By Lisa Minic –
With the holiday season in full swing, the attitude of gratitude and giving has filled many of us, and this is no exception for one local mother even though she is battling cancer.
Imagine for a moment that you are a single parent to five energetic, curious, demanding, and wonderful children and you are in the middle of a very unique and difficult battle with cancer. Even though this is exactly where Lory Balamut finds herself today, she is grateful for all of the blessings that have come from these trying times.
Almost one year ago, after several doctor visits and a misdiagnosis Lory’s worst fear was realized. She was diagnosed with Waldenstrom’s Macroglobulinemia (WM), a rare cancer that begins in the cells of the immune system. Lory explained that there is no cure for WM at this time; some patients can be treated giving them more time or a better quality of life. After learning the life expectancy of WM patients, Lory remains hopeful that she has many years beyond the 5-7 that most WM patients live following a diagnosis. Any fight with cancer is difficult, and Lory’s case is no exception. In fact, her situation may be considered unique and extremely difficult because she also has lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body).
Early last year Lory was taking care of and helping patients, working as a nurse at Specialists in Urology; what a difference 12 months makes. Last summer Lory fell ill but the symptoms were misleading and finding the cause was difficult. She was experiencing increased levels of weakness and severe fatigue, symptoms common for lupus patients. After seeing different specialists, hitting one wall after another and receiving a misdiagnosis, a trip to the Mayo Clinic confirmed what Lory had thought all along: she had cancer.
Lory received her first round, of many, failed treatment plans last November. Because Lory has lupus, treating the WM cancer has proven to be very difficult for her doctors. Within one year, Lory has traveled across the country and back seeking medical care and treatment from specialists in California, Boston, and Oklahoma. Finally, Dr. Jay Wang at Premiere Oncology agreed to take Lory’s case and began treating her here at home.
The lupus prevents Lory’s doctors from treating her cancer the same way they would if she did not have lupus. Lory’s body has not responded to the various chemo treatments she has received and currently she is only treated if her symptoms decrease her quality of life. If the symptoms are tolerable, she just grins and bears it; if she gets too weak and tired then she is given treatment. Nothing that her doctors have tried yet has put the cancer into remission.
Needless to say, for the past year Lory has had the front seat on an extremely emotional roller coaster, and her children (ages 4, 7, 11, 16, 18) have been along for the ride as well. As any parent, Lory does her best to ensure her children are loved and taken care of. It is a difficult balance, being a mother to five and being a cancer patient. Lory tries her hardest to shield her children from the negative effects of her disease, but children are perceptive they can tell when Mommy isn’t feeling well even though she smiles through the pain.
Having faced an unthinkable past year; in and out of doctor offices, one failed treatment after another, and still not in remission, it is nothing short of amazing that Lory is able to find a lot to be grateful for. Prior to cancer, Lory was the person helping anyone and everyone that needed it and as a single mother she had the attitude that she could take care of everyone and everything. Just last year, Lory was the one helping and offering hope to patients. Now, she is on the receiving end of that assistance and treatment. It hasn’t been easy, but Lory has had to transition from the person offering help to the one accepting and seeking help.
Lory admits that she can not fight this battle alone. It has taken some time to feel comfortable receiving and asking for help.
Lory says that, despite fighting cancer, the last year has been one blessing after another. Yes, at times it was scary, frustrating, and extremely difficult but with all of that has come a even more good. She is thankful that her children have been able to witness firsthand the generosity and caring of people in the community, even strangers. It is important to remember not to get caught up in how bad your situation is. Focus your energy on all of the good that presents itself in any trying circumstance.
Whether you are facing an illness, financial troubles, a family emergency , there is always hope and help available even when things seem impossible. Lory has been truly amazed by the number of people surfacing to offer help. Family, friends and strangers alike are continually offering help in the form of financial assistance, time, and physical and emotional support.
Always the helper before, at first Lory found it difficult to accept help, but with time she has learned to admit that she does in fact need various kinds of help and she has learned to accept and even ask for help when it is needed.
Lory wants to take time to remind those out there who are able to offer assistance to someone facing a difficult life situation that help comes in all forms, not just monetary. Offer to clean someone’s house when they are too weak to do so, cook meals for families whose caretaker is unable, offer a ride to those who need help getting from place to place, spend time talking with and listening to someone facing an uphill climb. It is the kindness and support from those around her that keeps Lory positive. The desire to help others has not left Lory, when she has the energy she still helps others in any way that she can, usually by offering them hope when all seems lost.
Life works in mysterious ways. Time and time again you hear stories like Lory’s, of people who are in a dire strait yet they are found helping others. Helping others always makes you feel better, no matter your situation. You feel better because you have helped another human being, and this forces you to change your mindset from focusing on your problems to focusing on their solutions.
The holiday season brings about the heart’s desire to do something for others. Giving seems to be a natural part of this joyous time of year. Charities often receive more donations while food pantries and soup kitchens flourish. Heartwarming stories of generosity can be found in magazines, newspapers, online and on TV. Everyone seems to want to do a good deed and spread peace on earth and goodwill towards men.
Then the holiday season ends and the giving decreases. The “season of giving” should not subside when the year comes to an end. Lory wants everyone to be mindfully aware that there are people in need every single day, not just during the holidays.
Let’s spread the feelings of gratitude and giving throughout the entire year. Let this holiday season be the beginning of change. Be the one who will care every day, all year. Be the one who will make a difference for someone in need on any given day.
Donations and words of encouragement for Lory and her family can be sent to:
ATTN: Lory Balamut
15481 Summit Place Circle
Naples, Florida 34119
Take time to reach out to Lory, or someone else facing a difficult situation, help spread the attitude of being grateful for what we have and giving to those in need.