Hope remains important tool for life
by Paula Levy
published: February 2, 2005
The first time we met Rosanne Himmelman, she was beginning a fight with metastatic colon cancer. Through periodic updates, Rosanne is sharing her experience. This is part 11 of her journey.
After accepting the last treatment option available to her, it was medically necessary for Rosanne Himmelman to stop chemotherapy. She was receiving treatments to try and control metastatic colon cancer.
From her home in Wileville, the 38 year old said since she is not seeing the desired results from the medical treatment, it was time to cherish the time she has left instead of letting chemotherapy deplete her last ounce of strength.
"It was taking every little bit of energy and knocking the good right out of me with no immediate results," said Rosanne, following acceptance of the decision. She said enjoying her remaining time in the company of her family and friends is more important than extending her life at all costs.
These past few months have been emotionally difficult and a constantly draining struggle for the young woman who has been unwilling to give in to the disease. Although feeling scared and sometimes overwhelmed with the decisions facing her, Rosanne realizes the possible outcome. But despite that uncertainty, she hasn't given up hope.
"I pray for healing in whatever form it takes. Whether it's in the form of prolonged life or more good days or remission. I have to bargain from the position of hope. I don't want anyone to think that I have given up hope," she said. It's that fight and love of life that has kept Rosanne here years beyond her original diagnosis.
"Only God knows what's in the plan for me," she added, noting that religion has begun to play a more pronounced role in her life. On Christmas Day, she was baptized.
However, as with most people facing similar situations, Rosanne does have fears about the end of her life. Her Halifax oncologist, Dr. Danny Rayson, has alleviated some of those fears, providing her with guidance and dispelling her apprehensions. In addition, he said, the fear of suffering is common in people facing such an uncertainty. He reassured her that modern medicine can control pain so that she will not feel many of the side-effects associated with cancer.
"We have all kinds of different ways to stay on top of pain and ease suffering. I hope that gives her peace," he said.
Dr. Rayson, himself, struggled to make sense of the situation as he tried to find another treatment plan to offer her. He has attempted to get a newer treatment drug but it has yet to be approved for use in Canada.
"There's no way of getting the drug. I've called Ottawa already," said Dr. Rayson. However, he cautions that the new therapy would not rid her of the illness. "It's not a cure or it's not the great leap forward that everybody wants," he said, adding that science and medicine still have a long way to go to fully understand cancer.
||Rosanne Himmelman hugs her mother, Maxine. The two are spending a lot of time together since it became medically necessary for Rosanne to stop chemotherapy treatments. Paula Levy photo
Reflecting on the time he has known her, Dr. Rayson said Rosanne has come so far in her battle with cancer. In fact, she surprised the medical community with her refusal to give in to the disease.
"I think back to October 2001 when I first met Rosanne, I still have never treated anyone as sick as she was back then. There's no way I could have predicted that she would [still] be here," he said.
Rosanne is now taking life one day at a time and trying not to dwell and stress too much about some of the difficult decisions facing her.
"There is a lot of stuff to decide. It's tough on me and it's tough on my family," she said. "I haven't planned every detail but every day the decisions that I have to make are becoming clearer." She said starting to plan details such as her funeral may seem morbid to some, but it gives her peace of mind that one more decision has been made.
Rosanne wanted to share her story beginning in 2003 with the community where she grew up, to help people understand what it is like to go through cancer. She aspired to show that in the most seemingly hopeless situations, there is also a beacon of light that can pull you through to better days. Although that light has not yet extinguished for her, she is mindful.
Dr. Rayson concurred, noting that even though Rosanne is hopeful, she is also realistic.
"I think people sometimes get the impression that because of her personality and her energy that she's not dealing with things. She's always been very hopeful and optimistic and energetic. But she's always been very realistic and she remains realistic."
Through her journey, Rosanne said, she wanted to help de-stigmatize cancer patients and offer them hope. And, though she is now facing an uncertain future, she embraces the time she has left with that same strength and hope that she shared with the community.
"I wanted to help. Even if I didn't know if I was helping," she said. "I hope that I have done something to help someone. Whether it was education about medical procedures or showing the alternatives to treatments, I just wanted to help people."
No matter what happens or how the future will unravel, Rosanne will continue to rest at home in the love and comfort of her family and friends.
During this time, she said, she is thankful for the gestures people have shown her. Whether it was flowers or simple gifts to brighten her day or home-made food to tempt her appetite, she appreciates every ounce of kindness shown to her.
It is those little things in life now that she values and holds dear. She said those prayers and kind thoughts from the community that she loves so dearly are still welcomed, as they always bring a smile to her face.
Cards, letters or e-mails can be sent c/o the Bridgewater Bulletin or Progress Enterprise offices in Bridgewater or Lunenburg.
- Wileville woman shares her personal fight with cancer - by Paula Levy
- Cancer patient opts for surgery to save veins - by Paula Levy
- Patient receives uplifting news from oncologist - by Paula Levy
- Cancer patient has significant reduction in tumours - by Paula Levy
- Patient decides on break from chemotherapy - by Paula Levy
- Need for chemotherapy resurfaces - by Paula Levy
- Chemotherapy keeping cancer at bay - by Paula Levy
- Patient never gives up fight against cancer - by Paula Levy
- Complementary therapies keep patient on track - by Paula Levy
- Birthdays mean a celebration of life - by Paula Levy
- Hope remains important tool for life - by Paula Levy
- A tribute to the woman who touched so many - by Paula Levy