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Faces of Blue: Billie Jo Weiss

By March 18, 2016Faces of Blue

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Southern California in 2007. My family had rented a beach house for the week so we could just have some time away to rest and relax in the surf. I started noticing some sharp pains in my abdomen. Nothing to run to the ER about but definitely something to make me pause and notice. We were due to head back home in a day or two, so I sent an email to my Primary Care Physician to get checked out when I got home. She responded right away and scheduled a colonoscopy for me. I don’t think any of us will ever completely understand what caused her to schedule the procedure, but we are so thankful she did.

FullSizeRenderI was 41 years old and a proud mama to two beautiful girls. I was able to be a stay­at­home mom and spend time with my girls, scheduling play dates, hanging out at the park and enjoying seeing the world anew through their eyes. No one was overly concerned about the upcoming colonoscopy. The pain could have been from any number of relatively benign things. We never even considered it could be cancer. But two weeks after my oldest daughter started kindergarten, my husband and I were anxiously awaiting pathology results and speaking with surgical oncologists. I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer and needed to have surgery right away.

Thus began my nine ­year (and counting) journey with this dreaded disease. I have had two cancer surgeries, at least two hernia repairs as a result of cutting through my abdominal wall to reach the cancer, six weeks of radiation, and almost 70 chemotherapy infusions. It’s been a long road with many bumps along the way. I have learned to stand up for myself and be my own advocate and to believe in myself and my recovery when trusted medical professionals did not. In 2013, I received a Stage IV terminal diagnosis. My doctors have told me that surgery is no longer an option and that I will be on and off chemo for the rest of my life.

IMG_1558At that point I decided I could either lay in bed and wait for the end or I could make the most of the opportunity and life I have been given. I started volunteering with other cancer patients and sharing my story with all who would listen. When I have bad days, I rest; when I have good days, I try to stay active by volunteering at my daughters’ schools, with Girl Scouts and at the hospital. I try to feed my body and soul by working out when I’m able, eating healthy and spending time with friends and family. Do I fall off the wagon now and again? Absolutely! But my doctors have assured me that life is for the living and a juicy steak with a glass of red wine or an ice cream sundae once in a while will not hurt me.

As I sit and reflect on the future, my biggest concern is not about dying, it’s about my family and friends. My timing has never been that great. I am a procrastinator by nature. My girls are growing up quickly, becoming a teenager and a preteen before my eyes. This is such an exciting time for them. A time to test boundaries, become more independent and shape the young women they will become. It’s unfortunate that our family is dealing with a cancer diagnosis at the same time. I am trying to give them the freedom they need to grow while still wanting to hold them close. There is so much I want to teach them, so much I want them to know about life. I want to protect them and keep them from getting hurt. I want them to know every happiness. I know that’s not possible. I know that one day I will be gone and they will have to persevere. I hope that somehow I have been a strong role model and that they will always know they are beautiful, intelligent, capable, graceful and kind. Their father was my true soul mate, my best friend. He and I love them unconditionally and believe in them always.

I will continue fighting this disease until the Lord takes me home. I will stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves and offer hope and love wherever I can. There is never an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Celebrate each and every day and every milestone, no matter how small. Don’t assume others know how you feel about them. Shout from the rooftops. To my family and friends, remember to keep finding your joy. Know you are loved beyond measure and I cherish each and every minute with you. And finally to Ava and Fallon, remember one of my favorite songs by Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”:

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty­handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance
I hope you dance

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’

Don’t let some hell­bent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone?)

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance…

I hope you dance
I hope you dance.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Chris says:

    Billie Jo, you are such an inspiration to so many! Thank you for sharing your journey so others can learn and gain strength and hope from you. You are the best mom, wife and friend I know and I am proud to call you my forever friend. I will always be by your side fighting with you and praying for God’s continued blessing on you and your sweet family. I love you! Chris

  • Tammy Mitchell says:

    Billie Jo,

    We reconnected in 2009, right as I was leaving Boston to go back to Florida. Since then our contact has dropped off again. I think of you daily, offering a prayer when I do, for you and your family. I am forever blessed that you appeared to me again and I know you knew why we found one another after 40+ years.
    You will always remain an inspiration to me. Thank you for being strong and thank you for being selfless. I think you are phenomenal.

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