Sitting down and writing this note brings so many tears to my eyes. I did it. I’m in remission. That word gives me chills of excitement every time I write it. Six months ago I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer and now I’m a survivor. I defied the odds. I came out on the other side. I am incredibly proud of myself.
I tested a lot of things. My body, my mind, my optimism and my hope. Each part of me feels the intense weight lifted. For the last half-year my mind has been in a subconscious state of fear and I’d be lying if I said that fear isn’t still lingering. It will take time to rewire that fear and replace it with safety. My meditation has become a place of refuge for those fears. I sit with them now and remind myself that I’m okay.
I am a different woman now. I will not be the same ‘Nina’ that I was before my diagnosis. The term ‘normal’ is not something I will ever be able to say. I’m okay with that, I’m ready to embrace the new me because I’m damn proud of her. She is going to make a difference.
There are a few things that I have learned from this experience that I feel compelled to share. These lessons will stay with me for the rest of my life and for that, I could not be more grateful.
- When faced with adversity, every human has a choice. You can choose to live in fear and let negativity grip your state of mind or choose joy. When I chose joy, I gave myself the ability to see life as a miracle. I opened my eyes to what was around me. Found happiness in nature, my vegetable garden, cooking, art and exercise. I choose to react with a smile and make the most of every single day. I believe that is what saved me.
- When you face the fear of death, a lot of things in your life get put into perspective. I never want anyone to feel close to death, but what it taught me is profound. Life is impermeant. If we view life in a way that highlights impermanence and use it to our advantage we begin to get out of our own way and really start living. The small worries begin to dissipate, the rush to get everything done goes away and the present moment gives you energy.
- I will forever be grateful for my diagnosis. I look at it as a blessing. I was able to look at my priorities and shift those drastically. I now follow my gut. If I could have learned anything, that is probably one of the biggest.
- I learned our humankind is innately good. My family, my friends, strangers…these humans gave me the strength I needed. At any moment I never felt alone. I could feel the prayers, the love, and the energy from every angle. I will never underestimate the power of human support and will make it my priority to give that back to others.
- I consciously surrendered to what I could not control, reacted with love and believed in myself – those are the secret ingredients.
So, when people ask, how did you do it? How did you go through this with such optimism? I tell them it’s your choice. You have the power to control how you react. Choose joy and you will never look back. Our bodies can do hard things. Our minds are the ones who might tell us differently. I broke that disconnect between body and mind and trusted myself.
For those in my life, who have followed me, prayed, supported our family, given us your unconditional love. I am FOREVER grateful and inspired by your selfless love. You have shown our family what support means and we will never forget those gestures. Thank you from every part of my body – you changed our journey.
This one is for you Tai, thank you for giving me the strength to keep fighting. I felt you with me every single day.
One more note from Papa Bear. I’ve been tasked with updating you on the medical side and I’m hoping this answers some questions many have expressed.
Nina has entered what’s termed a complete response. This means the cancer we saw in her organs, lymph nodes, and bones has responded to her six cycles of chemotherapy. Now, we move into a watchful phase for the next two years to ensure that her response is durable. The most challenging hurdle with the highest odds for failure is behind us and we’ve cleared that hurdle with flying colors. If Nina is progression-free over the next 1.5 to 2 years, she is pretty much fully cured.
I also thought I’d share with you a note I gave Nina the morning of her last day of treatment. It sums up the optimism we have. It also sums up the love and care all of you have provided over the past 5 months. Here you go:
To My Nina, My Bean, My Bops,
As you make your way into your last treatment, I know there’s a veritable mess of mixed thoughts and stories that circulate in your psyche. Once you filter all that out though, I do know some things that are absolutely true. Here are a few.
Please know that there are a multitude of loved ones watching you, loving you, praying for you. That energy, that love, that touch with a higher power is what is going to make a difference in this crazy, shitty, lovely, horrendous, frightful journey you’ve been on. Nobody – ever – should have to experience this. You have and you’ve weathered this with grace. You’ve weathered this with love – so deeply embedded in your soul.
Don’t’ ever judge yourself for the crazy, mixed-up thoughts. It’s OK. It’s natural. It comes with being an imperfect human.
KNOW that so many are with you today, tomorrow and always
Know that you’re LOVED
Know that you’re HELD
Know that you’re STRONG – Kick-Ass STRONG
Know that you’re BEAUTIFUL – Beautiful in soul, beautiful in how you LOVE
All is going to be OK. Better than OK. Way better than OK. You are going to put this experience in your rearview mirror. What will be here always is your ability to have and show compassion, your ability to appreciate the present, and your willingness and energy directed at making this world a better place for all beings.
And, as unfathomable as it may seem to all, your smile will only be bigger and your light will only be brighter.
This mix of love, strength, great medicine, and faith in that which is bigger than all of us is going to get you through this. You are loved. You are held.
There there Sweetheart. All is going to be OK … Way better than OK. I am excited and blessed to know that I get to share better tomorrow's with you for a long long time coming.
Love, Papa Bear
As Nina, Cory, and Laura have expressed. THANK YOU all for your support over the past months. We couldn’t have survived this experience without you. All of you. Love, Jamie
We are so Grateful!!
As you may know, Nina got her final treatment PET Scan a week early because she was experiencing concerning symptoms. The thirty-six some odd hours before getting her results brought my anxiety right back to the beginning of when she was originally diagnosed. This time though, I knew I had way more in reserves than I ever did before.
I had and have family, friends and a spiritual God. This is why I am grateful.
My family has been more than there. We held each other up when the others needed it.
Nina would write letters letting me know that hope reigned, Jamie would hug me in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep, and Cory would shine his ever-unconditional love in our house keep me at ease.
My friends - wow - my friends; their symbolic loving touches with food, flowers, notes, calls and walks, made me feel cared for every day.
My bible and meditation groups were there every week to pray for Nina and remind me to keep my heart open, be okay with what comes my way and to let go because I have no control.
As we move through these next stages of remission, we will carry these grateful lights with joy, honor and trust. Thank you!!!
May you all know that you all are Loved.
I will always remember you saying that this cancer was “just a bump in the road” only days after your diagnosis. That takes some serious confidence to call stage 4 lymphoma just a bump in the road! It also highlights your incredible mental fortitude and your unwillingness to let something external define you. It highlights how you take control of your destiny and how “You” always shines through. We all know this was no bump in the road, more like a metaphorical mountain of hardship and dread, but the fact that you treated it like one is part of what I find so inspirational about your journey.
Not that you need reminding, but you are one damn strong woman who can tackle anything that’s thrown your way! Congratulations on getting through this!
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