The Covid-19 Pandemic Through a Cancer Survivor’s Perspective

“You will listen to a bird, really listen to it; you will look at a city sidewalk or a mountain or a single beautiful tree, and really see it. And you will finally – finally – live in the moment. Because that is all we have.”

Laura Holmes Haddad

Dear Friends,

One of the beautiful moments of shelter-in-place has been… the space.

That space in the sky that has opened up to shine down on us because we have created less pollution. That space in the air to actually hear birds chirping because of the quieter streets and fewer cars driving about. That space in your life that is usually filled with running errands, commuting, and working, but whispers to you, “Look at WHO is most important in your life and spend more time WITH them.”

Are we listening?

Why do I struggle with stopping my work and saying yes to my girls wanting to play Wii together? Why do I struggle with actually going through with the promise to take my younger daughter out to go exploring? Why do I struggle to feel a need to work non-stop, especially now that I am at home all the time? I hope you are not like me. Or maybe, you are.

“Live in the moment. Because that is all we have.”

The quote above was written by Laura Holmes Haddad, one of our fellow dancers, who happened to share a beautiful essay with me called, “The Covid-19 Pandemic from a Cancer Survivor’s Perspective,” which she wrote for Family Reach, a non-profit that supports families and patients financially through cancer. After reading the essay, I found out that Laura is celebrating her “Golden Anniversary” this month, as a milestone of reaching her 5th year of remission from Stage IV Breast Cancer. My question to her: Can we celebrate with you? And now my question to you:

This Wednesday, May 20th, will you join us at 4pm PST as we celebrate Laura and raise money for Family Reach?

This special class will be completely donation based, with all proceeds benefitting Family Reach. Sign up at www.stopdropanddance.com/classes or click here for the direct donation link: Family Reach Donation Class. Please feel free to share this event with anyone in your circle of family and friends who want to dance for a wonderful cause.

As an even more personal touch, Laura wrote a letter to all of you

There is a quote from John Lennon that goes something like this: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” I was 37 years old–making trips to Trader Joe’s, going to Pixie Park, and planning to go back to work–when life happened to me: I had Stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and aggressive breast cancer that affects 5,000 women a year in the U.S. Our kids were 14 months and 4½ years old. 

What followed was three years of procedures, chemotherapy, radiation, and surgeries in San Francisco and Los Angeles and profound uncertainty with a hefty dose of prayers on the side.

My community—this community–rallied around me with overwhelming kindness and support, helping take care of the kids, bringing meals to the house, driving me to appointments, flying with me to treatment, and donating airline and hotel points to help ease the financial burden. There is so much more to cancer than chemo: parking fees, medical supplies, babysitting, and out-of-pocket medications are just a few of the costs that few people consider when they hear the word “cancer.” But there are so many patients who don’t have that support and that is where Family Reach fits in. They help cancer patients and their families around the U.S. with financial support and financial planning services, highlighting the financial toxicity that often comes with a cancer diagnosis. And in response to the current pandemic, Family Reach has created a COVID-19 relief program for patients and families.

On May 12, 2015, I had my last dose of chemotherapy and was declared NED–no evidence of disease, which is a form of remission. I remain NED today. This five year “cancerversary” is what we survivors look to because the statistics show that if you make it to five years your long term prognosis is good. I celebrate every day but this month I am celebrating a little bit extra. But this is more than celebration; it’s also about recognition. I am recognizing the hundreds of people who helped me get here or helped my family help me. My sister Lesley, who introduced me to Grace, was the backbone of this cancer battle, organizing meals and playdates while my husband went to work to maintain our health insurance. There is simply no way I would be here today without the financial and emotional support of my family and community.

I am profoundly grateful to be here to dance and dream and watch my kids grow up. Thank you for helping other cancer patients and families live out their dreams, too.

With much love and gratitude,

Laura 

Thank you for sharing your story with all of us Laura. We are indeed a community and we are all stronger together.

I am constantly inspired by all of you in my life. Your words, your stories, your lives. Thank you for being a part of mine.

Love,

Grace

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