Louise’s 4th of July Celebration

by Louise Ladd

Today, the Fourth of July, 2007, is the 10th anniversary of the afternoon my GIST tumor ruptured from my small intestine as we were driving north in CT to see the fireworks with my daughter and granddaughter.  Today is also my 64th birthday.  From the other room, I’m listening to the PBS concert from Washington, DC as I write, and as always, tears prickle my eyes when I hear the love expressed for this country.  I grew up in the Air Force and lived on bases, including several formative years at West Point.  I’m so proud to share this
birthday with the entire United States.

I’ll never forget the gentleness in my surgeon’s voice after he gave me the news that the mysterious mass he had removed turned out to be a rare type of cancer, then called leiomyosarcoma.  He said, "You won’t
believe me now, but this is the best birthday present you could have asked for. These cancers can grow very large, to the size of a watermelon, and it’s most fortunate that yours made itself known when it was still relatively small, only an orange."

Of course I didn’t believe him!  ONLY an orange?  A ruptured tumor, with the terror and pain that went with it, was a present?  A tumor that  could grow to the size of a watermelon?  Impossible.  Ridiculous.

Of course, I believe him now.  His words are engraved in my mind, and each year I know more, and give more thanks that I was indeed fortunate, if this sort of thing had to happen.

Back in 1997, the only studies we could find (this was the early days, pre-Google, pre-list-serve for most of us) concluded that 9 out of 10 did not survive 5 years.  Immediately I said, "That means one out of ten did, and I’m going to be that one.  I’m going to survive until they come up with a magic pill that will kill any tumors that return."

And sure enough, a few years later… there was Gleevec.

You never know what miracles can happen if you put your mind to it.  With the help of a few friends, of course.  Including amazing support from my family, eight operations, all those on the list-serves who share
their stories and discoveries, and a heck of a lot of dedicated researchers.

Happy birthday to all of us, we Americans.  I’m so delighted to be here, celebrating the birth our country as well as that of a brand-new granddaughter, and enjoying the antics of her brother and cousins.  I hope we each have times when we can give thanks with a full heart to all who make miracles possible.