Thankful for Hope: Anniversaries, Lines, and Grey Hairs

By Andi Last

I took this photo and wrote the following in May of 2019, on my 10 year anniversary of moving home to San Diego from Australia. As I wrote it, I was awaiting the results of yet another mammogram. I find that gathering feelings of hope and gratitude helps me manage scanxiety – and every day of living with LFS.

The results of the mammogram were benign.

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In the past ten years, I’ve developed countless lines around my eyes and grey in my hair. My gratitude for these signs of life and years lived is limitless.

Ten years ago today, I was 35 years old. With a new tattoo to mark my return home, I promised myself I’d do the things that set my heart on fire.
In those ten years, I’ve made dozens of special friendships and visited dozens beautiful corners of North America. I’ve taken thousands of photos, been to hundreds of life-giving musical performances, hosted 20 kickass house concerts, “performed” in 3 homemade music videos, and banged on my drums. These things set my heart on fire.

In those ten years, I’ve worked 3 different jobs, dozens of freelance gigs, and a few passion projects that fulfill me.

In those ten years, I’ve lived in 6 different places. I got divorced, fell hard in love, and got married in a spectacularly romantic wedding.

In those ten years, a man I’d loved lost his life. I am so grateful for all I learned from him.

In those ten years, I’ve had 6 terrifying diagnoses, 17 or so intravenous cancer treatments, 20+ blood tests, 5 surgeries, 5 mammograms, 4 breast MRIs, 4 full body MRIs and one CT scan. Today I await results from the latest mammogram and remind myself that every day is a gift. I am so thankful for the support of my mutant family at Living LFS.

I am grateful for these ten years, for the 35 years before, and for all the experiences in my life. I’m especially grateful for the people in my life. Thank you.

I continue to remind myself to do the things that set my heart on fire, understanding so much more clearly than I did 10 years ago how life can get in the way. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Happy anniversary, me.

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All that said, the grey hair is OUTTA THERE just as soon as possible!!


Finding Fast Friends on Day One of Living LFS Family Camp

Authored By: Joni Allred

After driving seven hours through a mostly empty land, we drove into the parking lot ready to be free of our vehicular prison. As we pulled up, we saw a man and woman bringing in their luggage. They both gave us a very friendly wave with big smiles on their faces. We had never met these people before and yet they greeted us as if we were old friends. Why would complete strangers be so happy to see us? Because we share a common path. 

When my husband and mother-in-law were both diagnosed with brain tumors only weeks apart, I felt like our family was unique in our trials. Cancer seemed to be picking on our family. But after our LFS diagnosis, we learned that we had actually joined a club of people where cancer is intertwined with the club members’ lives. It is a club you wouldn’t want to join, but once you are in it, you are happy to find others that know how you feel. 

As we entered the lodge to sign in, I was greeted with a big hug from a Facebook friend. It was so fun to finally meet in person. Then we were off to find our cabin. We politely met our cabin mates and chose our bunks. Then it was off to dinner. As we ate, we made introductions to others and learned a few names. As I sat eating my meal, I looked around at these new faces and wondered their journey. When meeting someone new, I didn’t want to say, “Nice to meet you. Do you have LFS? Do you have cancer?” Not sure the protocol of finding out people’s history, so instead, there were the formal introductions of, “Where are you from? Who are you here with?” But I wanted to know so much more. 

After dinner, we headed back to our cabin. A new family had showed up to our cabin so again we made the formal introductions and made polite conversation. After a little while, one person said, “So who has LFS in your family.” I thought, “Finally, let’s talk!” So us three couples sat and shared our stories as the children ran around the cabin and played. We talked of the cancers each family had experienced, when everyone was diagnosed, and what their experiences have been with screenings. 

After staying up too late visiting, we finally climbed up into our comfortable bunk beds and turned out the light. I went to bed feeling so happy. I felt like we had just made friendships that were not on the surface, not superficial, but that were deep, connected. Why? Because we understood each other. We could talk freely about family members lost. We could talk freely about fears and frustrations. We had found a group who understood us and that opens the doors to friendship and connection. I went to bed looking forward to who I would met the next day. My goal is to meet every person here. I hope to reach that goal because these are amazing people with amazing stories.