Meet Bonnie: The Red Sox Fan Worthy of a Different HoF

My name is Bonnie and I’ve been fighting for my life for eighteen years, but I have been fighting an invisible fight for the past twelve.

This is #myinvisiblefight story.

In 2002, I hung up my whistle after 37 years of teaching physical education.  As a die-hard Red Sox fan I was really looking forward to spending the majority of my free time at Fenway Park.  As the months passed I grew bored, so I decided to get back into the classroom as a substitute teacher. Right before the holidays, I went to my oncologist for my annual checkup.  My heart sank when my doctor said he wanted to run more tests:

You have colon cancer Bonnie, and you must have a permanent colostomy.

That was how I spent the first year of my retirement; in treatment, chemo-therapy, radiation and surgery. It was a year lost out of my life.

This is when #myinvisiblefight with colon cancer began.

I was cancer free, again. I was alive and healthy, but I was living in constant fear that my apparatus, my bag, would fail and the embarrassment of the sound or smell it would let out. The anxiety of having to empty and clean the bag became overwhelming and my inability to control it was devastating.

Where would I go to relieve the gas? Would anyone notice? Should I just go home? Did someone else pass gas or was that me?

I was gaining weight as I found comfort foods were just easier for my bag to digest and I found myself withdrawing from my life.  I began asking myself, Why me? Why did I survive? Cancer twice, would it be like baseball? 3 strikes and I’m out?  I was really down in the dumps, no pun intended.

I didn’t recognize myself.

I tell it like it is, and I am not afraid to laugh out loud, or to laugh at myself.  My humor is a big part of how I fought through and survived breast cancer.  A successful double mastectomy left me with two boobs that I put on and take off each day!

Still, this time it was different. Every day I had to push myself to go out and be normal like other people, because if I didn’t I could become a prisoner in my home.  I couldn’t even have a glass of wine without wreaking havoc on my bag that I liken to having a twenty-four hour flu, after which one feels dehydrated, weak and tired.

I grew up in the era of Ted Williams, and I have a thing for underdogs so for the past 64 years I have been a Red Sox fan. In 2004, I was as happy as a Rhode Island clam sitting in the grand stand watching my team win the second game of the World Series, and eating a hot dog. Well, I encountered a great deal of difficulty managing my problem in their gang style bathrooms, so the experience was not all I had hoped it to be. But it was at Fenway Park that I had come face to face with my invisible fight.

Sports memorablia
To most, these ticket stubs and Red Sox programs are nothing more than some branding by a MLB team. But to Bonnie, these artifacts of sports history symbolize the moment her #invisiblefight with colon cancer became a means of human connection.

I wrote to Mr. Lucchino, President of the Red Sox, that winter.

He responded to my letter and told me that they were installing totally private family bathrooms throughout the park the next season.

It was at that moment that I realized my honesty about my condition could and would help others.

I thought about all of my fellow friends and Red Sox Nation brethren who had passed, and who weren’t as lucky as me to see the Sox win a World Series. I felt blessed, grateful, and determined to make peace with my condition. I wasn’t going to let fear or embarrassment strike me out. I had an army of support in my family and my friends and I was going to get back in the batters box.

I acknowledged my membership in the “colostomy club” and began to openly share my experiences with people in an attempt to ease their fears. I accepted that the only control I had over my bag was my diet, so I made changes.

Bonniie in a chair knitting
Bonnie enjoys knitting. There is nothing better than driving down to Oaklawn Beach (Warwick, Rhode Island) with a hot tea from Dunkin Donuts, and knitting for the afternoon with her best friend.

I wanted to make scarves for my chemo and radiation nurses who had been so good to me and the wives of my doctors, so I decided to rekindle an old passion of mine; knitting. It was at my weekly knitting club that I met the CEO of a small public relations firm. At 72, I was not completely ready to retire, so I took a job as her executive assistant, and work part time for her supporting her many business endeavors.

I love my life and refuse to let this condition, and my bag invisible to most, keep me down. I laugh, travel, watch my grandchildren grow, enjoy the company of my very supportive husband, daughter and best friend Jane, and share so many good times with the many many friends who support me.

I have a strong faith in God who has given me the courage, and stamina to be a survivor. Some days are hard, but I am not fighting this fight alone. I have an army beside me, a team, almost as great as the Red Sox who provide me with a support system, which is second to none.

I won’t strike out in this invisible fight.

IMG_0708 (2)Editor’s Note:

Bonnie is a die hard Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins fan. She is a tough as nails New Englander who loves a good joke and Dunkin’ Donuts.

She’s got a heart of gold. Patient Worthy thanks Bonnie for her participation in IIWK15, and we welcome her to our family!

Bonnie says her phone is always on, if you or someone you know is learning to manage life after a colostomy.

Leave a comment below or contact us here at Patient Worthy if you’d like to reach out to Bonnie.

Follow us