Entering a New Year (2011) as a Terminally Ill Person


It’s a new year. And I am already behind. This change of pace seems a good sign since for much of 2010 my only assignment was to stay alive. I am very much alive. I am rounder with far less hair but quite recognizable as that wacky Marcy.

I have had my first haircut despite the hair being far too short to style. Instead it was neatened. I may keep it this short.

With January I started operating as if I am normal. Certainly, I look as normal as ever. I wear my ‘cancer sucks’ buttons as needed to assert some confusion in public. Of course, I begrudge that my button doesn’t declare ‘stage iv metastatic ovarian cancer sucks’ but details. I still consider making my diagnosis a tattoo stamped somewhere obvious but my compromised immune system is not ideal for stressing with voluntary body wounds.

The old year closed just as well as it started…with high hopes, just scaled very differently. I recognize what an incredibly precious year 2010 was. Hard, yes! Devastating even to recall still but so damn precious. Mike and I will settle for keeping 2011 a year of calm and stability. For now my body is cooperating. As of yesterday’s test results, there is no evidence of disease. If I can stay cancer free for 2 more months, I will be in remission. The focus is to keep me in remission for as long as possible and to keep my body in peak fitness for enduring the onslaught of treatments when the cancer returns. Metastasized cancer is tough to evict. No evidence of disease really means ‘it is too small to see.’ Secretly, I am committed to building such an amazing immune system that the cancer cells are ushered out of my body as they appear just like a healthy body should. Wouldn’t that be nice? There are vaccine trials to kick start immune systems to just such an end….so the search is on to find a perfect match which will also not threaten my continuation with my current clinical trial.

I closed my ‘retirement’ party comments in December by saying:

Statistically, I am doomed but there are exceptions and being amid strong community and being fit do mean a lot. But I have been handed my pink slip from this world. The thing is Mike and I are doing just fine. It is hard. But we are very happy, and very hopeful. Early on I wrote a little test obituary. It said….

Marcy Westerling: A kickass community organizer dedicated to the notion that small town Americana is filled with justice seeking souls that deserve support as well as have the power to bridge the false cultural divides of our times. Derailed by Stage IV Ovarian Cancer in Spring of 2010. I trust others to continue moving rural inclusive progressive organizing forwards.

The only thing I would change is inserting a ‘momentarily’ before derailed. There is a lot to be done on this journey called life and this journey towards justice…count me in.

To that end I am loving my part time return to work, find excitement in everything and hope that the ground hog sees whatever he should tomorrow to shorten winter.

With much love, marcy


About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

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