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"Only one place to go - up"
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The Spectator
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 by Ron Cruger
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2013 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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          The first time you see Sharon you feel that you are in the presence of someone special. Her pretty face has an angelic glow of love, peace and caring. Smiles come readily to her. She laughs and smiles a lot. Hugging comes easy to her.
          She goes through the day finding reasons to be thankful to be alive.
          She figures that each day is there to enjoy.
          The pains of today and her past are dismissed, leaving only hope and positive expectations for the day ahead. One day at a time.
          So many of her hours each day are filled with caring for others. Little time is left for brooding over her own condition.
          When her doctor hit her with the blockbuster, “You have cancer,” she felt so badly for the doctor that she patted her on the shoulder and told her, “It’s okay, don’t worry about me. I’m going to be okay.” She wanted to console her doctor. She wanted to hug her. She felt the doctor’s burden.
          Since that day in 2007, when she found out she had cervical cancer, many of her days have been filled with the painful and unpleasant treatments to combat the disease.
          Since 2005 Sharon has lived with the tests, treatments, pain, discomfort and harrowing diagnosis of her disease. She has moved past three marriages, three divorces, the infidelity of a husband, the outrageous possessiveness of another and the dark moods and depression of a third.
          She takes an occasional glance back at her past and openly admits the mistakes she has made in some of her life choices. She considers her mistakes as “learning tools.” She knows that a failed marriage is the result of two person’s actions, not just one. She accepts her share of the blame.
          The fifty four year old mother of three was born in Inglewood, California. She has two sisters, a brother and three children of her own – two sons and a daughter. She’s close to her family.
          Much of Sharon’s life has been devoted to the care of family, friends and strangers. From 1993 to 1998 she volunteered at the AIDS Service Center in Pasadena. Her years volunteering at the AIDS Service Center taught her about the depths into which human beings can fall. She learned of the heartbreaking condition of AIDS patients with no family, no friends, alone in the world with no support systems. Assisting AIDS patients, alone and often doomed to die of their disease, helped Sharon to understand the closeness of death. She helped them face their days of doubt about their tomorrows.
          Her natural empathy grew as she read books on death, dying and the pains that surrounded her. During her months of working with AIDS patients she found herself losing her own fear of death. She concentrated on realizing how much she had to live for. Looking back on her years at the AIDS Service Center she concluded that “When you’re down there’s only one place to go – up!”
          Early in 2005 Sharon felt something going wrong in her body. She didn’t feel well. Her equilibrium was off. She felt lethargic. Her energy was flagging. Doctors told her that her blood tests were normal; there was a slight reduction in her thyroid activity. Her primary care doctor gave her thyroid medication and told her she would be fine.
           She still didn’t feel well. More trips to the doctor, more tests. She knew her body and something was wrong.
          Another Pap smear. This time the doctors found something.
          “Sharon, you have cervical cancer!”
          More tests followed. Another meeting with the doctors.
          The doctor told her, “Sharon, it’s possible the cancer has moved past your cervix – it has spread!”
          Her employer, the head officer of a large HMO in California, recommended that she get a second opinion. He suggested she see a doctor skilled and experienced in this form of cancer. He recommended the doctor. The doctor examined her and confirmed the cancer was now past the cervix. The doctor told her that some of her lymph nodes were larger than they should be. To combat the spread of the cancer extreme measures were recommended. Chemotherapy once a week for three months in addition to radiation therapy five times a week during those same three months.
          Then surgery at the end of May, 2007. The name of the surgery indicates the complexity of the procedure – “Extra peritoneal pelvic and periaortic lymph nodes dissection.”
          Sharon told friends and her family of the advanced cancer invading her body. She told them with a smile and laughter – to make them feel better. She kidded with them. She didn’t want them to suffer from her ill fortune.
          Doctors gave her a “pain patch” to lessen the terrible, gnawing pain in her body. They drained her body of the fluids that constantly built up. Her life was in a “fog.”
          The internal radiation treatments sapped what energy she had left.
          Extensive chemotherapy treatments ended this past May 3rd. They had been going on regularly for five months.
          Doctors recently found a suspicious nodule on one of her lungs.
          During one examination a doctor told her, “We’re surprised you’ve lasted this long. You have a year, maybe two.”
          Sharon feels the aching pains in her swollen pelvis. She has regular appointments with the doctors. She fills her visits with a smile and laughter. She wants the doctors and nurses to feel positive and comfortable with her. No sadness or worry. “Everything is going to work out okay.”
          If you saw Sharon today you’d see a lovely, confident, smiling face. You wouldn’t guess that the last few years had been so demanding and painful. She goes to work every day.
          I sat and talked with Sharon the other day for a few hours. She has become my personal heroine. Her bravery, her attitude, her ability to face life, its pains and adversities, is firm, resolute and deeply admirable.
          Three times during our talk she mentioned “When you’re down, there’s only one place to go – up!” She also told me, “It doesn’t do any good to get down.”
          I have a hunch, a strong belief, that come the middle of this coming July, when Sharon goes for a “pet scan” and an examination, the doctors are going to be amazed. This lovely, charming, resolute woman will defeat the attacker of her body. I believe that the doctor will touch her on her shoulder and say, “We’re witness to a miracle, the cancer is gone!”
          Like Sharon says, “When you’re down, there’s only one place to go – up!”
          The light of Sharon’s life and the brightness of her spirit will shine for all who know her – and will for years to come.