Shortly after my HIPEC surgery, I started hearing voices. Talking, laughing, sometimes crying. But mostly happy. Now I hear them every day. And I often have visions of faces, too.
I’ve never talked with anyone about this phenomenon because it doesn’t upset me. And I don’t think doctors could do anything about it anyway. Really, I don’t want it to change ever, because it has given me tremendous comfort and strength as a mesothelioma survivor.
The phenomenon began when I went to the Meso Foundation’s Symposium last year. That’s where I first heard the voices and saw the faces and felt the hugs of survivors, families, and doctors who knew what I was going through.
I had exchanged messages online with many of them before, and I had even talked to a few of them on the phone, but nothing prepared me for the experience of meeting in person at the Symposium.
I was just a couple months into my recovery at the time, and I felt like I had turned the corner. I was happy with my circumstances and thought I had an abundance of positive energy to share.
My wife and I expected the Symposium to be a somber affair—three days immersed in the gloom of illness and fear and desperation. We promised each other we’d do everything possible to spread cheer and give others a lift.
But we never had the chance. From the moment we arrived, we were caught in a wave of friendship, concern, and hope that never let go.
Don’t misunderstand—there were certainly many serious discussions and some sad moments. But more than we could have imagined, we saw encouragement beat back worry, knowledge overcome fear, gratitude conquer grief, and smiles shine brighter than tears.
Those are the voices and faces that come around every day now.
When I’m concerned about my future health, I hear Dr. Carbone’s exuberant Italian accent (and see his waves of luxuriant Italian hair!), Dr. Pingpank’s calm confidence, or Dr. Alexander’s deep concern, and I know that there are scores of doctors and researchers working to help me.
When I’m confused about test results, treatments, or what steps to take next, Mary is there offering insight, wisdom, and encouragement and keeping me grounded and focused on getting healthier.
I see Melinda, Maja, Erica, Erin, Jessica, Anna, Dana, and Beth raising money, funding research, advocating, organizing, speaking, writing, and reaching out to support me.
I see Hanne, Marina, Shelly, Don, Betty and others who have lost loved ones but continue to work ceaselessly for those of us still fighting. I see a husband and son play their hearts out in the Meso Fighters Band, just weeks after losing their wife and mother.
I see a few people who have since passed away, like Janelle. I met her only once, toward the end of her fight, but I still remember the way her eyes and smile and determination sparked hope in everyone around her.
I hear and see all the beautiful souls who will not let mesothelioma win; those who joyfully count the days, weeks, months, and years of life and love that cancer can never steal. They are quick with a message or a call when I’m having a down day. They give practical advice about dealing with cancer and share infinite strength whenever I need it.
Going into last year’s Symposium, I thought I was doing great in my battle with mesothelioma. Nonetheless, I left the conference with ten times the information, hope, and courage I had before, and the people I met there continue to bless my life in real ways every day.
I hope you can come this year. There are sessions and events that touch on all aspects of beating this disease and dealing with its impact on our lives.
Reading information online doesn’t compare to meeting in-person with people who get it because they have lived it and made it through to the other side. In the grim world of cancer, this conference is the happiest place on earth.
I want you to hear voices and see faces all year round. It’s a beautiful, amazing thing.