“Life Must Be Measured in Its Beauty, Not Its Length”

The title quote above was spoken by Elana Waldman, who is the inspirational ovarian cancer survivor highlighted and honored by H*O*P*E* this week. Simply put, Elana Waldman is an outstanding advocate for cancer research. She educated and inspired luncheon guests at the 2007 Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) Women of Action Luncheon held in Toronto, Canada on April 19, 2007. During her talk, Elana provided an account of her illness and discussed her decision to be the first person in Canada to try an unconventional chemotherapy protocol. “I’m young,” Elana says, “my daughter is young, and the numbers are stacked against me. You do whatever you have to do to get the most time possible.” “Cancer,” Elana says, “has given me a clearer understanding of what life is about.”

As you will see from the excerpt of her April 2007 speech and the video below, “Elana’s courageous battle with ovarian cancer will touch your heart. Elana’s appreciation for everyday miracles will open your eyes. Elana’s determination to help others will inspire you …”

“…I was diagnosed 20 months ago on August 19, 2005. Time is running.

On September 23, 2005, after extensive surgery, I was told the cancer was stage 3c despite my doctor’s earlier belief that it was not that advanced. The diagnosis meant that I needed chemotherapy and only had a 30% chance of surviving 5 years from that point. At 32 years old, while trying to build my family and with a 2 year old daughter, this news was devastating.

When I was told the statistics though, I guess I couldn’t wrap my head around them because I never thought I would die. No one I knew had ever died from cancer. My own mother had fought and beat the disease twice. I knew I had a tough road ahead of me but I always focused on the light at the end of the tunnel and just did what I had to do to get better. It was hard but many others had done it before me and I knew I could and had to do it for my family…..

My cancer has returned. When I was told this time, the news hit me like a Mack truck. The numbers for a recurrence are even worse than for an original diagnosis and my chances for survival are small. I understood the numbers this time and the implications for me and my family. The diagnosis shook me to my core and I had a huge reality check. I have cancer, a potentially fatal disease. This is not something that regular medication can treat and I am now literally fighting for my life, everyday. I have given up my career to focus on my health and my family. I want to enjoy as much time as I can while I feel strong and healthy. I want to be a spokesperson for ovarian cancer for a long time but more importantly I want to see my daughter grow up and I want to grow old with my husband.

These simple goals in life that I now set for myself are in jeopardy so I have truly learned to enjoy all the everyday miracles that I do have – my daughter’s smile, my husband’s kiss, my mother’s laugh. I am more than this disease and I do not want to let it take away everything else that makes me the person that I am. I am asking you to help me continue to enjoy these miracles. Your donations and your generosity allow our scientists to do cutting edge research which will hopefully lead to a cure for cancer. Your support for ICRF directly benefits people who are battling cancer and on all their behalves, I say thank you.”

[Quoted Sources: Israel Cancer Research Fund Newsletter – Issue #5, Summer 2007; “Like Getting Hit By a Mack Truck: One Woman’s Fight With Cancer,” Chaim Steinmetz – Happiness Warrior Blog, April 25, 2007.

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