Birthdays mean a celebration of life
by Paula Levy
published: November 10, 2004
The first time we met Rosanne Himmelman, she was beginning a regimen of chemotherapy to fight metastatic colon cancer. Through periodic updates, Rosanne is sharing her experience. This is part 10 of her journey.
Many people won't go out of their way to recognize that they are steadily climbing the hill towards hitting the 40-year mark. But for Rosanne Himmelman, being one year closer is cause for celebration.
On November 4, Rosanne turned 38 years old. To her, another birthday means she has had four more than she ever thought she would.
"Birthdays mean a lot more than they used to," smiles Rosanne. "I used to be less open and coy about my age...Now I celebrate each year. I welcome it. This was the fourth birthday that my original doctors said I wouldn't see. They didn't think I'd see one birthday after my diagnosis and here it's four. For me it's a time to celebrate and not a time to hide my age."
Even though she didn't have a huge celebration, she did recognize her special day quietly with family.
"Where I'm not feeling completely up to snuff, I spent it with my family and had a nice special meal with my family around me," she says. "I'm going to hold off on any big celebratory plans until a few weeks later when I'm feeling better."
Rosanne hasn't been feeling well these past few months. But every ailment is not always due to her metastatic colon cancer.
"It seems the most natural thought whether it's a health care practitioner or the patient themselves, is to think that every ache and pain is cancer related," says Rosanne. But she makes a conscious effort to explore other possibilities and not always assume that every ailment is because of cancer.
She proved to be right this time when it was discovered that she was suffering from several common infections. The ailments did take a toll on Rosanne, but she continues to fight to stay well.
"I've been feeling progressively better," says Rosanne. "There are some days that I don't feel so great, but much better than I had originally. I'm getting progressively stronger, little more energy, eating better," she says.
||Rosanne Himmelman recently received her 50th chemotherapy treatment at the QEII in Halifax. RN Ramona MacAskill preps Rosanne for the procedure. Paula Levy photo
In addition to the infections, a minor flare-up of cancer with lymph node involvement has also meant that Rosanne was given the option of receiving a new chemotherapy regimen. At first she decided she would begin treatment again. But after getting one treatment of a new anti-cancer drug, Rosanne, with the help of her oncologist, decided not to continue.
"It's hard to say how I reacted to that drug because I was ill before I started," says Rosanne. "I did get ill from it but I was ill the day prior so I don't really know."
Since chemotherapy is always a delicate balance of toxicity tolerance and the effects of the disease, her oncologist advised her that he did not believe that this flare-up was sufficient enough to warrant going back on chemo.
Before the decision was made, she had received one treatment. In fact, her last treatment was yet another milestone for Rosanne. That treatment marked her 50th chemotherapy session.
To ensure that delaying chemotherapy was the right decision, on November 4 she received a CT Scan to gauge just how active the cancer is. She hopes that since the scan was on her 38th birthday, it will mean good luck.
To get through this, Rosanne adds she plans to keep her faith alive and tap into her inner reserves of strength.
"One of the things that really helps me is that you can play a part in your own health care by keeping a positive attitude and knowing that that positive attitude can impact your health," she says.
Rosanne says that cancer patients can also turn to those around them to find the strength they need to fight the illness.
"Don't give up. Nobody knows. This isn't a cut-and-dry science. Medicine at best is imperfect," she says. "If you give up, there may be something right around the corner that might have been helpful to you in your treatment plan."
It's Rosanne's faith that gives her the strength to continue her fight to stay alive. That faith has led others to contact her to offer their faith. She says over the past couple of years, she has been contacted by a number of churches wanting to add her to their prayer list. She always accepts with a smile.
"The more people praying, the better," she adds.
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