She was prepared to die, but then a miraculous thing happened.
(Article by RHODA FUKUSHIMA, St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN) December 3, 2007)
In 1987, 32-year-old Brenda Hartman of Roseville was focused and in good health. She was working on two doctorate degrees. She was a vegetarian. She commuted by bicycle 14 miles a day. At an annual checkup, Hartman's Pap smear revealed an abnormality. After several months of tests, she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer.
"My doctor said he would give me one week to cancel my life. Quit my classes. Quit my research. Quit my clinical internship. Shut everything down. Say goodbye. Write my will. I was going into major surgery, and he didn't know if I would make it.
"I had a 5 percent chance of living 24 more months.
"I knew enough about statistics and research to know statistics are a moving thing. Someone had to break through the statistics and survive. Why not me?
"I had surgery. They took out everything they could identify as cancer. They can't get it all. I got chemotherapy. I had what I call 'bazooka therapy.' It was like I got steamrolled. They were trying to see if they could make a dent in the cancer, so they hit it as hard as possible.
"I really worked on healing. I used meditation, breathing exercises, imagery. My goofy image was the ("Willy Wonka") Oompa Loompas coming in and cleaning up my body. It was about being gentle, making things shiny and clean again.
"I had side effects (blood infections). I spent a lot of time in the hospital. My doctor would say, 'You dodged another bullet.'
"There was a point where I was actively dying. I had asked my family to come because I needed to take them to the place where I was going to have my ashes scattered. My family took me up north. They carried me in. I couldn't walk. I was camping in a tent. It was my sacred place.
"When they put me in the tent, I said, 'I give you back all of my life.' I felt I was the ultimate offering. I had said goodbye to everybody. I was very calm. I went there prepared to die.
"And a miraculous thing happened.
"I woke up, and I could move. I could walk. I could dance.
"My doctor wanted to take a second look in six weeks, the assumption being there was more cancer. My response: 'I'll give you a call.' I continued to say my goodbyes.
"I called my doctor three months later. We scheduled a second-look surgery. They found no cancer. From a medical perspective, they have no explanation.
"I never finished either doctorate. I have a full-time clinical practice as a psychotherapist. I've spoken publicly to more than 3,000 people about cancer and the hope of healing.
"(While I was sick and getting treatments), my hair fell out a number of times. When it started coming back for good, it just didn't seem like I should cut it. As it grew, it became a metaphor for the day I never thought I would have.
"At my 15-year anniversary of diagnosis, I was working in my garden. My braid was dragging in the ground. I cut off 15 inches of my hair to be made into wigs for cancer patients.
"That was five years ago. It is time to give back. I will cut 20 inches in January 2008 to mark my 20-year anniversary.
"I don't want the cancer experience to go away. It brings me life. It helps me distill what is important.
"I believe healing is possible with all of us. Hopefully, it is all what we are trying to do, whether we have cancer or not."