My name is Rebekah Palmer and I am a nontraditional freshman here at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. My battle with cancer is not only my story. It is the story of my family: my father and mother, my two brothers, and me.
Most of my memories start at the age of five, about the same time I started realizing waking up in the morning meant being tired still, nauseated, and throwing up. My parents had a name for what I was experiencing. The doctor’s called it Cystinosis or Fanconi Syndrome. For my parents, this meant trying to keep medicine doses in me every six hours of every day to slow down kidney failure.
When I was twelve years old, I needed a kidney transplant. My mother was pregnant with brother number two, James, so she was hoping my dad would donate. He and I were not the same blood type and brother number one, Evan, was too young at age ten. Donors did volunteer but health examinations were not passed. A waiting list could have meant years for a kidney so my mother gave birth on March 17, 1999 to James and three months later in June of 1999 gave me one of her kidneys.
The transplant was supposed to help my quality of life. Shortly after the operation I had a sore throat which antibiotics wouldn’t cure. This led to an ear infection and an ENT who pronounced a behavioral problem as there was no need for a twelve year old child to scream with clearly no fluid behind the ears. Like all people frustrated with medical doctors, we went to the chiropractor who felt enlarged lymph nodes. One day, when my screaming from pain got the best of my mother, she called the hospital who did my surgery. They took one look down my throat and took me right into biopsy- the whole left side of my mouth was caved in. The results? An egg-sized tumor, inoperable, cancerous, B-Cell Lymphoma, 3 months to 3 years maximum life. My parents took their faith in God and my brothers and loved me through six months of treatment. I was pronounced cancer free on my thirteenth birthday.
I graduated from high school in May 2005, then went on to Bible college and graduated May 2010. It was my Junior year of Bible college when I was faced with two dear friends- Mrs. Merriott the church secretary and Mrs. Gomez my Pastor’s wife- dying of cancer. I wrote in a journal looking back at how I felt during my cancer….
August 19, 2007- “The emotions of a terminal illness are so great. Especially one like cancer, to one just going into Junior High when they are diagnosed…you know you will be dead soon like your dead grandmother. What if you know no one in Heaven? Will Jesus make you feel at home? Will anything remind you of the wonderful life you lived with family and friends? More time is spent in your Bible getting to know your new home, getting to know God better…
…And then you get pronounced survivor- it’s like coming back to earth. Heaven was a place you were supposed to go, all ready, and then vacation was cancelled. Life goes on and you must too…
…Looking back to your cancer experience is like looking back on a different person. Memories take you back to that person…doctor’s appointments and telling your story do too. It’s like another life and you have to live both lives now because that is who you are. If you live just the illness person you live alone. If you only live the new person you have no story. If you live both you live. You have a continuing story- your life…
….When I heard about Mrs. Merriott’s passing at 1:30 am I realized I had been praying for the family at that time. I feel bad inside; like I should be gone also….
Mrs, Gomez’ passing was more shock. She had just taught us at school. We will never have her for a class. I just saw her at a craft and bake sale…I feel left behind.”
Now I want you to think of your loved ones who have passed on or are survivors. They may not be perfect but they are or were a credit to the human spirit. I dedicated this reading from the Velveteen Rabbit to Mrs. Merriott and Mrs. Gomez and now I would like to dedicate this to the memories and lives of your loved ones: “What is Real? It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But those things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real, you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”That was Mrs. Merriott and Mrs. Gomez. They served and loved people and Jesus so much that they became worn and tired. They became Real the day they passed into eternity. To quote the Velveteen Rabbit once again…”You cannot become real unless uncomfortable things happen to you.”