I come from a big Italian family, the Gofonias. I am the fifth of five girls. We have endured many blessing and many tragedies, which in my mind always turn into blessings in the end. My mother Marriann is currently battling breast cancer for the third time, and is undergoing chemotherapy. I drive her every Friday and often decline requests for lunch dates, matinees and pedicures with my girlfriends to accompany my mother.
One day a friend posed the question, “How do you keep this up, week after week? Doesn’t chemo depress you and make you so sad?” The following “Chemo Chronicle” was my answer. Please enjoy a glimpse into our family spirit, our Hope and Faith.
For those of you who haven’t been to chemo, it looks something like this: A big room in the back of an Oncologist’s office filled with easy chairs all in a circle, i.v. poles next to each chair, and fear-filled faces. The patient often is accompanied by ONE family member or a friend quietly adding comfort.
Unless of course, a Gofonia is present when Mom goes to chemo. Then it looks a bit different:
Cheerleaders following Mom like duckings — Alyssa, Nadine, Jeannine, Krystal, Robin and Corenna and the omnipresent Bobby G. (My Dad). We try to behave, but that’s just not in our nature. And for God’s sake, behaving is no fun.
Nadine always notices the elephant in the room and lassos it immediately, “Hi, I’m Nadine, how are you? What kind of cancer do you have?” Jackie and the gay couple from Canada embraced her immediately, as did the older lady who was there for the first time. Nadine has the gift of wearing her heart on her sleeve, then gently pulling strangers’ hearts out of their cold places. Her warmth fills the room. Dad walks in asking a million questions loudly, joking with the nurses asking them, “Are you in my way?” He told Mom today, in front of everyone: “No wig, just get a cute hat and cock it to the side.” What’s up with that!? We thought a mullet wig might be fancy. I offered to shave my head in support, but a resounding “NO!” filled the room. I know I have a huge head, but come on!
Not always knowing what to say, I decided to make a party out of it. One of Mom’s chemo dates happened to fall on my 40th birthday. So I brought chemo cosmos for everyone, along with something sweet, pink, sugar-filled and frosting-topped to the Chemo Lounge. The patients were actually asking me if they were invited and could I make something chocolate for them! We Gofonias know how to throw a party. The more the merrier. Smiles filled the room, warmth, joy and light. Even if it was temporary, we were not sad. Not a bit.
The one thing my parents have taught me is to believe in myself. No doubts, just KNOW. Know you CAN! You can call it ignorance, but I prefer to call it FAITH. I ask you to start looking at life as if your glass is not half-full, not half-empty, but overflowing. Know that you can heal your heart, mind and body. Know that you are blessed. Know you can profoundly change a life, if not several. I believe this experience has strengthened all of us, brought us closer and filled our hearts with gratitude. So, when someone asks me if it is sad going to chemo, I say KNOW!
Please know that Mom will be well and that we encourage your prayers.
Alyssa Dinowitz is a registered yoga teacher and founder of Athletes Yoga, LLC; an Arizona-based company specializing in the treatment and rehabilitation of professional athletes. She is also the Owner of Chewylou Designs, an inspirational T-shirt line inspired by her mother’s battle with breast cancer for the third time in 12 years. She is a self-proclaimed eternal optimist who’s motto is “Have Hope, Live in Faith and Be Grateful.”