In 1994, sixteen years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That November, I had an eight and a half-hour surgery. My surgeon was so elated that he pushed me into ICU himself, talking to me all the way as I tried to awaken.

I shall never forget the words: “Hurry and wake up, there has been a miracle!” For the next month, I recall the many professionals, my dear family, my support groups back home praying – and their emotional outbursts when I finally returned to the schools I had developed over the last 40 years.

I learned the fullness of love that so many people are capable of. But most of all, I learned about myself and a spiritual life that I only thought I had before. I have a desire that I developed while in the hospital: to be an advocate; to inspire a survivor’s attitude in any and all patients who are awaiting surgery, or are healing. I had to work for a while, and still feel so very grateful that I have this compassion. Perhaps it is likened to some post-traumatic feelings, because not every patient is to survive this sneaky killer – this quiet and silent disease.

While in the hospital that month, I learned that survivors of colon and breast cancer are given permission to be advocates to patients, so I requested if I could also speak to a survivor with a similar diagnosis. I realize that the doctors could not tell me they had no survivors or advocates for my particular cancer. It would be quite depressing to be told how few survive. I want to share this hope with anyone. I am in my 16th year of my new life; of my very active, very fun, very blessed-life. I have not only remained the grandmother of three boys who are now 19, 11, and 24 year-olds, but have the joy of two more little ones, now eight and five years old. My cup runneth over!

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