faith was not strong even though I was Catholic. I did not understand what would happen; I just wanted her to have comfort and make sure she wasn’t scared
I walked into my grandparent’s house and down the hallway with all the family pictures on the walls. This hall was small but always a place the family would gather to look at family pictures from over the years. I turned around the corner, and I could feel my heart race with fear and sadness as I got near my grandparent’s room. I didn’t want to see what my grandmother looked like near her death; I wanted everything to be back the way it was. I walked in, and she was laying down frail in a hospital type bed. I looked over to the left of the room to where Grandma and Grandpa’s bed was and knew she would never lay there again with my Grandpa. I knew his heart was breaking. They were such fantastic companions. The reality was hitting me so hard, and it was all so sad.
I walked into my Grandparents bedroom; it was a heartbreaking vision to see my Grandmother in this weakened condition. I knew it was time for me to say the most meaningful words to her because they would be my last words spoken. I remember the sliver of light coming in through the window. It was peeking through the pulled down shade at the head of her bed. I would remember her fragile state whether I wanted to or not; it burned in my mind forever. Grandmother was so full of life, and she kept all of us kids in line. She did it with strength and love. She fixed incredible Italian food and made us peanut butter and banana sandwiches in the afternoon when my cousins and I were playing outside. Her biscotti cookies with that hint of licorice from the anise spice were the best I had ever had.
My Grandmother was strong, kind and gentle. Her eyes were soulful and filled with wisdom. My favorite dresses of hers were her cotton plaid pastel ones. She could dress so simple and look so elegant.
I stepped cautiously and closer to her. I said, “hello” very softly. I leaned over to hug her carefully, barely touching her. She didn’t reply; she just looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes, always full of kindness. They looked exhausted, though, I had never seen this look before. I saw her fading away. I told her I loved her. I asked, my dad if it was okay to hold her hand, she just looked so fragile, and it felt respectful to get his permission at this time. He said, “yes.” I will never forget the last words I had said to her before I walked out the bedroom door. I leaned over, and I whispered to her that I was pregnant with my second child, and the baby was due on her birthday. I don’t understand why I said what I did. I was so young and unprepared for anything I went through. When I think back on that day, I suppose I was hoping it would make her feel some peace as she was letting go.
The guilt I felt afterward was heavy as I was walking back to the car. What was I thinking, sharing my joy of a new life coming into the world while she lay there so ill with death waiting to take her? I was so naïve of what to say. Here she was fragile and pale, and I was trying to cheer her with the exciting news of a child coming into the world. I wanted to run back in there and comfort her, tell her I was sorry, but the family kept moving forward towards the car, and they would not understand this rush of emotion and the great need to be near her again.
She died a short while after, it was Autumn 24 years ago right before Thanksgiving. I still miss her so much, that my heart is aching even as I write. I never heard her yell at me or any of the kids once; she was incredibly patient. From that day on, cancer felt sinister to me. Grandma always looked well and then one day she was sick with cancer. She was starting to look thinner and started wearing a wig. I thought it was because of cancer. I know now it was the chemotherapy that took a toll on her. I always wondered why people had to suffer so much through these cancer treatments. It never made sense to me. I was afraid of cancer and chemotherapy. To me, it meant if you got cancer you were going to suffer from treatment. Both my grandfathers died of cancer and then one of my aunts got cancer and also did chemotherapy and died. I didn’t look at their medical records, all I know is, they were very sick, and I was afraid of ever having to go through what they did.
If I were given a choice to start my life over without cancer, I would choose the same path of battling cancer because it led me to where I am today. I am blessed and can help many people because of what I went through. What knowledge I have gained from this experience is invaluable. I learned how to heal my body and not give in to the toxic treatments. Alternative Cancer Treatments saved me and gave me a life I never knew could exist. It showed me that I could help others see another way to fight if they too were afraid of chemotherapy and radiation. I beat breast cancer twice, stage III in 2006 and stage IV in 2010 without using the barbaric treatments that are the only approved treatments by the FDA. I left my country the second time, and it took courage. I respect choice, but if people want another choice, I want to be able to share my story, so they know they have choices.
I meet many other survivors just like me. The question everyone should be exploring is why is healing the body, not a priority when someone gets cancer, why is healing such a misunderstood word? Why do they immediately go in with the scalpel, burning and chemicals and drugs? I have never been the one to see something and pretend not to see it. If the Emperor is naked and everyone wants to lie and say he looks great in his new clothes so as not upset the king, I have a natural inclination to run up to him and shelter his nudity with a cloak to spare him from shame.
Healing means not to add more illness