By Cynthia Snyder
Hello my name is Cynthia Snyder. I’m a 65-year old retired nurse of 32 years, a mother of two wonderful sons, ages 29 and 26. I am married to the love of my life for over thirty years. In February of 2008, twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with APL Leukemia. Initially, I was told I had 2 years to live. Three years later, in March of 2011, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Most recently in February of 2018, I was diagnosed with therapy induced AML Leukemia. When you have 2 cancers, the likelihood of a third is probable, so I think we had prepared ourselves subconsciously.
After my first battle with Leukemia, our mindset about life changed entirely. We decided we would Live Each Day to the Fullest, which has been our motto over the past 12 years. We did just that – spent much of our time traveling, spent time with friends and family and celebrated any special occasion.
With my most recent fight against leukemia, I was told the chemotherapy didn’t work and I had only weeks, or maybe even days to live. I became a patient of Palliative Care and we, as a family, decided to have a Celebration of Living. Within a week, it was organized quickly by friends and family. It was a day full of love, strength, tears, endless hugs, laughter, stories, and shared memories of friends and family. The kindness from everyone was overwhelming and it was so special to see friends and family from near and far. It energized me for the days to come. We received many positive responses from the event, and I would strongly recommend it to other Palliative Patients if they are able to tolerate it.
Even though I was a nurse for 32 years, when I heard the word “Palliative Care” I thought immediately that I would be sent home to die without treatment. I didn’t realize that Palliative Care is more about living. They provide the required treatment to enable patients to live well during the time they have left. In our experience, the general public had the same misconception of Palliative care and we are grateful that the South Shore Hospice Palliative Care Society has education as one of its goals.
Of course, I was very sad to hear that I was in Palliative Care; however, I felt it was so important to focus on living each day to the fullest and not to skip to the end page. Thinking about the end only caused me sadness. Take time to soak up every bit of the present. A very wise doctor told me 12 years ago to focus on today and only one day at a time. If that was too much, take one hour at a time. If that was too much, take 15 minutes at a time. That has been such a comfort for me.
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine, and I couldn’t agree more. It is so important to laugh. For me, keeping a positive frame of mind and finding something joyful out of each day has been a great aid. One of the days in the hospital, my family and I wrote down all of our blessings, our fond memories and the things that we were thankful for. My son framed a collage from our list and called it Cynthia’s Blessings, so that I could always see it and appreciate a life that is full of joy. I also found that writing my thoughts in a journal was a very helpful exercise, along with reading positive, uplifting books.
I know everyone has different beliefs. For me, my faith has always carried me through my whole life and it has given me great peace. Thinking of others has also been such a help as well. The kindness, empathy, and care from Physicians, Nurses, and Health Care Staff is so important and doesn’t go unnoticed. As a Palliative Care Patient, you feel vulnerable. The care from the South Shore Palliative Care Team has been second to none. Our sincere thanks go to every one of them for the incredible job that they do.
I have been considered somewhat of a miracle patient after receiving the AML diagnosis in 2018, but I believe every day is a new journey and I continue with monthly chemotherapy Injections self administered at home! I am very grateful for every new day.
As my dear father used to say: “Live Each Day to the Fullest”