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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Jennifer Wolf's Cancer Journey

My name is Jennifer Wolf.

In the virtual worlds of Inwordz and Second Life, I am known as Bootedgirl Foxtrot.

The voice you hear today is not my own, but from a wonderful and dear friend.

Thank you Panza.

Life is absolutely a funny thing, especially when you think on how and where you gain the jewels in your life. We all rule our own lives, even though it can feel like that is far from the truth. We still hold the crown to our life, and on it are the jewels you hold dear to your heart. In my life, I found most of those jewels in the past five years.


The path life's journey travels on is filled with wonder, but, we must choose to open our eyes to see the path, learn the wisdom offered in it and steer clear of the sharp curves and obstacles life throws at us and see the signs that warn of troubles ahead.

Before my journey was detoured by cancer in September of 2008, I did not realize how blindly I was traveling my path, but I did stumble upon one of my greatest jewels in my life, Cindy, who became my best friend in middle school, and we remained best friends ever since. Cindy volunteered to be my caregiver during this detour my life took, changing her own plans in life, and during this whole journey together fighting my cancer, I had my older brother by my side, along Cindy, and they both became very close and I am so very happy to say, they are now engaged to be married. Now if someone can teach them how to set a date I will be even happier!

I learned that light really can come from such darkness, and bonds within two separate hearts can be forged through mutual worry, fear of loss and a common love. In truth, we all became each other's caregiver in a way, and became a team in a game no one would ever wish to play. We tend to get comfortable with familiar grounds in life, and take details of the journey for granted, never truly seeing how things do change or go missing, but we continue on down the path we think we know so well, when in reality, we simply have no clue. Sadly, that reality hits you the moment you are told the words, "...you have cancer...".

Life changes forever, and a new perspective is born, where details are emphasized, and what and who matters the most in your life becomes the only priority.

One-thousand, four-hundred, ninety-six days. From the day I heard those first horrible words of my diagnosis, to the day I heard the best words of "...all-clear...", I traveled a journey, a life detour and at times, an absolute nightmare, and I now find that my eyes are truly wide open. During this time, I found many wonderful friends, jewels that fit my life's crown perfectly, and one of those jewels is now reading these words. 4 years, 1 month, 4 days, the duration that began with fear, regret, panic and anxiety. A duration of roughly 35,880 hours of living with cancer, which included many dark hours, for not just me, but those close to me, like my brother and best friend, my parents who could not bare the thought of their daughter having cancer, and of those I came to closely know on-line during those early dark times.

During the first week I stopped working, I created my Second Life account, along with other social accounts to occupy my days between the misery. I met wonderful people from around the world and found friendships can indeed reach far distances. At first I only told close friends of my cancer, and silently relayed for my first time at the Relay For Life of Second Life in 2009. I learned more about my fight during that relay and found how cancer is not just a fight with family and friends by my side, but the whole world by all sides of those fighting for their lives, all in the same war, seeking the same cure.

Cancer is not a single struggle. It is not a stone that hits just one bird, but the whole flock. Those dark hours changed me in many ways, and even changed those around me. It is not everyday I can come across a group of people who together helped me make my final preparations, then made it possible for me to complete a promise, and then honored my wish to properly say my goodbyes before things could get too bad for me to do so.

It is not everyday you can come across someone who has done all this, and happened to survive the "wait" that came after the goodbyes. After going through series of tests, scans, then emergency surgeries, where I was revived twice during separate operations, I was still given a terminal prognosis. I was even told I would be lucky if I see Christmas of 2008, but I proved prognosis time frames are not set in stone. And I also suffered nerve damage to my vocals during a tumor extraction, where they said I would regain my voice eventually, but never did.

I later survived an extended hypoglycemic blackout adding damage to more nerves, resulting in a loss of half my feeling below my waist, and the stability in my left arm, which sometimes shakes when I use it. All I type today is done with only my right hand, and those who chat with me would never know. Along with having this nerve damage and then being poisoned with chemo treatments, I had a very hard time walking in 2009 and in 2010, but I refused to settle for relying on the wheelchair for small things like going to the bathroom.
My stubbornness cost me my many falls, involving one fractured finger and many bruises, and at times I crawled so not to wake anyone if I fell when I really had to go bad.

Sometimes it takes more than a cancer diagnosis to keep an independent girl from getting things done on her own. During this time, I found I was still able to Relay For Life on a virtual track, in a virtual world, and that meant a lot to me in the time I could not walk well in real life. After my terminal prognosis was re-evaluated in 2009 with their opinions of life durations, I was faced with further obstacles for making choices with limited and ridiculous options. This eventually resulted in my signing waivers to allow myself more quality of what life I could still hold onto, placing liability in my own hands. No one was going to keep me from doing what I felt was right for me, or tell me what I can not do in what time I had left.

With these choices I made, brought more worry to those around me, but I am so thankful for the caring devotion and love my best friend Cindy and her family offered for me throughout this journey. With them, along with my brother, I had the care and emotional resources to overcome the darkest hours and hold onto goals and make preparations for any possibilities that might arise if things did go wrong, or worst. After further operations, including more emergency surgeries, continued lighter treatments and time to heal, I finally made it to that day I heard those wonderful words of "...all-clear, for now" on October 30th 2012. Now, I can focus on recovery of my normal life, without fears of failed treatments, although there will always be that worry each time I go in for a checkup scan or blood test, but I will be ready if something should ever recur in that way in my future.

Today, as I look in the mirror, I no longer see the girl I recognize, but instead see a survivor, who inside is still the same girl, same heart, same dreams. I now dream for a cure, an extended hope that one day this world will no longer fear those words: "you have cancer", but instead have a cure to offer patients, instead of possible approximate durations left to live. We do not have expiration dates, we "cancer-vive", and one day cancer will just be cured, with a 3 out of 3 survival rate, and 100% survivability.

My wish is to see this happen in my lifetime.

Regardless of what anyone has told you, .....life is a funny journey.

As babies we tend to laugh, ...at pretty much everything, and as kids we laugh at games and cartoons. As teens we tend to laugh at dangers never thinking much at all about mortality, but giggle when we think of how life can be with that hot guy you met in the library after 3rd period class.

Today, I laugh at how silly some things I once laughed at were, but today, I often think and laugh at,.....the fact that  I AM STILL  laughing.

In times of life crisis and chaos, life sometimes feels like its nothing but anger, ...violence, ...and pain. Life can be so very terrifying when it makes that sudden turn to cancer, but if you happen to know where to find it, life can also have happiness, ...comfort, ...and love. The world does have joy and laughter in it, and when you discover those places and people that make you feel you are a part of their life, you don't give up on it, you fight for it. And that is a fact that is very easily forgotten. And to have those, in my life, who love me enough to remind me of that fact everyday, in all they say and do, makes my life journey worth fighting for.

As I move on in life, from being a cancer patient, returning to normality as a productive person of society, with all my new limitations everyone sees of me, like being mute and limited of what I can physically do from nerve damage, the question will undoubtedly be asked of me, "Do you feel equipped to handle all the challenges?"

..My answer:...

"I just won this battle with terminal cancer, have overcome being mute, using ways everyone can understand, and learned the importance of not giving up.

So yes,

I AM,

I just had to prove to myself that I am in fact capable."

o:')

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Jenn for sharing your story with us, and thank you Panza for reading it to us in InWorldz

    ReplyDelete