Welcome to this month’s Fabulous Women Over 40 featuring Ms. February, Lisa Palet Goldstein AKA “Wonder Woman!”
I met Lisa on Labor Day last year at a party she was having at her house. A friend invited me along and I had no idea what I was embarking on that day. When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see more than 20 people I knew, when Lisa welcomed me the first thing that I noticed was her infectious smile. As I greeted those I knew I overheard various conversation’s on Lisa’s status, at one point a song started to play over the stereo, the room began to sing along “Hit the Road Jack,” and Lisa’s eyes teared up. It was then that I realized this was not actually a Labor Day party….it was a cancer party and Lisa was in the midst of her journey in being treated for colon cancer.
In the 9 months I have known Lisa I have discovered a deeply compassionate and inspiring woman. Her kindness, empathy toward others and ability to listen deeply at what others say is evidence of her ongoing desire to give back. She has worked as a social worker, done in/outpatient work with addiction programs and continues to work in the healthcare industry with an aspiration to help those in need. She volunteers with Make-A-Wish and enjoys her time working with the kids.
May 28th, 2014 marked Lisa and Rob’s 19th wedding anniversary, it was also the day she received the diagnosis that she had colon cancer. In that moment of reality she was sad, scared and as anyone facing cancer would feel, devastated. Lisa said “it felt as though a stack of papers had been thrown in the air and I had no idea where they would land.” She had no symptoms of colon cancer and it does not run in her family. She had been to the doctor 6 months earlier because she was tired and anemic, they ran blood tests and said her iron levels were low, when she returned for tests a second time with no change her doctor suggested a colonoscopy. Colon cancer became her reality and she began the most challenging 9 months of her life. She immediately started with six weeks of chemo and radiation treatments, then surgery to remove 8 inches of her colon, then 8 chemotherapy treatments and she still has one more surgical procedure to go.
From the start, Lisa decided she was going to put up a fight and wanted to keep a positive mindset during the most negative experience of her life. In the first few days of her diagnosis she kept thinking about her battle ahead and wanted to give her tumor a name as if it were a prized fighter she was training against in a championship. Jack was the first name that came to mind and her battle song would be “Hit the road Jack” by Ray Charles. In those first few days she battled staying positive because as the news spread people began wanting to talk, to ask her questions and to offer encouragement. She struggled with the thought of dying, of wanting to see her 16 year old daughter Sarah grow older and so many other things you think about when facing the reality of a disease that can take your life. Like so many cancer victims she struggled with staying positive while having to repeat all the details of her cancer to others over and over. That continuous reminder of her battle became exhausting so she decided to start a Facebook page named “Hit the Road Jack, “ this would allow her to post news but not have to talk about it all the time in her daily life. She didn’t want attention, she wanted peace and this would give her a voice to share. She was uncomfortable with all the attention the page brought to her but at the same time amazed by the outpouring of support and love she received. It was that love and support that helped carry her through those grueling 9 months. The FB page allowed her to have personal emotional time alone while processing what people shared with her online. This created a separation of the discussion of “cancer, “she no longer had to constantly talk about what she was going through when she was out with friends. When she posted a photo of a pair of “Wonder Woman” socks she received from high school buddy Victor Wilson, it took the FB page to a new level. She instantly took on the super hero persona of “Wonder Woman!” Pictures, gifts and numerous references over the months helped Lisa keep a positive mindset through humor as she marched onward.
Lisa continues to learn the facts regarding colon cancer and has made it her goal to create a better awareness of how important it is to be tested. It has become one of the top cancers that cause death yet it is a highly preventable disease. She continues to find knowledge and comfort from the closed FB group “Colon Town” and with the help of “Meals 2 Heal.” Finding others who understand and are dealing with the same symptoms and procedures helps with the fear of the unknown. The deeply personal issues an individual goes through with any health or emotional affair can never be explained to someone who is not walking in the same shoes.
Lisa’s doctor caught her cancer early and her prognosis is very good. Please get tested, eat healthy, stay active and be aware of changes within your body. Life is short, we all have so much to offer to others while we are here. The photos I shot of Lisa were taken before she had her surgery, she wanted to have a memory of the person she was in the beginning of her journey. On the outside today it is obvious Lisa has been through a battle, she has lost 20 pounds, often feels nauseous and gets tired very easy, that will change as her body starts to readjust from the end of chemo. On the inside she is forever changed from the person in these photos.
Although I wish my friendship with Lisa had not happened with a party marking a journey against cancer, I now feel grateful to have the honor of calling her my friend. She is definitely a fabulous woman, a wife, a mother and a beautiful person both inside and out who truly inspires others. In my eyes Lisa, like so many others who are dealing with cancer is a “SuperHero!” I hope that her story will help someone out there get tested early and perhaps save a life. I also hope it helps someone start a FB page to relieve the emotional impact one feels with the journey of having cancer, there is an immense amount of strength gained through the support and love of others. Tonight more than 150 people will come together to celebrate the end of Lisa’s battle, I can assure you there will likely be some Wonder Woman capes in the room!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed Lisa’s story and stay tuned for “Fabulous Women over 40: Ms. March!”
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