Monday, July 7, 2008

Cancer, Sarah Toller and Divine Intervention ~ June 2007

I have just understood the magnitude of something that has happened to me recently. I don't ever want to forget the crippling indebtedness that I have to a stranger I never met - Sarah Toller.
Back in April, I had a strange conversation with someone at my volunteer job. For all of you who don't know what I do, I volunteer in a child minding room at a local gym - where I had this offhand conversation with a child's parent and her friend. I honestly don't remember how it came up - especially since I'm not prone to discussing personal physical anomalies with virtual strangers- but this time I did.
Off hand, I mentioned to this woman (referred to as "S") that I had a strange mole inside my bellybutton. This mole had first been noticed by me five years ago while I was pregnant with Taylor. As all mothers know, your bellybutton has a tendency to turn itself out in the late stages. Mine only partially did, which is when I noticed a TINY little freckle - which I first thought was dirt.. LOL. I noticed around three or four months before this conversation, in the shower, that this mole was now the size of a pencil eraser. I thought it odd, and then spoke to S about it.
- - - let me say, S is not a nurse, or a health care professional. Why I should choose her is irrational - - - but prophetic.
S mentioned that her sister in law was battling skin cancer (melanoma) that resulted from a mole. This is Sarah Toller. She was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma from this mole at the age of 27. (oddly - my age presently). S and her friend K strongly recommended that I see a dermatologist about this mole as soon as I can. They certainly stressed the importance of SOON.
And so - I did. I made an appointment, and in May the dermatologist opted to remove the mole in its entirety right there in the office and send it away for biopsy. I was sent home with a few stitches and an appointment four weeks later for the results. Of course, I worried, I thought about what cancer would mean for me, my children, our lives...
On June 12, I returned to the dermatologist for the results. Turns out - it was cancer - HOWEVER - it had NOT spread outside the mole. So - since they had removed the mole and surrounding tissue - it's no longer a problem for me. I need to follow up every six months to have all other moles checked - but no further treatment is necessary. Of course - I am grateful to S for the recommendation.
Today (July 5) is the first time that I have seen S since this whole thing started - school has kept me away from volunteering as much as i had, so I took this opportunity to express to S my gratitude.
S - burst into tears. Her sister-in-law - Sarah Toller, had lost her battle with melanoma, and passed away almost two months ago. She hugged me, we chatted about my "luck" - I thanked her for her intervention. S mentioned that Sarah Toller had actually kept an online blog through her struggle with the disease. She thought I may like to read it - and passed the link on to me. So this afternoon when I got home, I opened the link and began to read the entries Sarah made over the course of one year - documenting her battle with cancer.
What a brave woman. She was so positive, she fought so hard, she BELIEVED she was going to beat it! I laughed, I cried, I struggled for breath between sobs in the final entries, made by her husband in the last weeks of Sarah Toller's struggle. Then I read her eulogy.
Sarah Toller died - on June 12, 2007. The same day I received my results - the intersections are too close for coincidence.
Now - I am grateful first to Sarah Toller. Without her push for awareness, and her battle for her life - S would never have been so adamant in her recommendations to me. I believe Sarah wanted people to know - early diagnosis cures 90% of melanomas. Sadly, she died the day I was saved - and I cannot help but think - some forces were at work to bring me to this stranger S, who passed on a tidbit of information that led me to this hero Sarah Toller - whose death - probably saved my life. Rest in Peace.

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