[Publisher's Note: “Special Reports” are posted from time-to-time as a benefit for subscribers and frequent visitors to this blog. (This “Special Report” is a bit unusual because of its highly personal nature.) “Special Reports” are not widely promoted. To be notified of all new posts, including "Special Reports," please take a moment to subscribe in the right-hand column.]
For me, 2011 started off fantastically. My book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, which had been recently released by Wiley, saw sales doing quite well. Early in 2011, the book became the number one planned giving bestseller at Amazon. In March, the Association of Fundraising Professionals presented me with the AFP-Skystone Partners Prize for Research in Fundraising and Philanthropy for the work I did on my book. In July, CFRE International put my book on its official Resource Reading List.
Business was good. My family was good. My friends were good. I even began contemplating a new professional adventure.
Then, the second half of 2011 took a turn for the scary.
At the peak of the fright, every single muscle in my body literally ached. I was incapable of thinking about much else. I was dealing with cancer. Not mine, though. My wonderful wife of 25 years, Lisa, was diagnosed with Stage 1-C Ovarian Cancer.
For a number of years, Lisa had experienced a variety of health-related symptoms. Doctors brushed aside her concerns as “normal,” “typical,” or something that will “just go away.” As her symptoms became more severe, her quest for answers became more serious. When doctors wanted to simply address her symptoms, she insisted that they find the underlying cause. When they seemed unwilling or unable to do so, she found another doctor.
After getting less than satisfactory medical results from three gynecologists, a gastroenterologist, and an emergency room physician, she found yet another new gynecologist. The new doctor spent nearly 30 minutes with her prior to the examination. She talked with Lisa about her symptoms and concerns. She took a medical history. She listened. Following the exam that included an in-office ultrasound, the doctor ordered two tests that proved vital: an MRI and a CA-125 blood test.
The MRI results came in shortly after Thanksgiving. You didn’t need to be a radiologist to see the massive cyst. The doctor followed-up with Lisa, and met with her to discuss her options. Lisa then scheduled an appointment with one of the top gynecological oncologists in the country, based on the recommendation of her new gynecologist. While in his office, the CA-125 results came in. Things did not look good. He scheduled Lisa for surgery the following week.
The surgeon gave Lisa a 10 percent chance of the cyst being benign. Sadly, she was not that lucky. A hysterectomy was conducted.
Lisa is now recovering nicely from her surgery. Her normal toughness and good humor are serving her well. She is pretty much off of her pain killers. She’s walking a good amount and is getting out and about.
Lisa’s doctor says he was able to remove all visible signs of the cancer. But, her fight is not yet over. Shortly, Lisa will begin chemotherapy. The coming months will present a continuing challenge.
With Lisa’s permission, I’m sharing our story with you for three reasons:
First, some folks have noticed that I’ve been less engaged on Twitter and elsewhere. I’ve been more disorganized than usual. I’ve been less responsive than usual. Well, now you know why. I hope you will continue to be patient with me.
Second, we wanted to let every woman, in fact every person, know that you should trust your own instincts. You know your body better than anyone. If you go to a doctor with a problem and do not get a satisfactory response, fire the doctor and find another. If Lisa had listened to any of the early doctors, the cancer would have been allowed to grow. Her gynecological oncologist said that he sees relatively few cases of Stage 1 Ovarian Cancer. Usually, the cases are more advanced. Lisa’s case would have become more advanced if she had been a good little patient and simply listened to her doctors. Instead, her own persistence led her to a doctor that finally caught the problem while still in a relatively early stage. Her chances for survival are now vastly improved compared to what they would have been. So, we wanted to send a clear message that we all need to take charge of our health and, above all, listen to the messages our bodies are sending us. It could save your life. It likely saved Lisa’s.
Third, we want to publicly thank our friends and family for their love and support. This has been a physically and emotionally challenging time and it will continue to be so well into 2012. Our family and friends have made it easier in so many ways for us to cope.
While the road ahead will be difficult, I’m confident that Lisa’s journey will be successful. We hope that next year’s year-end headline will read “It was the Worst of Times; It was the Best of Times. It was 2012.”
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?