Like many I turned to the internet for information on cancer symptoms and cancer diagnosis. Most will reassure themselves they have nothing to worry about. A small number, like me, will hear the dreaded words “You have cancer.”
Cancer Treatment Begins as a Sprint
I understand what it’s like for patients and families to go from the all out sprint of diagnosis and looking at treatment options. Like many I had surgery, dealt with treatment side effects, and fought for my life. Then it settled in. I have cancer.
Five Insights I’ve Gained from My Cancer Experience
1) Sometime just after my diagnosis it hit me, “I have cancer, I may die.” As I waited for surgery I realized my death is solely my own. My loved ones will be there to support and love me. Only I will die. The responsibility of how I felt or what I did was mine.
2) I very quickly learned to give up a little power. I went from being very busy and driven to not being in control over what was done to my body. I believed that if I ate right, exercised right, did yoga, I would never get cancer. Cancer taught me to do the best I could every day and consider it a miracle.
3) Many of you like me will badger your doctor for an exact prognosis for your cancer. I wanted a number and a date. A wise doctor told me, “Your risk for cancer returning is either 0% or 100%. At the time I thought that was cruel. The reality of cancer prognosis is; my personal probability is that I will live or die, and doctors aren’t Gods.
4) I learned to make my way through the tricky cancer treatment “how are you?” questions with humor and tolerance. I had my 3 staples: “I’m fine, how are you?”, “I’m exhausted, I have sores in my mouth, I feel nauseas and have constant diarrhea.” and “Glad to be here! How about you?” I would mix and match depending on the person. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Most people mean well. Cancer scares them too!
5) The most important thing I learned was to never give up. We all reach a time we are so sick of being sick. We are afraid of what disfigurement or disability may follow. We worry about draining our families financially and emotionally. We wonder if we should go on. I looked out over the ocean one day and thought I can just swim, far and fast. Eventually I will just get tired and drown. Then I turned around and looked at my two year old grandson smiling up at me. I knew that I could never give up because of him. Everyone has that, the picture you keep in front of your minds eye when times get really tough, whether it is child, spouse, pet, garden, your special cause, it will save you when you can’t save yourself.