Becky Pope's Epic Battle with Ovarian Cancer Continues : We Choose To Climb
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Becky Pope's Epic Battle with Ovarian Cancer Continues

by Shana Ross on 08/25/12

Friends, Fans and Supporters:

On September 8, 2012, the women of Project Kilimanjaro will celebrate one year that we departed for Africa to prepare for our climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The memory of our adventure is still fresh 12 months later, as though we had just descended. The project was an epic event for each of us. One that we will never forget. We remember the good times as well as the bad, because it is in the bad, hard hours on the mountain that we learned so much about ourselves and each other. We are bonded for life.

 From the depths of my soul, I wish I could report that Becky Pope, the inspiration for the climb, has won her battle with ovarian cancer. Oh how I wish. But she hasn't.

 One week after our return, Becky underwent major surgery to have lesions removed from her liver. The surgeons took about four inches of her liver and suspicious lymph nodes near her aorta. Becky's incision started just below her sternum and ended just above her pubic bone. Split stem to stern -- literally.

 Nurses were stunned when the evening of the surgery, Becky was able to get out of bed and sit in a chair. But that's our Becky. The days following surgery, nurses asked for her autograph and for details about the trip. All who came in contact with her were amazed at her strength and spirit.

 More chemo followed. In February, a PET scan showed no evidence of disease. We cried, cheered, whooped, celebrated. In May, we participated in the MD Anderson Sprint For Life Ovarian Cancer Walk. "Kiss Off Cancer" was the theme. Becky, Pam, Chris Kainer and I did our best KISS drag and in full costume and make-up walked three miles in Houston heat. No big deal after Kili. The rest of the team looked stunning in their white t-shirts painted with big red lips. We won best team spirit. Becky was beaming.

 Her first post-chemo follow-up was scheduled for June, a few weeks after the walk. Becky was nervous as the date approached, but confident that all would be well. But, the news wasn't good. Her CA-125 was elevated and so another PET scan would have to be ordered. We waited for the results.

The day the call came, Becky was at my studio answering phones to give me a hand and keep her mind occupied. I saw her take a call on her cell. I saw her eyes turn red. She put her phone down, covered her face with her hands and put her head on the desk and began sobbing. I rushed to her, grabbed her and held her. There was no need to ask what was wrong. There was no need for words at all. I knew. I felt sick. My heart broke for my friend.

We stayed that way for what seemed like a very long time. Finally she raised her head and halting told me that the cancer was all over her liver. Multiple lesions were evident with a large tumor visible that seemed to be about 7 cm. I've heard the phrase, "It felt as though all the air had been sucked out of the room," used to describe startling news. But I had never really had an experience that made me truly understand the meaning. Now, I understand the words completely. This could not be happening.

Becky had walked the 4 blocks from her house to the studio. I asked her what time her partner Pam would be home from work. She said she was already home. I helped her gather her things and told her I would walk her home. I let her talk and vent on the way. I knew she needed to see Pam. I just wanted to make sure she got home alright and then I would leave her to tell Pam and let them begin the grieving process before having to gear up again for another fight.

As we rounded the corner to walk the final block to her house, I saw Pam mowing the front lawn. I knew the minute she saw Becky, she would know that something was terribly wrong. That's when I realized that I was going to be present for the moment Pam found out.

In the last moments of our walk, I had the oddest experience. It's almost as if I became a third-party observer of the final moments of our trip and this weird countdown started going through my head. 'In 2 minutes, Pam's world will be turned upside down once again. In 1 minute, Becky has to look her partner of 19 years in the face and tell her that the results are bad -- very bad. In 30 seconds, life as these two wonderful people know it, will again take another unexpected, gut-wrenching turn.' And then we were there. Pam looked up, turned the mower off and said with a bright smile, "Well hey. What are you two up to?" And then she saw Becky's face.

It's a scene that we've all watched play out in movies. Oh how I wish this had been a movie. How I wish someone had shouted "CUT" and in that moment everything would have been okay. I hugged Pam and said, "If you need anything...". I couldn't finish the sentence. It sounded so trite. There were no words for the moment. I told her I loved her and turned to begin my walk back to my studio.

When I was sure I was out of sight, I stopped walking and bent over with my hands on my knees. I felt physically ill and needed a moment to make sure I wasn't going to throw-up right there on the sidewalk. Instead, I just began to cry. My mind raced -- I don't want my friend to die. I don't want her to have to go through another treatment. I don't want her to feel broken in body or spirit. I don't know what to do, how to help. But I do know that I and the rest of the Kili clan will gather around her and lift her up however we need to. We'll all once again be tested. But after Kili, we are all stronger then we were before.

Becky is now in a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She's been hospitalized twice with blood clots in her legs. These have been painful episodes. For the first time my friend has looked me in the eyes and said I'm scared. Well, who the hell wouldn't be. But on a visit with her in the hospital she looked at me and said with a little chuckle, "You know, I thought this was preparing me for Kili. I had no idea that Kili was actually preparing me for this."

And so the lessons of Mama Kili continue. She pushed us beyond places we thought we could go. She especially pushed Becky. But when her body felt as though there was not one more step forward left in it, her mind said 'climb'. And she did. And that is exactly what she's doing at this very moment. She's climbing.

The only way through, is to go over. Choose to climb. I love you Becky.

Comments (1)

1. said on 10/31/12 - 06:40PM
Shana,I have just read your letter about Becky,I see you wrote back in August of this year. I am heartbroken to hear . I met Becky the first day I had Chemo in April 2009. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me . She was there to celebrate the last Chemo Day of one of her friends. Becky went around to all of us offering foot rubs with wonderful smelling lotion. She was so encouraging to all of. I was very scared,but after meeting her ,I felt that there were people to help. I got to see her two more times as I didn't come on the same day each week. she would fix up her goodie bags for us with such cute thngs that would make us smile. It just doesn't seem fair that someone who was such an encouragement to others has had to endure so much. My heart goes out to all of you,especially all of you who made the climb with . I can only imagine what she and Pam are going through. My prayers and hugs are for all of you. Will you please Email me . Thank you so much,Judy Hayes.

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Please visit the OCNA website and learn how to recognize the warning signs of Ovarian Cancer. They are subtle and often overlooked.