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This Is My Life as a Cancer Survivor

The fear nestles itself comfortably in your brain. A subtle symptom is enough to send a wave of dread through you.

The bills never stop. The follow-ups go on. The additional tests are “because of your history with cancer.”

The reminders are always there. You show up for a yearly CT scan, and for the 100th time they ask if you might be pregnant. You tell them again: probably not, I don’t have a uterus.

The PTSD is unexpected. Driving past the cancer center or seeing a familiar piece of clothing is like Pavlov’s bell, only this bell triggers a wave of nausea. You are forced to take different routes to the doctor.

The loss is unimaginable. You realize you haven’t seen a fellow patient in a while, and someone finally tells you why. You meet scores of other cancer patients, and many of them don’t make it. You witness loss after loss to families you’ve come to know.

There is guilt. You wonder why you survived and others didn’t. People whisper: she had cancer. Because they aren’t sure what to say.

The effects are forever.  The toxic chemicals fried your brain, you struggle to recall simple things. You aren’t the same person.

This is my life as a cancer survivor.

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Some people might say that cancer took away 6,600 hours of my life, closer to 8,352 hours if you count the 1,752 hours the cancer was growing before anyone realized something had been missed.

 

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But those 8,352 hours slowly woke something inside of me, something that can never be put back to sleep.

For the first time, I was forced to be still. I’d been cut wide open and stapled back together. I was hooked to 8-hour IV treatments. Cancer was a place of inertia where I could no longer put up a fight.

For the first time, I didn’t care what I looked like. I lost my hair. I was bruised and battered, sallow and gaunt. Some days I gained 4 lbs of toxic fluid and swelled to non recognition.

For the first time, I had humility. I was dependent on other people. My husband had to brush my hair and help me off the toilet.

For the first time, I was vulnerable. I took risks and shared my story. It was liberating.

For the first time, I stopped questioning. I was quiet and still and the world continued its frantic pace around me. I became spiritual. I said yes to God.

For the first time, I learned what love really was. I used to avoid people out of fear for the right words, but I learned that love is connection and reaching out. I learned that life isn’t about me, it is about building bridges to other people.

For the first time, even with cancer:

I felt like my life was in forward motion.

 

Today is World Cancer Day. Help spread awareness. Say yes to someone today:

I didn’t always feel like saying yes. I could have felt sorry for myself. I could have sulked.  I had the right to. I had cancer. I felt miserable. I said no to cancer, but I said yes to the rest. The cancer patients and their families and friends that I met along the way are precious to me. They are part of my story, and I am a part of theirs. And they woke something inside of me. Say yes to someone.

-from Because I Could Have Said No, The Cancer Chronicles.

 

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