Janice was diagnosed with Chronic Mylegenous Leukemia and given less than a
year to live. Proving cancer wrong on a daily basis, Janis is happily married,
a proud mother and enjoying every minute of every day.
A Short Story By Veteran Cancer Fighter Janice Throup
blast cells—the bad guys, the ones that were going to kill me—were perfect
circles with little purple halos from the dye they used to stain them. The good
cells—the ones that had matured properly—were misshapen. They looked aged and
tired in comparison with these new little babies who hadn’t yet differentiated.
was struck silent. This was not what
I had expected. I was diagnosed with leukemia in the days when the Pac-Man
visualizations were popular. You were supposed to imagine Pac Men (from the old
video game) eating the bad cells. I’ve never been very warlike, so the exercise
had no appeal to me, but I thought maybe I should take a look at the enemy.
My doctor, already frustrated with me because I had refused the only real
chance of recovery (a bone marrow transplant) was persuaded to let me look at
my marrow in exchange for my promise to him of more bone marrow biopsies (“just
a little prick” he called them, but they seemed horribly invasive to me). Perhaps
the deal appealed to the scientist in him. He left his other patients waiting
and took me down to the bowels of the hospital to see my blast cells through a
felt something shift inside of me when I saw these purple wonders. They looked
so harmless. It struck me that they were just trying to live their little
cell-lives. I mean, something had gone wrong because they weren’t following the
normal pattern of white blood cells, but they looked … well, happy.
Mylegenous Leukemia doesn’t hurt. At least in the beginning. Because nothing
hurt, I was, at first, disinclined to believe my diagnosis. When my doctor
pressed upon me the seriousness of my condition—“only 2% of people with your
condition are still alive in two years”—I began to feel betrayed by my body. It
had always served me well and I had always loved it. I had studied ballet,
taken up mountain climbing, been a star yoga student. And now, in the very
marrow of my bones, it was trying to kill me.
there in the hospital basement, as I looked at those little purple baby cells,
I felt overwhelmed with Love. I simply couldn’t get my mind around these babies
being the bad guys. They were young life, full of promise, full of beauty. I
felt myself falling in love with them, and all of a sudden, my body and I had a
with this feeling of invasive Love there came a flood of all those wonderful
corollary consolations—the certainty that everything was just as it should be,
that I could relax and let life unfold as it would, even if it led to death.
didn’t. Now, I’m not saying that my attitude brought on healing (though the
timing might lead one to believe so). I am saying that for me, acceptance gave
me my life back—gave me back the feeling that neither my body nor life was
against me. And I realized that the enemy wasn’t Death—it was Fear.
love casts out Fear.” Didn’t Jesus say that? It’s true. And maybe, just maybe,
when Love prevails, cells realign themselves. Or they don’t but that’s OK too,
because what we’re about on this planet is learning how to love. And if that
lesson comes through illness, even through terminal illness, it’s still OK as
long as we learn it.
Click here to visit THE WHY? FOUNDATION and learn more about
our WALL OF SMILES & $5 Cancer Documentary Fundraiser
The average age of a Golden Retriever is ten to twelve years, so
when at the age of six the beloved Harley was diagnosed with cancer, no one
knew what to expect. All that her owners, Pat and Bill, were sure of was that
their Harley was a lover and a fighter. She would do what needed to be
The mast cell tumor, which Pat discovered in Harley’s leg, led to
surgery and eighteen rounds of radiation. Harley shined through the operation.
It was radiation that was the tricky undertaking. The thing with radiation is
the patient must remain still. It’s not easy for anyone and sedating Harley for
eighteen treatments was simply not an option. There was concern, but hope, and
somehow Harley knew what to do. She stepped up onto the
table for every appointment and remained still, all alone in the room, while
the radiation zapped her cancer.
The radiation burned Harley and she has the scar to prove it,
but she wears it like a badge of honor and has recovered full use of her leg.
Four years after her cancer fight, Harley turned ten. Shortly
thereafter Pat and Bill found another tumor. It was on the back of Harley’s paw.
Once again, Harley was faced with surgery. Because of her age
and concerned with her quality of life, Pat, Bill and the vet decided not to
put Harley through radiation therapy.
Harley sailed though surgery with flying colors and again, made
a full recovery.
This month, Harley will turn fourteen. To this day, she still
enjoys rides in the car, the occasional steak dinner, and spending time with
her younger sister, Zelda.
For Pat and Bill, Harley is still the same wonderful and loving
dog she’s always been.
For all of us who have had the opportunity to meet her, Harley
is an inspiration and a hero.
Click here to visit THE WHY? FOUNDATION and learn more about
our WALL OF SMILES & $5 Cancer Documentary
was diagnosed with cancer there were a few things that became important to me
very quickly. At the top of that list was smiles. The power of a smile is
extraordinary. Smiles were exactly what I needed to make it through every
appointment, every surgery, every treatment and every morning when I simply
didn’t feel like getting up to fight cancer.
asked my friends to send me a photo of themselves smiling, it turned into two
large canvases, which helped through every step of my cancer fight. My Wall of Smiles is an image of love, family
and friendship that is unparalleled.
on how special it was for me, I thought, Why
not make the ultimate Wall of Smiles that everyone can be a part of?
the smile of a loved one, (including pets!) to celebrate, remember and inspire.
This is a place for images of Cancer Fighters, Medical Professionals,
Caretakers, Friends, Family, Co-Workers, Advocates…Everyone who would like to
send their smile out to the cancer fight that is encompassing the globe.
for a minimum $5 donation per photo. You do not need to submit a photo to make
a donation. And you need not make a donation to share your smile. All donations
will support my Cancer Documentary!
