Q&A With Cancer Survivor and Author
Christine Handy is a mother and breast cancer survivor living in Florida. On May 1, 2016, Christine released her first book "Walk Beside Me," a fictional depiction of her illness and long road to recovery. For more information you can visit her website. We were lucky to have her answer a few questions for us.
Humor Beats Cancer: Tell us about your diagnosis and treatment. What was the hardest part?
Christine Handy: I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer Oct. 1, 2012 at 41. I have no family history and do not have any breast cancer genes. I was completely shocked and side swiped by the diagnosis. The entire year before my diagnosis I was dealing with an arm surgery that had turned into a bone infection that had been misdiagnosed by a doctor who bullied me. Once I got up enough courage to see another doctor about my worsening arm, I was immediately taken into surgery to cut out as much infection s possible. Unfortunately the damage was done and my right arm was fused completely in August 2012. Post arm fusion I was diagnosed with cancer. I went on to have 28 rounds of chemotherapy. During chemo I was scheduling arm surgeries and breast surgeries. In total, between the two major health issues, I have had 18 non-elective surgeries. The most difficult part of my cancer journey was the double health issues. I had to try and come to grips with what life would be like with a fused right arm and no wrist, while undergoing chemotherapy and the consequences of that.
HBC: What made you decide to write about it?
Christine: I decided to write my book "Walk Beside Me" shortly after I started chemotherapy. I was a young mom, a model for 25 years, a self-proclaimed athlete and thriving in all areas of my life until the arm issue and subsequently the cancer diagnosis. The pain and suffering was enormous. I decided that I had to use all the pain to help others. When I was being treated for cancer I was gifted a lot of lovely books about praying through cancer and how to get through cancer. but I had not seen a fictional story on the ins and outs of cancer and how one really lives through it told in a way most could understand. I decided to was my job, because I had the courage to do it. I wrote a very honest and vulnerable depiction of my journey. My book became a bestseller and continues to inspire so many that I feel proud of what I decided to do. If we are courageous enough to share our stories it can help others through similar things or it can help those caring for individuals going through similar plights.
HBC: Can you share a humorous story from your journey?
Christine: There are so many funny stories about my journey, I did go through 15 months of chemo and it wasn't all doom and gloom. I had many women who stood beside me who brightened my days and lightened my load. Life change when people stand by each other. It's a good lesson to be there for others. We never really know what's going on in others' lives, but being there for others truly saves lives from despair and gives hope to those who feel very little hope.
One day I was home alone and my right arm was in a cast; I could not use it. It had been fused and it hurt tremendously. It had been over a year of that intense pain in my arm. I had started chemo and I was nauseated and sickly, not up to eating anything. I was sitting at my kitchen table and just started to sob. The magnitude of what had happened to me was overwhelming. I didn't hear the front door open, and I felt so scared and so alone that I crawled under my kitchen table with a blanket over my head and just laid there and cried. Suddenly one of my friends had walked into my kitchen and I could here her on her cell phone. She was talking to someone but I could hear her footsteps walking over in my direction. She didn't see me at the kitchen table, and I guess she looked down and saw me under the table under the blanket.
She went from having a full conversation on her phone to stopping mid-sentence and said to whoever she as talking to, "I'm going to have to call you back" and she hung up. I heard her say, "Awwww." and then I heard her put her things down and kneel down near me, she said to me, "Honey, just because you are a stick and a yogi who can crawl under a table, doesn't mean I can, so don't make me come under this table to get you." I burst into laughter and pushed the blanket off and got out from under that table and we laughed and laughed.
It was moments like this that showed me God was up to something. My friend had no idea the despair I felt that morning but she was prodded to stop over and check on me. There were many days I felt hopeless but God had a bigger plan for my story and his faithfulness got me to where I am today.
HBC: What did cancer teach you about life?
Christine: There is always purpose in pain but it is our choice to use it to help others. I learned so much going through cancer it is remarkable. I learned that "stuff" doesn't matter. Things aren't important, people are. Things can't sustain you, relationships and kindness can. I learned that even in my darkest moments through prayer God will show up. I learned that what others thought of me and putting on a facade to the world to make others happy was meaningless. All that mattered was how I thought of myself, and other people's judgment didn't matter anymore. I had to be good with me, I didn't need to worry if others liked me, I had to like me.
HBC: Your book is being made into a movie. How did that come to be?
Christine: My book is being made into film called "Willow the feature film." I always believed my book would be made into a film and I wrote it in a way that it could be a film. I believe there is power in women standing beside women even when it comes at a cost to them. My friends gave up their time, resources and often their own families to help and save me and mine. The cost and the care was so great that I believed and still believe the world needs more of these stories of women carrying each other versus seeing on TV or films women tearing each other down. Cancer is on the rise sadly and I also believe that there needs to be a hopeful film that shows the depth of pain cancer can bring but also shows the hope in that pain.
HBC: Why is it important for those facing cancer to be part of a community like Humor Beats Cancer?
Christine: Many of the things my friends and community did for me, so many others don't have. Humor Beats Cancer is an organization that sends out care packages to as many as possible. There are so many women and men who need a gesture, a small gift, a care package to light up their days. Humor Beats Cancer is a light for so many and with donations they can encourage and give hope to so many more. To imagine anyone going through this daunting disease alone is tragic, lets try and help be a bridge to those who need some support.
If we have breath we have life and we can also encourage and help others. Why? Because we can.