New Country, New Life, New Challenges – What cancer does to someone like ME

March hosts National Ag Day March 20, 2010 and National Ag Week March 14th-20th and because of that I had planned to dedicate all my posts this month to misperceptions about dairy products and dairy farming. If you have specific questions I would love to hear them. While I still plan to address some of these topics in the future I haven’t been able to get a specific Facebook post from an Indiana dairy farmer and friend out of my head. Because it had such a genuine impact on me I wanted to be able to share it with all of you. I feel it is extremely important to be able to put a face with the people who produce food in our state. Dairy farming is a job but it is also a lifestyle due to the countless hours required. This does not mean however that a farmer doesn’t encounter some of the very same challenges that those of many different occupations face, including cancer.

Leontien VandeLaar

Leontien VandeLaar and I have a lot of things in common. We are both young women in a mainly male dominated industry; we both share a love for cows and BMW’s, and we are both blonde. Yes, blondes really do have more fun!  However, we do have our differences, I was born in Indiana and Leontien was born in the Netherlands and moved to Indiana.  I have always had a comfort zone of friends, family and familiarity surrounding me. Leontien and her family gave up everything they had in the Netherlands in order to pursue their American Dream. She once told me that when they first moved here they didn’t even have or know where to find a hammer to fix a gate. I have had my fair share of sniffles, scares, and annoyances. But never a broken bone, a direct result of the amount of dairy products I have consumed in my life, I am sure of it.

It is really easy to focus on our own lives, trials and tribulations but nothing I have faced in my life compares to what Leontien discovered and faced during the last two years.  

One year, eleven months and somewhat days ago I got confronted with this awful disease. I can tell you, it wasn’t and is not funny…
After several surgeries, lots of pain and fear I got 4 weeks of chemo treatment for 4 hours in a row every day. After that we did 48 weeks of chemo shots, 3 times a week, with one of the most terrible chemical substances that people have invented. Things lasted a bit longer because we had to quit a couple of times (weeks) because my body or mind couldn’t handle it too well…
Cancer does a lot to people… So does the treatment of cancer…

It makes you angry
Angry against the world, because every time you go to the hospital, the people that you meet are in their fifties. Where are all the young people??? Am I the only one?
Angry towards the people surrounding you. It doesn’t matter how hard they try, they can’t feel, understand or know what you feel! Even if they are by your side 24/7 in the hospital and at home, keep your hair up when you are puking your guts out in the toilet or when you do NOT want to say ANYTHING because you are to

o tired to the bone or when they hold you until the shaking has stopped…
Angry towards your friends, you thought they were there, but they are not
Angry towards you family, they do not deserve it, but to admit that to yourself only makes things worse
But most of all angry towards yourself
Because you just can’t understand why this had to happen
And if you could have changed it or prevented it!
And of course I am MAD because I thought I could change or adapt to anything. I could do everything and I didn’t NEED anybody
Angry because it is not fair
Angry because it shouldn’t have to be this way
Angry because of all the hurt I caused other people…
It makes you scared
Scared that you never get off of the rollercoaster of emotions, youre sad, happy, angry and hurt, and all over again.
Afraid that with every bump, every little thing that hurts, e
very little change or little mole, it is coming back…
Scared that all the statistics are true
Scared because we have to go back to the hospital every 3 months the coming five years, and you NEVER know what “they” are going to say…
Afraid you can never have any little kids, and even if you would, and you would die within two years, Bastiaan would be all alone with that little bundle of love… I can’t
do that…
Afraid that you can

not give the people, who you love the most, what they deserve
It makes you sad
Because life passed you by for the last two years and you cannot get it back
Because you wanted to build friendships but didn’t have the energy to do so
Because you wanted to face the mistakes you made in the past, but that didn’t work out
Because this was supposed to be the new country with the new life and possibilities
Because we are shallow and you do not realize that until you have a hole of 3 by 2,5 inches on you
r leg and so many other scars on your body you do not even want to know how may
Because you are hurtin
g of the scars that mark your hea

Because I, like so many others want to put problems, subject and other things behind us.
You Learn
That if you do not have anything nice to say, it is better to stay quiet
You do not rule the world, even if you think you did
Things happen for a reason, it will not help you if you do not accept them
Sometimes you have to agree that choices other people make for you are the best for you
You can

not run from whatever it is you are hiding from. It will come and get you eventually
You feel loved and blessed
Because no matter what happens (your yelling, crying, being silent and everything in between) your family is there for you
Because the boy who wanted to go with you (because you felt the need to milk cows in the USA) has to deal with all of this and STILL loves you
Because people that you hardly know came up to your house and gave you food, money or other things that would comfort you
Because of the friends that did stay are the ones you need to love the most in return!
Because ordinary people with ordinary lives felt the need to pray for YOU! And wished you the best and MEANT it…
Whenever you are sick, your mom, dad, husband, brother, sister, family, friends and all the other people that care for you are a little bit sick too. And if they can fight for you, you should fight for them.
It makes you happy
For every day that you can complain, yell or blabber to your family
That you can look to your husband and realize how much you really love him
That every morning you can get out of bed, and you do NOT have to stay in that dammed bed!
Because you can go to your work (the dairy), because it is a dream come true
Running a large family operated dairy is a gift and blessing, and
I am so damn proud that I can.
I can make choices about who
, what and where
And that every day, is one day

that I can enjoy
For the first time since April 2008 I feel like myself again, although it is a totally different me
After 5 terrible days, because yes, they put you on all the meds, but how do you get off of them again!!?? Without sleep, with lots and lot

s of pain, and feeling like a zombie who just like a drug addict is missing out on his shot, and doesn’t feel quite alive, I got out of the shower.
And I am glad to be here…

So now dry your eyes and take a deep breath. Life gets in the way of our dreams and passions but do you have what it takes to fight the fight, walk the talk, and achieve what you hold most dear?

We will have more of Leontien’s story featured shortly, but until then you can follow her by visiting their farm website, on Facebook at Leontien VandeLaar, and on Twitter @4leafcloverdairy.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
Henry David Thoreau

3 Responses

  1. What a moving story, Hang in there Leontien, you can get through this!

    Many Prayers,
    Brandon Bower

    • leontien wat ben jij een sterke vrouw wij wensen jou het aller beste met de gezondheid en we blijven voor je bidden veel groeten
      Jan & Zus Geudens Knegsel Nederland

  2. […] Posted on March 19, 2010 by lwoodruff I introduced Leontien Van de Laar to you in my last post. For those of you that might not have had the chance to read it talks about her struggle overcoming […]

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