It was June 2009, and a big day for me. I had just returned from the car dealer, having closed one of life’s chapters by trading in my ancient mommy van for a gently-used, lightning-fast sedan. I stared in glee at my sparkly red machine, reveling in my happiness over finally graduating from those clunky, manual sliding doors. Oh, and not to mention the absence of that huge DVD player and TV combo that we strapped down with bungie cords to the captain’s chair anchors for road trips with the kids — which rested atop the chewy snacks and dog fur that were forever glued to the chair tracks. It was a new dawn for me in this next phase of life, behind the wheel of a car that was not filled with lunch remnants, dented from new teen drivers or required extensive wiring to play something more than a cassette. I had arrived, I thought.
Until the phone rang and I heard the word “sarcoma” being uttered by my brother for the very first time…
Since that day I’ve learned, through my brother’s fight against sarcoma, what it means – in harshly realistic terms – to not only be stricken with a cancer diagnosis, but to be victimized by one that had so few treatment options. I saw firsthand, at every post-scan appointment, his gut-wrenching cries from the devastation of knowing that the cancer was growing wildly. I saw the eyes of a man, who once had a smile that lit up every room, be reduced to reflective pools of a crossroad between immense courage and haunting fear. I was constantly gripped with terror in the race against time in finding the answers he needed to regain his health. And ultimately, I watched in complete horror as his children wept and placed some of their beloved toys and blankets upon his slowly-rising chest.
It is through the witnessing of this unspeakable suffering of Alan, and then Paula Takacs, and learning about the harsh realities of this unrelenting villain, that drove my decision to take the helm of the Paula Takacs Foundation. So many people over the last two years have asked me to blog about my experiences as an advocate, caretaker, sister, and friend, so that our supporters will get to know me better. To be frank, I’ve been relentlessly conflicted about it. On one hand, it would give an “insider’s view” of this disease for those who have not been sadly acquainted, so that they would clearly understand and appreciate the dire need for research and treatment options. However, I think about the many, many families that are part of our foundation family now, and how my no-holes-barred recounting of hell would upset them and bring back their own demons. And so, regardless of the catharsis it might afford me or the popularity I might gain in the world of cancer blogging, I simply cannot do it. Some may say I am wrong, but I’m at peace with it.
I will, however, write from time to time about the special moments and hilarious predicaments that I will always treasure in the year I spent with my brother Alan. Those are the stories he’d want me to tell you – the one’s that brought tears of unbridled joy or the ones that caused that kind of laughter when your sides ache. That’s what he’d want. And that’s what Paula would want.
How do I prefer you to get to know me? Let’s have coffee together. Come to a volunteer meeting and chat. Introduce yourself at the April 29 Sarcoma Stomp. And yes, I’ll be there with my now elderly red sedan – scratched, dented, and worn – but driven with mind-bending perspective.