Life, Live it with Dignity
by Sandi Razen
The Dictionary tells us that the Definition of Dignity Means "A Sense of Pride in Oneself,I say the Definition of Dignity was our Son Jeff. He exemplified the Word, by how he lived his life. Of course so many other words come to mind, to describe him, loving, helpful, devoted, hard -working, full of Life. Our Life as a family, was just a typical family life, work, family, friends. On the 8th of November 2011, that typical Family life as we had known it, would come to a screeching halt, and we in a flash had our lives changed. Our Amazing son Jeff, had not been feeling all that well, but thinking it was the Migraines he had been diagnosed with a few years earlier decided that day, that he would go to the Emergency Room at our Local Hospital. I had spoken to him earlier in the morning before heading to work. and asked if he wanted me to drive him, he reminded me that he was 31 years old, and quite capable of driving himself. I agreed. I told him to at least call me when he was out of the Emergency Room, and he said he would. After 9 a.m. that morning, Our Internist called me, at work, not understanding why he would be calling, since our son was at the Hospital, not his office, but i calmly took the call, and immediately knew, something was wrong. He advised me to call my Husband, and our older son, and get to the Hospital, that our otherwise active, and healthy 31 year old son had Stage 4 Brain Cancer. I remember yelling in a blood curdling yell, that he was wrong, that no way was this happening, yet i heard the worry in his voice. How my Car took me the 6 miles to the Hospital, I'll never know. I somehow also had the know-how to call my husband, son, brother, and a close friend, and remain in a calm voice, just being real precise that they were needed at the Hospital, ASAP. Through the course of the day, Doctors were coming in and out of his room, advising us as to what was happening, that Jeff was slipping in and out of a Coma, and that immediate surgery was needed. By the time early nightfall had come, the OR Waiting Area was jam packed with friends, family, and our Rabbi. At midnight, with everyone blearly eyed, the Doctor came out and said they were able to relieve the pressure as well as some of the Tumors, but that the battle was far from over, he had a Glioblastoma, the most deadly Brain Cancer there is. Without the love and support of all , we never would have been able to put one foot in front of the other. Now, we tried to regain our composure, and try to take in what the Doctors had just told us, to begin a Plan of Action. Jeff recovered well enough after the Surgery, and was home in a week, wanting to know where we would take him to dinner. Let me give you a little background on this Amazing Son of Ours. He served his community as a Volunteer EMT, And a Volunteer Firefighter. Jeff always put others way before himself. A fellow EMT, had been undergoing treatment a few years before,for Breast Cancer, and Jeff, loving to cook, decided without telling anyone, including myself, that he would make her and her family a homemade dinner. It wasn't until food items such as Spaghetti Sauce, Spaghetti, and disposable pans, etc, had been missing from my Pantry, that i decided to ask him if he knew what happened to my items, and he said, he would replace it, he was cooking for a friend, and asked if it was okay. Of Course it was, but i had no idea that it was for his friend, who was undergoing treatment. Never once did Jeff ask "why Me' he just went about his business of getting better. There were many Doctors Appts, From Oncologists, to Neurologists, and countless Radiation Treatments, and Chemotherapy Sessions. . For Most of 2011-through 2013, Jeff, dealt with all the changes his body was going through, like a trooper. The Steroids, made him gain close to 100 lbs, which in turn, caused his legs to Swell up and caused his balance to be compromised. We were approached in 2012, to Participate in our Township's Relay For Life. We were hesitant at first, not wanting all of our Community to know what we were going through, but Jeff said, :If I could Be a Part of the Cure for Cancer, why shouldn't I participate" So, once again as a Family, we registered to walk in the Relay, and with Jeff in a wheelchair we walked not 1 lap but 2. One for himself, and One for Caregivers. It was a Magical, Day, we for the very first time did not feel alone, we knew everyone that was there, was there to support a family member stricken with Cancer, either as a Survivor or in Memory of someone who lost their battle. At the end of the relay, Jeff turned to me, and said "Mom, we will do this again next year, and i am telling you now, i will be walking, not using this wheelchair, no ifs, ands and buts about it". The following year was not so good, there were 2 more surgeries, more chemo, weight gains, Treatment for Back Herniations, due to the high dosages of Steroids in a Sub-Acute Facility. Getting closer to the following years Relay, with all these setbacks, i was certain, once again, knowing Jeff he would be there, but there was no way, he would be walking, that he would be in the Relay with the wheelchair. That day came, it was 93 degrees, and he alternated between a walker and a Wheelchair. Jeff said, "Mom, you do recall last years promise, that i would be walking", I said, yes i did, well, then get rid of the wheelchair, i will be walking, but just to make sure i am steady i will use the walker. And lo and behold, he did just that. He walked, utterly exhausted, and in steamy hot weather about half way around the track. Jeff fought the Fight, with the greatest of Dignity, and while he did not win the fight, he was and remains our Hero. We lost our beloved in February of 2014, after a 27 month battle, that Doctors had said should have taken his life at about 10 to 14 months.We have each and every year since participated in the Relay, this time, not only in Memory of Jeff, and others who lost their battle with this horrific Disease, but as A Survivor. I was diagnosed in 2013, with Stage 1 Uterine Cancer, and luckily 4 years later, i remain Cancer-Free. If ever there is a day i want to feel sorry for myself, or feel stressed out, by everyday life, i close my eyes and remember what our Son's Life Represented: Dignity.