We have entered the time of year when we wax nostalgic as we recall memories of years gone by and count our blessings.  For many, this is a moment when our focus is clear and well-defined by the stark reality that cancer injects into our lives.  Whether patient or care partner, friend or family, life is now perceived through a sharpened lens of mortality.  For author, wife, mother, friend and multiple myeloma advocate, Cherie Rineker, this reality has never been more acute. 

As we rang in 2017, Cherie penned me a note proudly announcing that this December she would attain the half-century mark in her journey on Earth.  Her plan was—and still is—to throw a huge fundraiser birthday bash so that other cancer patients, particularly multiple myeloma patients, could also reach major life milestones.  As 2017 progressed, many were the behind-the-scenes preparations for such an undertaking.  But cancer, the uninvited guest, has had more say than it should. 

Earlier this week, Cherie forwarded me the following letter:

Hi ladies and gentlemen, 

Here is an update of my status. I never realized that I may not actually qualify for clinical trials because my platelets won’t go above 30. That is a tough pill to swallow. We are not done fighting yet. I don't know what else Dr. Orlowski may have up his sleeve, but I hope there are still options left. The fundraiser is going well, and if Celgene comes through, which they said they would, my fundraiser up-to-date has raised over $40,000, for which I am extremely thankful. 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We were supposed to go spend it with our adopted family in Houston, but because of my hospital stay and the flu, we decided to make it a quiet and more intimate celebration with just my husband, my daughter and myself. Yes, MM continues to rob our plans, but we still have plenty to be grateful for, mainly each other. Sadly, the appointment with Dr. O on the previous day had not gone as I had hoped. After just one month, the MM has reared its ugly head and my numbers are on the rise once again. It was a hard thing to hear especially so soon before my fundraiser. I had prepared a hopeful and positive speech which I will still give, though I am not sure I will be able to keep my composure. I know there are trials but as my PA said, with my lousy immune system and ridiculously low platelets, I will not likely qualify for many of these. 

So, what now? Dr. O increased my Kyprolis dose, and we will give that a try for another month. After that, I don’t know. It is during moments like this I have to remind myself that none of us are promised tomorrow and that the best way to live our life is to make the best of the moment we are in NOW. What is next on my pilgrimage? I have my birthday and fundraiser to attend. I have a child to love and raise. I have a book to write. I would LOVE to retire by a lake in my favorite tiny house, but I am aware that my long-term plans may not come true, and that is a tough pill to swallow. I have always said I am both an optimist and a realist, so it is okay to be aware of these things. Living in denial is not something I do. I know the fight is not over yet, but on days like today I feel like I can see the finish line.

I have lived a hell of a life. Not easy by any means, but full of adventures, excitement and teachable moments. I am grateful for every single person that came into my life. Some were here for a short time; others are here to stay. For me, even those that “hurt” me were here to teach me lessons, if only to teach me how to forgive and let go. My children taught me what it is like to love fully, deeply and unconditionally, and my husband taught me that loving in a marriage sometimes means to love the person despite the fact they drive you crazy, and to be grateful that they are willing to put up with our crap as much as we have to learn to put up with theirs.

I know some of you are in a much better place than me; some are worse off. MM has seemed like a cruel teacher, but it is a teacher nonetheless. Never have I appreciated waking up in the morning as much as since I have been diagnosed. Never have I appreciated it more when a meal actually did taste good. Never have I appreciated my friends and neighbors as much as when they have come to help me when I asked because I can’t do it all myself. I feel like no matter what happens next, my life truly matters. We touch people in ways we never expect, and in this journey, I have had the privilege of having people tell me they care and I matter. Life, with all its ups and downs, has been good to me, because I choose to see it that way.

If you are having a bad day today, if this time of year is particularly hard for you, I understand, but maybe these words can help you find something in this mess to be grateful for as well: 

Hope, (because that is all we have). 
Love, (because that is all that matters).
Faith, (that things will go precisely as they should).

Cherie Rineker
Author ~ A Pilgrimage Without End, How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart ~

As I sit here writing this blog, my daughter battling uterine cancer and my friend, Tiki, having just passed away last night of metastatic bladder cancer, I realize how important—and difficult—it is to find hope, love and faith in the face of this dreaded disease.  But Cherie has a point:  Never give up.  Never give up hope, love or faith.  So, on the eve of Cherie’s 50th birthday, we wish her these three gifts for a lifetime, for herself and for her family. 

Happy 50th Birthday, Cherie! 

To purchase a signed copy of Cherie’s book, visit http://www.cherierineker.com  Cherie’s book is also available on Amazon and in Kindle. 

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