Dear Mr. Vice-President,
“I’m sick, Mom.”
That whisper from my daughter’s lips hit my ears harder than the sound of fireworks on the 4th of July, 2004.
From the giddy laughter of the little neighborhood pyromaniacs as they ignited their pop bottle rockets to the cry from the kitchen that said, “Who made the baked beans?” sounds were swirling around me. But my life as I knew it stopped the moment I heard those three words. Megan, a new college graduate, was a young woman with absolute integrity of speech. Nothing was said casually. Knowing the seriousness of her statement, with stoic grace I assured her that we would pursue physicians until someone figured it out. Little did I know that by July 23, 2004 my girl would be in the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital with her life hanging in the balance. The diagnosis was adrenal cancer; a rare, orphan cancer that occurs just one in a million.
Before I go on, let me tell you about my Baboushka.
Sweet Jesus…she was beautiful.
Her eyes were big and brown. Many a man described them as hypnotic, with those dark lashes fluttering around their almond shape. Her figure curved in all the right places and she had brains to go with that body. She was witty and wonderful and could command hilarious laughter at unexpected moments. She was protective of those she loved and even in the last hours of her life she was concerned that her old mom might not master text messaging on the new Blackberry.
Prophetic and keenly intuitive about the care of her physical body, she never smoked and ran five miles a day. She did not drink diet pop, and sugar was virtually void from her diet. As I stood in the hallway on July 24 and heard “Your daughter will probably never leave the hospital” she was in her room demanding to know when she could run again. Run, she did. After the removal of her left adrenal gland and cancerous tumor, she skyrocketed into 10 months of glorious remission. It was against all odds, but I know the tenacity of her youthful spirit combined with the extraordinary way she cared for her frame were catalysts contributing to that result.
Megan’s mantra was if you trash a car by throwing Cheetos in the back you can trade it in for a new model, but there is no trade-in lot for bodies abused by food. With this philosophy at the core of her thinking, imagine how difficult it was to learn that the only chemotherapy available specific to adrenal cancer in 2006 was a derivative of DDT. That’s bug spray, a chemical that was banned in the United States over 40 years ago. Our tax dollars were at work at NIH on a trial study for Mitotane, and in desperation we flew to meet the leading expert to weigh out the possibility. When my girl read that side effects include ‘you may not be able to button your shirt’ she declined the grisly potion and opted for a more conventional protocol. I loosely use the word conventional. Adriamycin was on board, a chemo referred to as The Red Devil. When administered the nurse suits up Hazmat-style and warns you that if it leaks on your skin it will burn and bubble. Nevertheless, Megan considered it’s side affects to be the lesser of two evils. She spent her 26th birthday sobbing on the bathroom floor as she vomited up a few gallons of green bile into the toilet.
We were fortunate to have Megan placed on one trial study for Avastin; in the first 30 days it showed enormous promise. But if I’m being frank, adrenal cancer is completely bad ass, and it regrouped and launched a full-scale attack of paralyzing tumors up and down my daughter’s spine. Life went from bad to worse. Pain was often unmanageable. During that hellish time, after exhausting all available options, the radiologist/oncologist asked “Are you willing to try unconventional methods for treatment? If we say some vitamin from the bottom of the Dead Sea would help her, would you be open?” I boldly told him “We will try eye of newt if that is the answer, but bring the evidence with it.” If I had known about The Gerson Therapy, maybe we would have tried those coffee enemas. If we knew eating fresh pressed grass would clear out the enemy, Megan would have said, “Sign me up for that trial study!” But every freaking day we were bombarded with cures. Dang, maybe I should have forwarded that email to 10 people? From baking soda to apple cider vinegar to obscure retreats in Mexico, the world chimed in to our private world of grief. I cry to this day remembering that multi-level marketing guy who told me, “If you really loved your daughter you will give me an hour of your time and buy our vitamins.”
Be assured, Mr. Vice-President, I loved her to the moon and back.
I am grateful for your mission to make cancer a manageable chronic illness. There is no doubt after the loss of Beau that you are passionate about this cause. As for me, no mom should ever have to hear “Your child has cancer.” Let’s cut cancer off at its source. Currently only 6% of the NCI budget is spent on prevention. Can you please change that? It took us 50 years to make a connection between smoking and lung cancer. Let’s not linger another fifty without examining the food that fuels our bodies.
Megan Renee Bosselman died Easter Sunday, 2008. Find a cure, Mr. Vice-President, but my vote goes for prevention over poison.
- Mr. Vice President has asked for our stories. Your can share yours at this link: CancerMoonshot
- My mom died of lung cancer. Smoking was advertised as seductively cool and glamorous. Are we doing the same with foods to our obese nation?
- I practice what I preach and have changed my eating and workout habits. I’m currently down 35 lbs., feeling better at age 59 than I did at 19.
- If you are a mom worried about the cause and effect of hormones and pesticides in our foods, please post, share, tweet and repost my blog.
- In spite of being a derivative of DDT, Mitotane has prolonged the life of many. I’m grateful that there are individuals for which it has been a life-sustaining option.
On a Lighter Note:
- I hope you make it to the moon, Mr. Vice-President. Current political candidates for the presidency make me think our trajectory is heading toward hell in a handbag.
- I wouldn’t mind a visit to the White House. You should put me on some committee. Air Force One can pick me up at Offutt Air Force Base.
- I solemnly promise not to steal memorabilia from the White House, including the eagle place card holders. Thank you, Chicago Tribune for your article “What Sort of Stuff Do People Steal From The White House?”.
- I would want to steal a selfie with you, Mr. Vice President, to tweet all over the planet.
Dear Mr. Vice President, Megan deserves a trip to the White House via her eloquent mother. That said, hide any monogrammed umbrellas before her arrival.
That is hilarious…yes, yes, he would need to hide those!
It is not a life I wish on anyone. It’s why I passionately want prevention over poison. Thanks for your kind note.
Yes, please Mr. President..issue the invite to my friend Valerie! If she steals anything, I will pay you back in full..trust me, I’m Greek.
I think the plus White House towels with emblem would be tempting…but I’ll resist!
Loved your article. You bring light to a subject and its treatments that I avoid out of fear and its reality. You kept it real as most moms do. Yet, you were able to add a little humor without making it sound “cheesy”. If you do happen to make it to the white house, get toilet paper. I don’t think they will miss that.
If the toilet paper is indeed monogrammed, my thought would be ‘they can spare a square!’ But I did promise Mr. Vice President that I would refrain from petty theft!
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