I profoundly hate that six letter word. It conjures fear, loss and uncertainty. There’s not one nice thing I can say about it.
It devours monetary resources. It mocks future dreams and plans. It steals understanding of what the hell is happening to my body?!
As of this writing, I am two-years and a few months post treatment. Two years – whoohoo!
I am thisclose to 3-years post diagnosis. Big milestone, y’all!
I’m also here to offer hope.
If you let it, cancer will take every nice thing you have and destroy it.
If you are just starting your journey or just ending it, I want you to believe there is hope.
What I thought pre-treatment:
I’m strong. I’m healthy (except for this danged cancer growing in me). I WILL get through this intact.
I researched treatment, what to expect and prayed like hell that I’d make it out the other side intact.
Oh, how I prayed.
What I thought during treatment:
I’m still strong, but my will to remain so is ebbing. Treatment is a beatdown.
I’m not healthy – probably the most unhealthy I have ever been in my life. I mean, just look at me.
Will I get through this? Will I survive?
What I thought before I sat down to write this piece:
Holy smokes, this has been a covered wagon train, traversing a treacherous mountain pass, while being stalked by angry natives, kinda journey.
I felt terror at the thought of losing a body part (my breast) and/or full functionality of my physicality.
I felt the heartsick pain of possibly leaving my family behind.
I laid awake at night, wondering if I would get to see my husband into old age, my son and DIL into grandparenthood, or Sweet E into college.
I sweated treatment and wondered if I was doing the right thing at each step, because so much is still unknown and I hoped like hell I could endure the fresh hell I found myself in with each new day.
Then, one day, I found myself on the other side of treatment.
I found myself getting stronger.
I found myself innately happy to have survived.
I found myself sad for those who don’t make it or who have suffered more than I.
i found myself making plans again.
I found a new dream to peruse.
I found that no one really tells the truth about cancer in the way I wanted and needed to.
I found myself writing more and more about my experience and connecting with those who thought they wer alone.
My dear sweet readers: YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
Cancer is a destructive, life-altering, burn the joint down, shit storm (no nice way to say it).
In the midst of treatment, cancer IS the reason we can’t have nice things, as the younger folks are fond of stating.
When you’re fighting for your life, things get messy and broken.
Today, the repercussions are still with me.
I was having a conversation with a friend and they asked about my treatment. At one point I told her that the biggest surprise was how chemo had outwardly aged me. I told her that when I’d catch a glimpse of myself, I was always surprised, because I felt I’d aged outwardly by at least 5-years.
Her response: At least.
I know it sounds terrible, but I laughed and laughed. I still do when I think of that moment.
It’s the inescapable truth and there is no reason to deny it.
The upside? (Thank you, Jesus, there’s an upside!)
End of story. The End.
[Tweet “Cancer is a destructive, life-altering, burn the joint down, shit storm. (no nice way to say it) #cancersucks”]
I will offer this hope: if you are diagnosed with cancer and survive – you have won the stinkin’ lottery. Most folks died from cancer in the not-so-long-ago past.
In today’s world, there is hope for survival. Not only survival, but a deep and wide life, post-treatment.
While I understand a survivor’s anguish and grieving what is lost, because you will have to say goodbye to some of what your body used to be, or could do, what I don’t understand is staying in that hard place. That place where cancer ruins every good thing you have.
Sometimes it’s easy to stay there, because throughout treatment you get used to feeling bad and torn apart and used up. It’s what becomes comfortable and easy.
Sometimes, like taming a destructive toddler, you have to be calm and strong-willed (more so than them!) and focused on what can be instead of what is.
Each day, you must decide that you can return to joy and hope and a fulfilled life. You can leave cancer behind.
Move on with bravery – small steps turn into bigger steps.
Accept your new reality; make no excuses.
Learn to overcome where you can.
Expand your understanding of this lightning flash of a life and go after your dreams – NOW.
Don’t let cancer spoil your nice things.
Move through treatment with the wisdom that you are expanding, not contracting, even, especially, when it doesn’t feel that way.
Kick cancer in the teeth.
Allow yourself the grace to live in the moments that test your resolve, yet keep a a sharp and joyous eye on the future.
For anyone reading these words, there is hope.
Cling to the hope that you will crush cancer and its mayhem from your life.
I can’t wait to hear your stories of fighting your way through the chaos. The cancer community here at OMT! welcomes you and loves you.
Please share this post with anyone who is in need of encouragement.
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Friday 9th of March 2018
I am 5 years from the surgery part of breast cancer and I am calling it 5 years cancer free. The months of chemo and radiation end date have not been reached (that will be Sept this year) but I asked my Oncologist and he said to count from the surgery date so that is what I have done. Still on anti-estrogen daily dose till at least November. More of myself did return, took about 2 years post operation and it is a different type of me than I was before - I cherish each day but don't make a big deal about it. I was so glad to get to the feeling mostly like I sort of remembered how things were before but I try to keep on keeping on without too much worry about the 'what if's'. Thanks for writing today Patti. Needed to read your common sense approach to cancer and what it and treatment does that changes the me/you etc part of our lives.
Saturday 10th of March 2018
FIVE YEARS!!! What a great feeling! I wish you a long lifetime more.
Thank you for the kind words, Joy. We move forward, in every day, in many new ways, but we do move forward. Life, not just cancer, changes us on the daily. Cancer accelerates that change. It's the swift nature of the change and uncertainty that can be scary.
For all of us on this post-cancer journey - I say, keep grabbing what you can, when you can.