This week is National Cancer Survivors Week. It is meant to show us that “life after cancer can be a reality”. Cancer pulls you out of the world you know, it makes you question what’s truly important in life, and it makes you very aware of your own mortality. As mentioned in last year’s Pink Ribbon Charmballa Breast Cancer Awareness Month blog post, much of our design and support team at Joseph Nogucci’s lives have been touched by cancer. This is the story of our two lead officers Mario and Luca Lavorato’s mother’s battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma:
“In the spring of 1986 our mother Rachele was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins Lymphoma. Concerned about the string of enlarged lymph nodes that encircled her neck like a necklace, she booked an appointment with our family doctor who did not seem immediately concerned. What followed after that first appointment were weeks of repeated night sweats, some minor weight loss and a constant itch on the bottoms of her feet and the palms of her hands. At this point she returned to her doctor who referred her to a haematologist at Woman’s College who then definitively diagnosed the Hodgkin’s disease. Rachele was 35 with a two-year-old (my brother Mario) at the time and eagerly anticipating a family excursion to Italy that coming summer. Rachele can still remember the doctors in the hallway that day of diagnosis discussing her case within earshot: “She thinks she’s going to Italy. I don’t think so”. After weeks of hospital visits fraught with fear and uncertainty for herself and our family, she was given the news that her cancer was considered the “best of the worst” and that she was found to be at a stage two of progression. However, the options for treatment would be left entirely up to her: chemotherapy for aggressive and prophylactic treatment, or radiation only since the disease was caught in an early stage. She optimistically opted for the radiation treatment. Life eventually normalized after the 2-month therapy at Princess Margaret Hospital.
It wasn’t until the winter of 1991 when our grandmother Lydia was battling ovarian cancer at the young age of 63 that our mother began to experience the itch on the soles of her feet and the deep in the palms of her hands again: The cancer was back just shy of the golden 5 year goal. This time the course of action would be far more aggressive for the disease, which was now at stage three. This was a very dark period for our entire family as both our mother and grandmother underwent chemotherapy sessions together, sometimes side-by-side. Our grandmother lost her battle that spring. However, despite the horrific emotional toll, Rachele’s body responded to the aggressive treatment that drove the Hodgkin’s into remission.
That was 23 years ago and today our mother is a happy and healthy 62 year old who is now a retired professor emeritus.”
We hope these survivor stories will inspire you to support National Cancer Survivors Week and to show your survivors how much you care.