On Friday, November 4, 2011, my world completely changed. My older daughter Elizabeth, 21 at that time, called me as I was finishing a qi gong class at home. She was in tears, having trouble breathing and said something was wrong, she was in so much pain she was headed to the Student Health Center again. I knew it was serious, as this girl doesn’t cry, and has a very high pain threshold. I immediately said I’d meet her there, jumped in the car and tried to center and calm myself as I drove. As I walked in to find her, the kind doctor was telling her to go to the ER at UMC. We asked if she could go home, drop off her car and pick up a few things, and he said yes, but not to delay. He also called ahead and made sure she knew to tell them she was having chest pain, so she’d be seen quickly. Apparently he had a very good idea that she had mediastinal non-Hodgkins lymphoma from looking at her, as her face and neck were quite swollen, and that a large tumor wrapped around a vein was causing the swelling. She’d been having pain in her right upper chest for weeks that another doctor had been dismissing as allergies, and treating her with prednisone.
We didn’t learn the exact diagnosis until after her biopsy on Monday. However within hours of arriving at the ER, her chest x-ray showed us a large mass in her chest, about the size of her heart, just to the right of it. It was shocking to see. Elizabeth was healthy – she’d rarely been sick, had been treated with homeopathic remedies most of her childhood, ate organic whole foods, was a vegetarian since age 14 and had been a dedicated yoga student much of her life. How could she have a mass the size of her fist in her chest? How could she have cancer?!
Our dear friend Ann Marie, Elizabeth’s doctor, came to sit with us as we waited hours for her be admitted. I walked outside with her at some point, and started sobbing on her shoulder, “no, no, no, no, no….!” I was worried about all kinds of things, from the cost of the yet unknown treatment and her limited insurance cap, to her being able to complete her semester as a junior at the U of A, to how she would cope emotionally with the diagnosis of cancer, but I did NOT think she would die. That was not in my world of possibilities yet. I couldn’t even imagine my world without Elizabeth.
We were moved very slowly and gently into that reality, and for that I am deeply grateful. For the eleven months we had after this day, nine of them believing and trusting that she would have a full recovery and live a long, healthy life, and the last two months knowing she would die, I am grateful. Every moment was a blessing. She and I did a lifetime of healing in that time, she lived fully and richly, and in the end, she became love itself, showering us all with love, and in a state of grace that I’m blessed to have experienced in this lifetime.