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Posts tagged “Conditions and Diseases

Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (7)

by Sandra Pullen on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 8:08pm

What has gone so terribly wrong in this world that newborn babies in their mother’s arms, get cancer?

How does that happen?

The types of cancer are many and varied.  Osteosarcomas, Neuroblastomas, Lymphomas, and so many other technical names that are too difficult to pronounce and impossible to spell. 

I simply call “it” the Beast.

The word beast is defined as a cruelly rapacious animal. A living organism.  Fits cancer perfectly.  A cruel beast.

The damage done by the beast is visible and sometimes, obvious.  Austins’ precious little bald head is something I will never forget.  Nor will I forget the first time, his Aunt Shelley saw him as his hair was beginning to fall out.   Her face crumpled as she got out of her car and came around to hold him. We all felt the same way.  The pictures tell the story much better than I can.  They are put away.  Out of sight, out of mind.   So we hope.

When the cancer beast entered my life and world, I never looked at it as a punishment.  It never occurred to me to feel “picked on” or  singled out.

It did however make me more determined to live my life in such a way that others would know, the beast can be beaten.

Now, having said that, never think that for one second,   all stories have the “happily ever after” ending. 

Sometimes the beast wins, and that is what breaks my heart.

When Austin was diagnosed, I admit, I did question…….Why my baby?  Why Austin?

The Pullen Grandchildren

Doug and Sandra Pullen's Grandchildren

One trip to St. Jude and I assure you,  you will not be the same person you were before. It’s one of those places that should be sad, and sometimes it is……..very!

  I will never forget the first visit we had with our Austin there. 

We were so happy to see him!  It had been three weeks.  I was so excited that I ran in and grabbed him up, leaving my purse sitting on a table in the common living room. 

He wanted Papa and I to take him outside to the playground, and of course, we did.  He played on the slide and ran around like he had never met the beast.  The only indication that he was sick was his pallor.

After about an hour, I realized that I had left my purse inside.  Oh no!   Inside were my credit cards,  check book and money.

Doug hurried inside, hopefully it had not been stolen. 

When he came back to the playground, he had the strangest look on his face and my purse in his hands.  

“What’s the matter?”  I asked. 

I will never forget his words.

“It was right where you left it.  Sandra, down here, I don’t think it’s about money. What these kids need, money can’t buy”

You’re right, more tears.

The leaving was torture.  I remember sobbing as he stood in the doorway of the Ronald McDonald house, his little arm waving bye bye to Nana and Papa.  I left my heart there. 

On the interstate, traveling home, all I could feel was heartbreak.  I cried until I couldn’t see. And all at once, I remembered, I had left my purse!

We turned around and went back. 

This time when I had to leave my baby, he was sleeping so peacefully.  It wasn’t easier, but it wasn’t quite as painful to leave him this time.

Yes, you would expect St. Jude to be a sad place.

But with so many little children gathered there, it is filled with giggles and smiles. The play room is awesome, the playground  is a wonderful place for them to explore and just be…………..NORMAL

Cancer patients have only one need, and that is a cure.  We know logically, that the beast can rear it’s ugly head at any moment in time.   After  nine years, it’s still the first thing I think of when I open my eyes, every morning. 

For a split second, I question.  It only lasts for a second, then I’m up and off to start my day.

With the talent and money in this country, why are we still trying to find a cure for this disease?  Jonas Salk did it. But so many  diseases have NO cure.  Oh, they  have treatments, Alzheimers, Diabetes, Hypertension, Asthma, and the list is endless.

There are only treatments.   Why? 

I have no answers.   Only questions. 

The beast is not pretty, and it’s painful. It’s after effects never go away. To this very day, I can’t drink from an aluminum can. Chemotherapy makes your mouth taste like you have been sucking on copper pennies.   The metallic taste is very fresh in my memory. 

Some times, I smell a scent and am immediately transported back to the Cancer Center.   It’s funny how a scent can trigger a memory. 

Austin wont eat anything that smells like grape. So much of his medicine was grape flavored.

The beast causes a chain reaction. Not only does it affect the patient.  It affects the parents, the siblings, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles and on and on.

Austin’s big brother was only 4 when the beast entered.   He wasn’t old enough to understand why his mommy was away.

I can never forget how my heart broke for him.  He woke up one night, crying with an ear ache, and all he wanted was his mommy.

How do you explain cancer to a four year old?   He did not understand that it was not his fault.  He asked, “Aunt Shelley, if I’m a good boy tomorrow, can I see my mommy?”

How can the human heart deal with such hurt? How will I ever over come so much heart break?  How could I watch Austin suffer? How could I watch his parents go through this???? My heart HURT!   How could my heart survive this much pain?

Now I know….

Just as easily as it can love unconditionally.

Just as it accepts and loves with out question.

Just as easily as it bears your hurts and pain.

Just like Jesus did for us.

Without a doubt.

With unconditional LOVE

And that is another gift of cancer…………To LOVE

 *************************************************************************************************


An Alabama girl kicks cancer’s butt…

The Things I Learned From Cancer 101 (6)

by Sandra Pullen on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 6:08pm

Lessons you learn from cancer are ones that change your life. The changes are sudden and permanent.

