There are three words that can change your life forever. When it’s “I love you,” those words and what they mean get you through most ups and downs of life. I was lucky enough to hear those words in 1970 from a man I would later marry (1972). And we had a good life through all the ups and downs, raising two sons, struggling, working , but always supporting each other.
In 2003 three other words came in to our lives. “You have cancer.” The love, the support, the sons, they all got us through the next four months. But to the day of that diagnosis my beautiful husband of 31 years passed away at home. Not before telling us that whatever happens to him we should know that he led a blessed life. He was courageous and strong and an inspiration.
The grief and the void seemed overwhelming. We were a quiet and ordinary family. Like so many others who hear those words, we believed we could beat this. We had extraordinary doctors, and Michael was otherwise a strong healthy determined individual. But like so many others it was not to be. I wanted to stay in my bed with the covers over my head forever. But my sons and I just couldn’t let his HOPE die.
From a quiet family, we left our comfort zone and became strong voices in the cancer community. As fate would have it, one month after Michael died we were parked behind a car with a NJ plate that read CONQUER CANCER. Those words were to be my focus then and now. I travelled the state, sometimes with my mom, or sons or friends, but many times alone, trying to gather enough applications to get a CONQUER CANCER plate for Massachusetts. I spoke to anyone and everyone who would listen. This from, as my mother-in-law would say, a very meek person.
Eighteen months later, we got these beautiful license plates on the road and I have
definitely found my voice. Last year we built a Cancer Garden of Hope right on Boston City Hall Plaza (with the blessing of Mayor Menino). For me, leaving my comfort zone has made me stronger and wiser. I have met the best and most caring people along the way and have learned that even in tragedy, none of us are alone.