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Lisa Sadri, cancer patient

Last year, Sadri learned her breast cancer had spread to her lungs, liver and back. Her illness is terminal.



Editor's note: First Person is a series of commentaries that gives voice to those not commonly heard in Atlanta media.

In October 2007, Lisa Sadri learned her breast cancer had returned and spread to her lungs, liver and back. A former executive recruiter, Sadri's receiving treatment at Hospice Atlanta before she returns to her native Florida to be near her sister and parents – both of whom are cancer survivors. Her illness is terminal.

It was scary when my treatment team started talking to me about moving into hospice. If I were to get better, I don't think hospice is the right thing for me. I can't walk from here to the bathroom without oxygen right now. I can't take a shower without help. But this isn't like a nursing home. It's bright. You're not treated like you're about to be put in the ground. These people are angels. This place has given me a lot of dignity.

[My mind-set] is very different than it would've been a year and a half ago, when my life and my success was measured on my job, where I lived, what car I drove. And it's none of that anymore. The measure of my success now is my relationships.

I've got an excellent network of friends here. I worked for a phenomenal company that I still feel a part of. But I'm probably the saddest with leaving my son and my boyfriend here. They'll be coming down to visit.

I've had some really good days. I've had someone spending every night with me. We laugh and carry on as much as we can. Sense of humor is huge and I'm around a lot of people who have big ones. And we have a great time with it. Just not talking around it, even. There's no more denial.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to come up here and visit my old haunts. I love Atlanta. I've been here 24 years; this is really home. I'm selling my little cottage in Grant Park that sheltered me when I was sick. But there's something poignant going back to the home I left at 21. I'm 45. That seems too young to be going back this way. But it also is an excellent opportunity.

I look back at the way I was living my life, and it wasn't healthy. It was stressful just to meet with friends for coffee. You had to sync your times together. It was rushed. You might get 30 minutes with them here or there. It was a lot of work and not a lot of play.

These are opportunities I never would've had before. Or that I never opened up to before. I like art and creating things and I think that's going to be a big part of the next chapter in my life. Time for that, family and friends – that's pretty lucky.

My regrets in life are that I did not slow down and enjoy my son's younger years and enjoy mine – taking it moment by moment. And that really is where the fun is, not what happened yesterday or what's happening tomorrow. And that's how I lived my life – in yesterday or tomorrow.

Live every moment – I've heard it so much from elderly people. You ask them how they're doing. "I'm just happy to wake up this morning." You kind of roll your eyes. Wow, what kind of an existence is that? "I'm awake!" (laughs) And you know what? They're the ones living life. They're out there smelling the roses. They're planting them! (laughs) My parents are big gardeners. That's their therapy.

[My son] hated seeing me go through chemo and [be] sick that way. This last part of it hit him hard. But the time we do have together is very meaningful. And he's grown up a ton. I don't know what I would've done in his situation. I think it's more devastating to the people around you than it is you. When it's happening to you, when you finally come to grips with it, it's like, "OK, I know what's going on and I think some good things are gonna happen beyond here. So enjoy this."

Have I thought about dying and what it'll be like? (laughs) I have. I think beyond here is going to be a wonderful place. I believe in guardian angels. I'd like to believe I'm going to be one, hopefully to my son and friends and family. Who knows how that works? But I do know it's a good thing. But knowing as well as I do it's a good thing, I'm still of this earth now. And I just want to be with people I care about as long as I can. I want to be around people I love and care about, and let them know that I'm OK, and that I'm going to be OK.

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