It begins by shifting your priorities, and the funny thing about priorities, you think you have them all arranged.  Got them just like you like them. Then………….bam!

I liked my life.  I loved my job. Had wonderful friends. A husband who loves me, awesome children and grandchildren.

Was  fortunate enough to still have both parents to love. Yeah, my life was pretty much the way I liked it. There was nothing  more I could ask for, well maybe to win the lottery, but I’ve given up hope of that ever happening.

I lived life in days.  Now, what does that mean, you may ask? Well,  I would get up, go to work, come home, fix dinner, go to bed.  That is basically how I existed. Routine was a comfort to me. Doug was always there. 

After all this time, it is still difficult for me to admit, but , yes, I took it all for granted.  I just assumed things would stay the same and that life would continue to be exactly as I wanted it to be.  Day in and day out. 

You see, that was the problem.  Cancer came into my world and suddenly, I found out how to start living! 

When one is faced with a life threatening illness,  there are stages you go through in order to arrive at a place that allows you to deal with all of the changes and shifts that come along with it.

But the one thing that nagged at me from the moment I first heard the word, cancer.  What if I die?   What if this cancer beats me?   What will I do??

Looking back, I realize what silly questions those were!

You see, it was never up to me.  The choices I have to make and the decisions that affect my life are limited. I can only do so much on my own, and in this frail human body. The decision to get up every morning is one that is easy to make. Not rocket science that. 

But whether or not I would live or die was never the issue!   I am going to die!   Now here is the kicker…………..So are you!!!

You see how silly that is?  We all are only given temporary passes. This is not our home. 

I have always said, “I am ready to go, just not today”  If I die to day, just know that I was happy yesterday.  Now that is easy for me to say…..about myself. 

I could not say that about my two year old grandson with Leukemia.  It was no less true for him, but it was not easy for me to say.

In my heart, I could not bear the thought of losing him to the beast. The battle was not an easy one to win, and I know how hard it is to fight the cancer, but he was just a baby, only two years old. How in this world would he ever be able to with stand the chemo monster?  How would his little body be strong enough to battle the pain this beast could cause?

Watching this brave warrior in the fight of his little life was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.

I wished so many times that I could take his place.  I knew how to fight the beast but my baby didn’t.

My little Austin showed us that it can be done.  Cancer can be beaten.

Every time I see this child smile, I am amazed at how much he has endured.  For six years, he has been cancer free. Now at the age of eight he has blossomed into the little boy that I had always hoped he would be, and I can’t wait to see the man, I know he will one day become.

I love all of my grandchildren with my whole heart. But Austin and I have a kinship that was not of our choosing. We are related by more than just blood. We are kindred hearts in a fight that is lost by so many people every day.

Babies are not supposed to get cancer.  How does that happen????   What has gone so terribly wrong in this world that tiny babies in their mothers arms get cancer?? 

Of one thing, I am certain… I have been given an opportunity to share, and let others know that, cancer doesn’t win every time!

After all of these years of learning these lessons,  I have finally come to realize, that I am still learning!! 

Every day there is a new revelation in my life.  It is like a light bulb goes off in my head, and I want to slap myself and say “Oh, yeah!  I get it now” 

There is no secret, no special remedies in the life of a cancer survivor because we know, it’s not up to us. All we have to do is grab onto the moments!! 

Stop living day by day, in an endless rut and start SAVORING THE MOMENTS! 

The older I get, the more I realize how very little I know about a lot of things, but of one thing I am more certain of now than at any other time in my life is this……………..There is a GOD that loves us. He loves us so much that he even takes pleasure in our slumber.

How many times have you tip toed into your child’s room at night and just gazed at that precious, sleeping face?  What an absolute joy it was to know that little person was safe and sound and peacefully at rest!

Our heavenly father loves us so much that he enjoys watching us sleep!

Can you really grasp that?  Just like an earthly father, he loves to see us at peace and rest.

When I question, WHY?  It’s not for the reason you might think.

I never ask, ” why me?  or why Austin?”  Instead my question is a little more complex.

I say”  Why do other children not get the same wonderful outcome as Austin?  Why do other breast cancer patients not win the battle against their beast?

It makes no sense that babies die from this disease, but it happens every day. I have lost count of the precious little friends that Austin has lost over the years we have spent at St. Jude’s.

Brave little people who face death with the un waverable courage of child like innocence. You see, they don’t know that they are as  sick as they are.

Oh their parents know, you can tell by their faces. The fear, the worry, it’s all there, in every blink, smile and tear.

But the children have no idea how sick they really are.

That is the gift of innocence. You and I had it once, but lost it as time passed. But the children, how unafraid they are of what they face.

I can’t think of anything more painful than the loss of a child.

I have always said that St. Jude is where GOD sends his angels to help sick children.

My family and I love St. Jude!!

It is a place that offers hope to a family who came to them with so much despair. Our lives will never be the same since cancer entered. It is better because now we take NOTHING for granted, Not one second or moment goes by without a thankful prayer for the gift that we have been given.

It may sound crazy, but I wouldn’t trade my experience with cancer for anything in this world, because it taught me how to truly live!!!

And there you have it! The next lesson learned from cancer is …. how to live!  Celebrate the moments!!!