Each year I have an “I’m Still Standing” Party to mark my anniversary. This is my third year with Stage IV Pancreatic Cancer! Unbelievable to me. As with everything this year, COVID altered the plan. There could not be an in-person party.

Instead, I wanted an Imaginary I’m Still Standing Anniversary Party.

Not a virtual party!

Not a drive-by party!

A real imagined party.

With my imagined party, I could invite everyone I know and there would still be room in my house. I could invite people who live too far away to join in an actual party and we could all imagine them being there. My parties have always been a thank you to all the people who have gone out of their way to support me in my quest to live, and now I would be able to thank even more people. There are those in my far-away “fan club” who send cards, text and call to check in to make sure I’m okay. There are those people who have done quiet, secret acts of kindness, like my neighbor who decorated her backyard for me to enjoy from my kitchen window. I’ve even made new friends this past year. Pastor Tim’s Mom, Ida, is almost 90 and lives in Florida (we inherited my dog Riley from Tim after his sudden death). Ida has called every month to check in; it would be wonderful to imagine her joining in the party.

With my imagined party, I could place an imaginary order of all the best food in town and everyone could imagine eating all their favorite foods. No one had to bring anything. Everyone could drink champagne and not worry about drinking in the afternoon. (I actually never felt bad about an afternoon glass of wine, but I believe I read somewhere that people worry about that!). Since I’ve had my new stent placed in my duodenum (now there’s a new body part to learn!), I have been on a strict diet of eating– no nuts, no fresh veggies or fruits, no meats unless they are “fork-tender”, low fat, nothing fried, no Christmas treats. In other words, if it’s good– I can’t eat it! My dog has an extreme allergic response to food and her specialized diet of prescription dog food, rice, and baby-food chicken that I created is starting to look pretty good to me. At my party, I could eat everything!

With my imagined party, no one would be at risk to catch COVID. No masks needed. No social distancing. Everyone I know is rather exhausted from the COVID stress. There would be no judging of the decisions other people make– everyone would just be safe. At my party, the exhaustion would disappear and everyone would feel well. I never know from one moment to the next how I will feel. In the past I was the Planning Queen and now plans make me nervous because I can feel well one minute and miserable the next. With all the musicians who have struggled with a fentanyl addiction, I am quite surprised I don’t break into song and dance on occasion. At my imagined party we would all be dancing and singing!

After I invited everyone I knew to my party, my friends and family rose to the occasion enjoying my imaginary I'm Still Standing Party! I received texts all afternoon with pictures of people clinking glasses in cheers, sending hugs and blessings in celebration. People enjoyed all the imaginary food and bragged about the great homemade guacamole! I am glad someone mentioned enjoying the Elton John song playing in the imaginary background! Someone even sent a picture of the snow angel they made in my honor! Some said it was the best imaginary party they ever attended! I certainly could never have had an imaginary third-year anniversary party if everyone I knew couldn’t abandon reality for a moment and join in the fun.

Kathleen Braier, Pancreatic Cancer Patient and "Together, We Are Strong" Blogger
About the Author

Is it possible to live a full and meaningful life with cancer? Kathleen thinks so. After she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in 2017, she spent a year on a chemo regimen that provided about 10 days of feeling well enough to live a fairly normal life between treatments. She joked about writing an imaginary blog for about a year before realizing... against all predictions of her imminent demise, she was still somehow alive. She decided she would write a real version of her blog to honor those diagnosed with any late-stage cancers. They might live longer than expected and she wanted to provide a bit of a guide that tells them what that might be like. Posts on the Together, We Are Strong cancer blog can also be read on her personal blog at https://livingmylifein10days.com/. Though not the experience she would have chosen, she does not believe living with an end-stage cancer should stop anyone from living their life with meaning.