Earl and I were in a restaurant at the end of February where we saw two former teaching buddies, Scott and Mary. They are expecting their first child in September. We chatted for a while, sharing pleasantries and laughs. As we were leaving, Scott said, “Not to put a damper on your evening, but we just found out that Carly has Hodgkin’s.” Carly is his daughter, a young lady whom I have known since she was two years old. We share a love of horses. She was the first kid I let ride Scooter when he was new to our crew. Carly was seven at the time.
Cancer at 16. What a blow for a girl in the prime of adolescence. 16 year-olds should be getting their licenses, going out on dates, driving their parents nuts, getting into trouble and focusing on the fun of high school while thinking ahead to college. One might feel sorry for her, but that’s the last thing Carly wants.
Carly is a brave young woman whose first post on her online journal was, “The cancer picked the wrong woman to mess with!” and “We’ll smash this small speedbump in my life to smithereens. Adios cancer.”
Carly’s website is provided by Caring Bridge, an organization that provides “free, personalized websites that support and connect loved ones during critical illnesses, treatment and recovery.” Carly and her family immediately jumped on this opportunity to record her journey for people to follow. It also helps to connect with Carly in a way that does not intrude on her life at a time of delicate health issues such as low blood counts during chemotherapy. Since the beginning of March to date, Carly has had over 1200 hits on her website. A few more and I think she gets a set of steak knives.
Since her hair has just started to fall out in dribs and drabs, she is going to shave it today. She posted previously about going to a meeting where she asked an older woman about hair falling out, and what to do about it. She was told to laugh.
When I fractured my hip, I had the nurse write on the whiteboard in my room, “Use humor, it helps.” Instead of focusing on how banged up I was at the time, I preferred to find something to laugh about, like having a deaf nurse on the day I lost my voice due to the tube that had been in my throat during surgery. “Speak up, Mary!” No, I don’t think I will.
Carly’s dad was one of the people who helped me out a lot during that time by visiting me, and helping Earl make accommodations at home for when I was released. Now it’s time for their family to get a lot of support.
It’s OK to laugh at cancer. A friend who was fighting cancer at the same time I was an orthopedic train wreck told me that she had a hard time going upstairs, even with her husband helping. I mentioned I had the same problem. We agreed that cancer and fractured hips must be the same disease. Then we laughed our heads off. My friend, Jean, about whom I have written many times, and I shared many a laugh during her treatments. She was visited by one idiot hospitalist that really ticked me off. As her medical power of attorney, she knew I hauled him out into the hall and reamed him a new one. Jean forever referred to him as “Dr. Bite Me.”
I found a great website, cafepress.com, that has t-shirts, caps and other funny and poignant items for just about any condition or occasion. I bought one for myself that reads, “I’m totally hip.” The P in the word hip is in the shape of my implant. I wear it annually at the Orthopaedic Center of the Rockies “Joint Walk.” When my little cousin started medical school, I got her a shirt that read, “Veterinarians treat more than one species.” Jamie and her classmates had a good laugh about that one. Jean got a shirt that said “Chemo-sabe.” I sent that one to Carly.
Carly will be OK. She will get through her “speedbump.” Visit Carly’s website and see true courage in real time.
Rock on, Carly!