MARIT IS A 7 YEAR CANCER SURVIVOR TODAY!!!
Today is officially the 7 year anniversary of Marit’s cancer diagnosis. Exactly 7 years ago today was one of the darkest days of my entire life. I have written about the journey via her CaringBridge site:
I have given several speeches on behalf of St. Jude and as part of her story always quote the physician coming out of the MRI room midway through the MRI and saying: “There is no easy way to say it, your child has a brain tumor.” Those fourteen words literally changed my life in a matter of seconds. It is so incredible to realize that our lives can literally change in a matter of moments for some of us. I can still hear those words in my head and remember the feeling of utter devastation upon hearing them. Later in the day, things got worse still when we found out the tumor was most certainly malignant. I think her first ventricular/peritoneal shunt was placed that night too after the second MRI of the day (where she was then sedated) revealed the tumor’s extensive spread and that she had hydrocephalus. Just writing that 7 years later pains me. Some of it still seems surreal and some of it is so close to my heart and soul it stops my breath. Every year’s “diagnosis day” feels significant and profound. I can’t help becoming reflective, contemplative and generally overwhelmed with a lot of thoughts and feelings.
I have often quoted my friend Diana Hageboeck (Founder of Children’s Cancer Research Fund-www.childrenscancer.org – WHAT an amazing organization that is!!!) who said, upon finding out her daughter, Katie, had cancer over 30 years ago : “I never knew the best day of my life was the day before Katie was diagnosed”. In my own life, I have segmented my life into “Before the Diagnosis” and “After the Diagnosis” entities. I think it’s a fairly common thing for people to do. Please tell me, anyone reading this who has had a similar experience, is this true for you?
I still hope that I will write a book about the experience in its entirely at some point. A lofty goal that I have yet to accomplish. My hope would be that writing it all out would help me heal further from this traumatic life event, honor Marit through telling her cancer story from my perspective and also potentially help anyone else who may have experienced a similar type journey. I’d love to lobby for additional funding for research and “market” St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital via the book as well. Now all I need to do is to write it… (2015/2016 new goal).
I have to be honest, I truly believe the fact that I am able to write about it with her in our family’s presence is a MIRACLE. The tumor and the metastasis that she presented with 7 years ago today was extensive. Not only did she have a tumor the size of an egg to tennis ball, but she had many tumors in her spine and throughout the crevices in her brain (Meninges). I still can’t wrap my mind around why some people survive these things and others don’t? The diagnosis and cancer journey brings up every existential question one can imagine and many others. Is it random? Is there an ultimate plan from above? Is it fate? To what extent does faith and prayer have in the outcome? (Oh, I have ever so many opinions and viewpoints on this question alone). Why my child? What could I have done to possibly prevent it? The list goes on and on and on.
It does drive me a little (wait probably more than a little) nutty not having any specific answers and knowing I won’t ever get them. I’d love to be able to claim that I was “the perfect christian” and 100% faithful and believed God would allow her survival on earth but that is simply NOT true either. I had plenty of fear, doubt and questioning about all of it throughout the course of treatment and beyond. I had many chats with God and many “signs” that I believed she may survive it, but there were many dark moments, hours, days too. I hate saying we are/she is “blessed” too because saying that infers to me that those families and children who didn’t survive weren’t blessed. I never know what the “proper” thing is, to say? So for today, I will say that she is officially a seven year cancer survivor whom I believe is here for some purpose bigger than I can comprehend. She now struggles with some distinct challenges typical for brain tumor survivors. There are “issues” she contends with as a result of high dose radiation as well. I am always amazed at how graceful she is in coping with all she does. She is truly one of my personal heroes in life as are many of the St. Jude children whom I met while in treatment.
I could go on for pages and that is precisely what I intend to do in a book some day but for today, I want to take this opportunity to thank those of you reading who were there for me/us during the entire surgical, treatment phase and through out the present time. I wouldn’t have survived without my family, friends, community members and even the kindness of complete strangers! I felt supported by an entire community and also felt that my other children were taken care of by the goodness of the people they were surrounded by in both my physical and mental absence. I can’t attach videos through this website (content too big I guess? Geez, do I wish I was not a techno idiot!) but I attached the video from Marit’s middle school choir concert to FB like I did last week with Carter’s. I listened to it this afternoon with tears streaming down my face as it feels particularly poignant today. It has been 7 years, she is with us and today, it’s truly a “Wonderful World”. Praise God!!! I thank all of you who care and love her and to those who treated and cared for her at Minneapolis Children’s Hospital, St. Jude and now SouthLake Pediatrics!
I am truly humbled with gratitude for the many prayers, concern, care and love that we received by many of you reading this! There will never be adequate words to convey my sincere sentiments….I hope all the love and care given to us comes back to each of you magnified by millions!!!
An remarkable journey for a family with an amazing appreciation for life, faith. determination and perseverance. A beautiful view from “the other side.” As you say only “God knows why” but Marit is truly blessed to have you as her family.
Linda and Ken
Beautifully written, Berit…
Berit – Your candor about one of the most challenging and personal things imaginable is not only inspirational is truly a “blessing”. Marit’s story benefits all who are able to somehow be connected to her journey. Being a parent has little to do with actually giving birth but rather the joy and beauty of raising one’s child. As you know all too well, sometimes the related challenges seem insurmountable. You, Marit, and your family are testament to the fact that God is with us through good and bad times. And that miracles do happen…
Berit, what a beautiful tribute to your daughter – such a lovely, inspiring, and brave young lady! Thank you for sharing Marit’s story – your story. You are a remarkable mother and I am confident that Marit feels blessed to have you in her life. Both of you are outstanding role models for others that have encountered medical challenges, in some capacity, along the path of life.