Carlyn’s Story

Hi my name is Carlyn, I am related to comedian George Carlin through my grandmother. Comedy was the best medicine, my best friend ‘Laughter’, carried me through chemo and radiation. Best advice: Have as much fun as treatment allows! Diagnosis Day was a Friday. I was the art teacher at my children’s elementary school and had taken the afternoon off to see my surgeon. Moments after hearing the words, “You have cancer.” I found myself on the school’s courtyard picking up my 2nd and 5th grade boys. Surrounded by fellow teachers aware something was wrong they began hugging and reassuring me as word spread. Ugly old Self-Pity got its grip on me as our Media Specialist pushed her beautiful 5’4″ frame through friends to remind me, “You could be dead tomorrow from some other dumb thing, get a hold of yourself, don’t let those boys see you cry!” Snapped back to reality I got through that day and the one following painting as well-wishers visited, sharing their thoughts and prayers in what became a blur to me. Sunday morning I woke before everyone else, it was early and gently raining. Quietly I made a cup of coffee taking a seat by the long bank of windows fronting the house. Gazing at my favorite oak through the window, gnarled branches dripping, I became overwhelmed crying for the first time, the only time I had been left alone since Friday. As I wept, I began feeling sick along with a desire to go outside. I remember thinking, “What are you doing?” as I stepped through the back door onto the deck and into the rain. I knew what needed to happen next. I found a spot in the middle of the deck, raised my hands and face to the sky, I let the rain soak my hair, gently sliding off my face.

Have as much fun as treatment allows!

With my eyes closed softly I cried out, “Dear God, please wash this self-pity from me and never let me feel this way again.” The moment I spoke it began. I felt it first in my fingertips; it slid down my body and exited at my toes. A tingling sensation impossible to describe. It was gone, self-pity washed from me and I never cried over cancer again. I had fun with my situation, as much as I could. I was the Tin Man from Oz that year in what became my first Relay for Life as a ‘Survivor”. My students thought I was a total nut case who shaved her head for a costume! I rarely wore a hat or scarf; I painted eyeballs on the back of my head and wore my glasses backwards proving mommies do have eyes back there! I occasionally wrote messages and drew flowers on my bald banner.  I made the best of a terrible situation, and I challenged all fighters to take off their hats, their wigs, their scarves. To let the world see how MANY of us are out there, fighting to survive. Let the world see, there are too many! Chemo was hard on me, and I hated radiation. I had plenty of bad days but the good ones far out-weighed the bad. I did my best to stay focused on the solution, it worked for me. The year was 2004, I am eleven years in remission, and I still approach each day the same as I did then smiling as my eyes open on a brand new day, grateful. – Carlyn

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