Maria and her husband Peter photographed on June 9, 2012
by Chaz Salembier and Allison W. Gryphon
a young woman, life for Maria Rimkus was all about fashion, working for hot
designers like Pepe Jeans in Madrid and Tommy Hilfiger in New York.Just when her
career was taking off Maria got the call that changed her world. In 1990, at
the age of twenty-four, her battle with cancer had begun.
was far from home, living and working in Spain, when she found a lump on her
collarbone. It was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Maria returned to the states and went through three months of intensive
treatment and radiation. She became a familiar face at Boston’s Dana Farber
Cancer Institute, first as a fighter and later as a survivor going in for
on with life, Maria fell in love with Peter McLaughlin. They were married,
settled down in Florida and shortly thereafter brought a pair of beautiful twin
boys into the world. Cancer-free and
happy, Maria was living life to the fullest.
then, this past April, something changed. Maria wasn’t feeling like herself.
took her to the emergency room. Maria’s doctors in Boston were called. The next
day Maria and Peter were on the first flight out of Florida. Soon thereafter
Maria was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer of the bile ducts
and liver. She was given six months to a year.
May, through her dear friend Kelly Schandel, Maria and Allison W. Gryphon were
introduced. The hope was for Maria to participate in Allison’s documentary What The F@#- Is Cancer and Why Does
Everybody Have It?. Logistics and treatments for both women prevented an
interview for the movie so we found another way to share the strength and determination
of this amazing woman.
Maria. This is her own story in her own words as told on June 10, 2012.
WHAT KIND OF
CANCER ARE YOU FIGHTING?
was at the Dana Farber clinic last November for testing and everything was
April, I was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma,
a rare cancer of the bile ducts and liver. They think it may have a
small metastasis to some lymph nodes. This will be confirmed after my next PET
and unfortunately means I am not a candidate for a liver transplant. My
prognosis is not good. The doctors said
if I live a year that would be considered a ‘homerun’.
IS THERE A
HISTORY OF CANCER IN YOUR FAMILY?
is a little history. My sister had
thyroid cancer in 1991, the year after I had Hodgkin’s.
DO YOU KNOW
WHERE YOUR CANCER CAME FROM?
Yes. When I had Hodgkin’s, the doctors marked me
with small tattoos where the radiation went in for precise location. My main tumors are directly over where the
radiation was done; therefore what saved me twenty-four years ago is what is
killing me now.
DID YOU THINK
YOU WERE AT RISK?
due to my past history, I have always felt susceptible to another cancer.
WHAT TYPE OF
TREATMENT HAVE YOU BEEN THROUGH AND WHAT ARE YOU FACING?
have already done one round of six cycles of chemotherapy. I will probably do this to extend my life
expectancy for as long as possible. If I
get lucky and they let me have a liver and bile duct transplant, I may have a
better chance, but that would mean that the cancer had not metastasis as far as
they now think. I am also on many
medications, and two shots a day for blood thinners, as they have found blood
clots in my leg.
EXPERIENCED ANY SIDE EFFECTS FROM TREATMENTS OR SURGERY?
hair has thinned, but ironically even though I am on one of the harshest chemo
treatments, most people do not lose their hair on this chemo.
ARE YOU FINDING DIET AND EXERCISE IN GETTING THROUGH THIS?
have always been athletic and worked out, but once I started feeling tired I was only doing yoga. Since I was diagnosed I have not worked out
at all, but am hoping that after a few more sessions of chemo I will find the
energy to start doing light exercises.
for diet, I have read so much. I love the book AntiCancer. I’ve met with a
macrobiotic specialist and nutritionist.
The macrobiotic diet, although it might be beneficial for a healthy
person and good in the long run, is not working for me at the moment. I need to gain weight and put on as many
calories as possible, which just is not happening on a macrobiotic diet. I think you should eat a plant-based diet,
but some organic meat is also fine.
HOW ARE YOU
FIGHTING CANCER EMOTIONALLY?
am mentally strong and positive, which I really believe is half the
battle. I have such a strong support
system of family and friends, and have been very open and honest about my fight
with cancer. We are an open book, with
my husband writing in a blog to keep everyone updated.
feel at peace, thinking that I have been given an extra twenty-four years of
life, in which time I met my wonderful husband and had my beautiful twin
boys. That does not mean I am not going
to fight my hardest to beat this and watch my boys grow up.
DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER CANCER FIGHTERS?
a positive attitude, go one day at a time so as not to be overwhelmed, and find
something good in everyday!
DO YOU HAVE FOR THE MEDICAL PROFESSION?
compassionate, and try to put yourself in the position of the patient.
DO YOU HAVE FOR FRIENDS, FAMILY AND CO-WORKERS OF CANCER FIGHTERS?
supportive and let the cancer fighter know you are there for them, but also
give them their space. A lot of times we
don’t want visitors, and feel like we have to entertain when people come to
visit. We need our rest.
HOW DO YOU
FEEL ABOUT THE FUTURE? WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES AND DREAMS?
am positive! I hope to have a great
future and want to watch my boys grow up.
I am hoping I will feel strong enough to go to my thirty year high
school reunion on the west coast this summer.
My husband and I also want to take the boys to Costa Rica for New Years
and celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary there, which is where we got
FOR YOU IN
ONE WORD WHAT IS CANCER?
As of today
Maria is fighting the fight and feeling good with the help of acupuncture and
her amazing support system which you can learn more about at Caring Bridge.
A couple of months ago, I received a message from Angelica Scott with the subject line: "A Tattoo to Transcend a Breast Cancer Battle - Allison W. Gryphon's Story." It stood out, especially in contrast to the tattoo supply promos and nude photos from strangers that usually flood my Inbox. I was put in touch with Allison, and indeed, she has an incredible story that is inspiring to all, even beyond those fighting cancer.