Sylvia J. Wisher: Serendipity revealed in cancer diagnosis - The Buffalo News

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Sylvia J. Wisher: Serendipity revealed in cancer diagnosis

This summer, with no warning, signs or symptoms, I found myself a member of the “cancer club” – a club I had long feared despite my good health and personal sense of distance; a club I felt pretty sure wouldn’t be tapping me on the shoulder to join.

This horrific sentence somehow evolved to a serendipity. Merriam Webster defines it as “the phenomena of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for.”

How else can I explain the overwhelming emotions of love, care, empathy and concern that I experienced but was not seeking?

Some 30 years ago, my mother-in-law introduced me to the book “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale. I accepted it politely with little intent to pay it much mind. But that was perhaps one of my first serendipities. I did read it and have devoted myself to the philosophy of a positive attitude ever since.

My effort at making the best of things, and the efforts from friends, family, co-workers and medical staff, play off each other like a tennis game. The more I work at keeping my chin up, the more they all energize me and give me the strength to continue toward a good outcome.

How can I express my gratitude to the staff of Roswell Park Cancer Institute? From the first day we went there for testing and throughout my inpatient stay, everyone was polite, warm, understanding and helpful in finding our way around the maze of tests, treatments and services.

My first week of chemo is lost to me. The days are a blur. However, I do remember the medical team working earnestly to come up with just the right anti-nausea regimen for me. On daily rounds, our questions were answered with patience and understanding.

My family, friends and co-workers rallied around in ways I could not have anticipated. I knew I had a small but good circle of friends and family, but talk about the phenomena of finding valuable things not sought for (serendipity). My family supported me, kind of like a virtual magic carpet, floating me over the rough spots, steering through sharp turns and around obstacles.

Friends and co-workers did the same. Cards, phone calls and visits helped keep me from going stir crazy while confined to the unit for nearly four weeks. Numerous friends volunteered to give Roswell Park-directed donations of platelets. Each time I got an infusion of platelets, there was a tag reminding me of this generous donation. These platelets are a precious commodity and I encourage everyone to consider donating. It takes about two hours and fills a critical need for patients.

Roswell Park was founded as the nation’s first cancer hospital in 1898 and it stands today in an exclusive group of only 41 hospitals in the nation with National Cancer Institute accreditation as a comprehensive cancer center. The hospital runs on a $623 million budget and is faced with significant state funding cuts. I’ve had my serendipity; now this fine institution needs a serendipitous event to assure financial resources to continue its fine work.

I’m home now and feeling pretty good most days. Outpatient chemotherapy will be the pattern of my life over the next several months toward the goal of remission. So this game isn’t over yet. But if I make the best of things, my inner strength and the support of friends and family will get me through.

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