Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Message from Junior & Maara Toleafoa

A few weeks ago Maara and I were focussing on a new career move for her. It was a big deal because it involved leaving a job of 20 years to start afresh with a newly formed travel agency.

As this was happening a friend of friend, Tracey, was taking advantage of a free mammogram. This was something Maara knew she should also do but for now it carried about as much importance as a warrant of fitness for your car. Within days we learnt Tracey’s mammogram results had detected a cancer and immediate surgery was required. Although we were not close friends of Tracey’s at that time, we felt our hearts go out to her. We knew the situation was serious for Tracey and her family. Suddenly the necessity for a mammogram assumed its rightful place of importance in our lives. Maara made the appointment and from here breast cancer formally became part of us. Our weeks of toil over her new job opportunity seemed like such an insignificance. In fact a number of our priorities were redirected to the recycle bin.

From what I can see Maara chooses to be annoyed about having the “inconvenience” of an illness rather than being consumed by the more extreme negatives attached to cancer. There’s no blame levelled at anyone or anything and definitely no self pity. She’s motivated to keep her life as close to normal as possible and this is her way of doing that. With the mastectomy done, the next few months of treatment are simply an extension of that “inconvenience” and something to be endured if you want to beat cancer. I’m not sure if faced with an aggressive disease like this, if I would have the same courage and fight in me. I watched Maara sleeping the other day and wondered why she was dealt this hand. Anyone who has had contact with her knows what I mean. She has such a beautiful and faithful spirit that people warm to her so easily. She’s a loving wife and a fabulous mum. With the help of God, friends, family and a team of medical experts we see the odds of taming our unwelcomed visitor as heavily stacked in our favour.

Already we have experienced overwhelming kindness and comfort from people who know our plight. I’m not quite sure how I will ever repay them. Tracey Richardson is one of those people. I referred to her earlier in my story. She has played such a key role in our lives of late and probably doesn’t fully appreciate that fact. If it wasn’t for her we probably would have elected to get the warrant of fitness instead of the mammogram. If it wasn’t for her, Maara would not have been so mentally well prepared for the invasive treatment. If it wasn’t for her significant monetary support (Tracey has purchased 3 "Cancer Cakes" for $1,000), Herceptin treatment for Maara would not be such a reality. Tracey is confronting challenges with her own cancer but she has decided not to let that hamper her from helping others struggling with the disease. To you Tracey we say thank you and pray that the pending chemo treatment goes well.

Another person who needs to be mentioned is my dear friend Kathryn Harris. She will not want this type of acknowledgement but I’m beyond caring about her reluctance to accepting thanks. We are so grateful to Kathryn for so many things. When our lives were upturned with this news she was determined to ensure that we didn’t fully capsize. Kathryn has been an immense support through both practical means and good old chats. She has been a stabilising factor in a time of true chaos. The wonderful cakes she has created will be on offer for sale with the proceeds going directly to fund Maara’s Herceptin programme. This is only a fraction of what she has planned in order to help us through this ordeal. What a remarkable person she is. There will never be enough words in any language to thank her for her commitment to us.

Our children, Lahaina and Stuey, have been dealing with this situation in different ways. Lahaina, outwardly the cool customer, but inwardly deeply concerned. Every night Stuey petitions God to remove the cancer disease from his mum. He says that prayer with such faith and conviction that I believe God will not ignore him.

It is a journey we are experiencing (please pardon the cliché). Along the way there will be some difficult parts to negotiate and we will confront them as they happen. We expect there will be people we will come across who will sustain through us the different stages and we thank them in advance. We are confident the journey has a positive end.

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