All of us have a finish line. For most of us it’s invisible. We don’t know when, we don’t know where, we don’t know how, but we are going to cross it.
Unfortunately for others, it is a vision. Maybe much too close. They can see it, in an unclear haze, it’s there, causing fear, anxiety and sadness. Those who can see the finish line don’t want to, instead they look away from the sash and the banner, the one which reads END OF LIFE in bold letters, emblazoned across the front. Few among us want to cross that line too soon, so we look to the left and to the right for other words, like DETOUR or EXIT.
Anything to keep from crossing that line.
The Sunday Series (18): One Day at a Time
Courage. Hope. Inspiration. Three words defined by one person, Debbie Fink Green.
Her story, at least on this format, has no peer in relation to interest and support. Debbie Fink’s journey is viewed each and every day on this blog. There are a total of three posts focused on Debbie’s story, beginning with The Sunday Series (11), (http://markbrodinsky.com/the-sunday-series-11-with-mark-brodinsky/) and then the subsequent Courage & Hope and The Good News (http://markbrodinsky.com/the-good-news-its-just-about-life/).
The initial idea for this story, back in January, came from Debbie’s stepmom, Becky Fink, she wanted to bring attention to Debbie’s life challenge, dealing with the rare illness of appendiceal cancer.
It is now just two months shy since Debbie’s most recent surgery, the one which removed a number of body parts below her waist. In fact, as she writes on her Caringbridge page, (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/debbiefinkgreen), over the past 30 months, these are her “fallen soldiers”: appendix, ovaries, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, bladder, rectum, parts of the colon and intestines, anus, sphincter, vagina, gallbladder. All gone.
The dirty dozen. Twelve body parts Debbie has sacrificed to fight this rare type of cancer, yet unbelievably she is pretty much eating whatever she wants and living as close to a normal existence as possible. Close is the key word. It’s what she and her husband Dave describe as her “new normal”. Every four to six hours Debbie must catheterize herself, something she said has been tough getting used to and the pouch inside her body, called Mainz, has started leaking, so later this week she will be back at the hospital in Houston, to find out why, get a fix (hopefully), and an update on her progress.
Her most recent body scan was clean. “Not surprising”, says Debbie. “Since I only had surgery two months ago. The oncologist said to me what do you want to do now? Dave and I decided not to do chemotherapy. Just get the scan every few months.” Debbie and Dave don’t want the poison pumped into her body, after all she picked her poison, the removal of so many body parts, in her personal battle to beat the beast. And it sounds like her physical life, outside of the ostomies and the catheter, is trying to claim victory.
Post surgery, Debbie lost the weight she wanted to lose and has started exercising. In fact, she is hiking, 2-3 times a week! She gets out as often as she can to meet friends for lunch and stay in the flow of daily life. She’s had plenty of time to do so. A few weeks back the company she was working for downsized, cut her department and her position. Debbie says the hard part is not working, not being in a daily routine. She says, “If I had my dream, I would just write, or start over with a new career, but I’ve been in marketing for 20 years, so I’m interviewing in and around Los Angeles. I’m ready to work and have a routine. It would be nice to be back in the routine of waking up and going to work. I have a bunch of interviews next week.”
The lack of work and the unexpected and mounting medical bills have created another challenge. But as you find so many times in life, there are angels among us. A college friend of Debbie’s heard about her story and reached out to Dave to offer his help. He said he didn’t have money to give, but he had another idea. He is an event planner in New York City and said he would love to help with a benefit. Within three days of contacting them, there was a venue and a sponsor and on Saturday, March 29th @ 8pm, there will be a benefit and a silent auction to help the Green family at The Traffic Bar & Restaurant in Midtown East. All of the information is @ www.green4sal.com (Sal is Dave’s nickname for Debbie).
But for all of the dollar distress and the physical reconstruction, it might be the part of her body farthest removed from the surgery sites which is Debbie’s toughest challenge of all…her psyche. Cancer has a way of doing that. The word itself brings about fear and worry for the now and for the future. And the battle to beat it, is nothing short of an all-out-war. For Debbie, the mental strain of this war takes its toll. Debbie says she had a “hard time” when she came back home to California, after spending a month at MD Anderson Cancer Center, following her surgery on January 6th. She says her psyche is “ok right now. I take things one day at a time. I can’t really worry about the future, or even plan too much for the future. It’s hard to live with the ostomies. They (the doctors) really think the cancer will come back, they just don’t know when. They hope it doesn’t, but they think it will.”
That’s hard. But this most courageous of women fights back against her depression as well. She turned to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, (TMS), a therapy which uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve the mind, aid the psyche. Debbie says it really does help her mood.
Talking to Debbie, all I can think is who among us would be this strong? Words have power, but sometimes even they fall short to pay tribute to the character, conviction and unbelievable spirit Debbie possesses. She is doing everything, everything in her power to live life, the gift we all feel we so richly deserve, but is wrought with challenges and sometimes heartbreak.
Everybody loses. The question is, what do you do about it? If you can unfortunately see the finish line in the distance, do you run in the other direction? You can’t, it’s impossible. Going back in time is not an option. You can only move forward, but you can look around, think outside-the-box, ask for help, scan the path and if you’re lucky, find a detour, or an exit. The road you find might be the one less traveled. In fact, as in Debbie’s case, it most certainly is. But you take it anyway, because you want this “gift” to continue.
It was I who called Debbie to ask for and to share this update. It was me reaching out to her, not the other way around. I can tell you as tough as it is to hear her story, I am truly inspired by Debbie’s journey, her unfailing determination and indomitable spirit to fight on.
Debbie appreciates all the support and everybody following her story. “That holds true now, more than ever”, says Debbie. “It is too tough to think about the future.” Instead, she says she is “focusing on the day at hand.” Simply taking it one day at a time.
Sometimes, that’s the best medicine of all.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.
Debbie’s Caringbridge page, (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/debbiefinkgreen), Debbie’s Huffington Post site: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debbie-fink/), Dave Green’s Blog: (http://srpmitm.tumblr.com/?og=1),
Mark Brodinsky, Author, Blogger, Speaker, Emmy-Award Winner, Financial Services
Author, The #1 Amazon Best-Seller: It Takes 2. Surviving Breast Cancer: A Spouse’s Story
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