Diagnosed in the early 2000, Emily found out she had cancer as the result of a mandatory physical for a volunteer position in Egypt. After her diagnosis, it seemed as though she would be unable to travel, however, she arranged her treatment around her volunteer opportunities. She underwent several months of chemotherapy before leaving for Egypt in 2001. She remained there for four years. Through her willingness to work with foreign doctors, she was able to remain in Egypt and found it possible to travel throughout the Middle East. Upon returning to the United States, she continued treatment and pursued her love of travel. She considered her ability to stay busy critical to her progress. At the time of her Portrait, she was cancer free.
Emily's daughter was diagnosed with colon cancer during this time. As a result, Emily was able to assume the caregiver role that her daughter had provided her during treatment.
I grew up as a philosophy type. I’m also a counselor so sometimes I would say in a session with somebody, and I’d ask them if you could tell me when you were a little kid, like six or eight, in one sentence, what was your philosophy of life? Now think about that for a minute. I would have said all things work together for good, and nobody ever preached that to me. My father just lived his life that way. He wasn’t one who preached a lot or talked a lot even, but that’s the way he lived his life. And so I kind of just…I live my life like that now.
During those 8 months when I had chemo, there were 5 people either in that group or in that church, that got diagnosed with cancer. More than one of those said to me, “You know, Emily, I got through it because I watch you, and you’re just so positive, that you’re a real support.” I was glad I could be a witness to their cancer.
When something bad has happened, and it has in my life, I maybe cry for a spell, a short spell, and then I stop and I go to the scriptures. I like the old testament, especially the Psalms. I just know that things will work out. It just strengthens my faith each time.
I probably knew a little bit more about cancer than other people did. So of course I cried on my way home after I heard it, and I got home, and called my associate pastor at the church in Rock Hill, and she came over, and we talked, and I actually had a very good attitude. I had two groups that I went to, a new comers group and a community bible study group, and they got together and said, “You’re never going to chemo by yourself.”
My chemo was 6 weeks on, and 2 weeks off. So every time I was off, I did something. I went to Myrtle Beach, one time, I remember. The 2 weeks that I was off, I was at the orientation for the Egypt trip. I can’t remember what I did the other time. But I always did something, so I was away.
I think it’s very important to have things to look forward to. I really had a lot to look forward to, and I think it really helped. I live in a retirement center now, and when I watched the people there and the ones who were active were the ones who had something to do, some purpose for their life. I really think they need a purpose. If they have a purpose, they’re much more outgoing and active and everything. Right now, I travel, I travel a lot.
Jan Mulvaney Fairfax, Virginia
Dina Levin Portland, Oregon