C is for …Cancer but not the zodiac sign. I must be honest and say that this is not what I wanted to be writing about today. I actively sat and tried to come up with a lot of other C’s that I could use although this was the very first one that came to mind. I didn’t want to write about it because I knew it would be hard for me. I didn’t want to write about it because the moment the thoughts flowed I could feel my emotions well up. But I committed myself to using each of these letters to share how people, experiences and things have made me who I am today. I committed myself to taking on the challenge even when its hard. I would be lying and missing a big part of my journey through life if I left this one out.
Cancer : 1. a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body. 2. a malignant growth or tumor resulting from the division of abnormal cells.plural noun: cancers”most skin cancers are curable”synonyms:malignant growth, cancerous growth, malignant tumor, tumor, malignancy; More 3. a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate.”gambling is a cancer sweeping across the nation”synonyms:evil, blight, scourge, poison, canker, sickness, disease, pestilence, plague; More
I’ve had the honor of walking with five people during their battle with cancer. I say honor because as much of a weight it was on me, I still felt privileged to be chosen to help during the hardest parts of these peoples lives. I have no clue why I’ve been chosen so many times during my short time here on earth. I don’t know if its because i’m easy to talk to, they know that I can keep a secret until the wheels fall off or they knew I was strong enough – either way I was honored. Two decided to decline treatment and three decided to accept treatment. Two had breast cancer, two with lung cancer and one with myeloma (cancer of the blood). Three have since passed away and two are still here with us. I have had my own personal cancer scare and under went surgery a few years back. I’ve seen some of the people in my life go from being bright and bubbly, standing tall to bald, pessimistic and using a walker. I’ve spent many days at chemo, even more nights at the hospital, I’ve spent hours on calls even when exhausted to calm nerves, I’ve cleaned up vomit and have been cursed out when emotions were high. I’ve cooked meals for the week at my house and brought them over so they’d be nourished. I’ve wiped tears after one to many stabs when veins wouldn’t work, I’ve sang songs and danced to cheer up low spirits and I’ve watched as some slipped away. When I think about these things i’m surprised by how I managed to keep it together in the face of those struggling considering how much of a terribly emotional person I am. I think its because I knew it wasn’t about me and it was better for them if I kept those feelings bottled up when we were together.
But when home I would cry at night until I became at peace with there choices. I could remember in the beginning where i’d cry almost every morning before I had to get ready to go to chemo, quickly getting myself together in the shower before I had to show my face. I was crying because of the faces I had to see week after week both really young and very old. I cried because I saw how cancer was stealing the joy away from the young people there. I cried because I hated the ritual of having to wear a face mask and sanitizing my hands with each visit. I cried because I didn’t understand some of there choices and I wanted so badly to beg and plead with two of them to give treatment a chance. I cried because I could see the futures I imagined with them drifting away. Eventually I didn’t cry at all because sadly I got used to it. The announcement of a cancer diagnosis didn’t hit me with emotion in the way it did in years past. I guess that’s both a good and bad thing. Bad because it means that its become so normal that I’ve started to build up an immunity to it. Good because with each person I worked through it with…it made me stronger and taught me how to cope.
Harder then the chemo waiting rooms, counting pills and being bathroom company when everything came back up was making the choice to not be selfish. The two who decided not to seek treatment were hard for me. The first much harder then the second because by the second I understood a lot more then I did the first time around. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the choice to risk ending their lives early over choosing to fight. I could not understand how someone could live with such a burden. I had to learn that it wasn’t my life to make a decision about and that my want for them to chose otherwise was because I was being selfish. I didn’t take into consideration what kind of life they might be left with when it was all said and done. I had to learn that just because they chose not to seek treatment that it didn’t mean that they weren’t fighting. And when I really sat down and gave it more thought, if I was the one with the choice….i’d likely choose the same.
Way before helping family and friends on there journey I had a cancer scare of my own. One day I woke up and started to get ready for my day. The first stop after the toilet was the shower for my normal singing and washing every nook and cranny. This was during the time where they were making more awareness to breast cancer and were handing out self check signs that you could be put in the shower. I randomly decided to lift my arm above my head and follow the instructions on the graphic..to my surprise there was lump as hard as a baseball ball that took up almost half my breast. I was shocked! I put my arm down and felt for it…there it was in its prominence, I didn’t even have to lift my arms to feel it. I couldn’t believe that I never noticed it. I decided to make the next available appointment and have it checked out..alone. I was young and I figured if it was what I was thinking I didn’t want to have anyone else caring my burden. I lived with my secret over the course of months during many appointments, x-rays and biopsies. I kept it a secret until two days before I was scheduled for surgery. I hadn’t told my parents, fiance or even my closest friends. Two days before I was set to have the surgery I had called my step mother while I was on my way to my pre op appointment and asked her to meet me. I didn’t tell her what kind of appointment I was having or what I was doing..I just asked if she could come. I knew that she’d know once she arrived because it clearly said “Maple Grove Cancer Center” (name changed for privacy) right on the front of the building. But I also knew she wasn’t the frantic type and I needed that. She waited in the waiting room for me while I went into the appointment. When I came out I gave her the short abridged version of what was happening. The next day (the day before surgery) I decided to tell my parents only because I figured if for some reason I go under the knife and don’t come back I wouldn’t want them to find out anything that way…they responded as I thought…all crazy 🙂 Long story short – the surgery was a success and the lump was removed. I have to get a yearly breast exam done to make sure it does not appear again. I have a scar that i’m not a fan of but i’m grateful to be here.
A few years I had a family member pass away from cancer who made the choice not to tell any family. She hid it and she hid it well…until she ended up in the hospital two days before her passing. She couldn’t talk and she left us all wondering why. At first I was angry and I couldn’t believe she left us without answers. But then I remembered when faced with the potential of having it myself I had also chosen to not say anything. And had it not been for the requirement of someone to drive me home from surgery if i’m being honest I would’ve likely not told my step mother that day. I just felt like I didn’t want to burden anyone with my pain, I didn’t want to deal with everyone telling me what they think I should do and what choice I should make. I didn’t want the pitiful looks and odd stares. In that moment I understood her choice. It didn’t make the hurt go away but I understood.
Cancer has impacted my life in ways that I will always be grateful for. Its given me strength that I didn’t know I have. It showed me that as invincible as we all may think we are…we are not. It showed me that I had to live life with purpose and not for anyone or anything. It showed me that wealth doesn’t matter, material objects don’t matter, fame doesn’t matter…what matters is love, true family and friends. What matters is experiences and time spent. Cancer does not discriminate – it can choose a child, celebrity, elder or young adult. Your race doesn’t matter if it chooses you and the amount of good deeds you’ve done doesn’t either. I try to live each day like its my last and create memories that make me smile. I’m sure I owe my memory keeping prowess to it. I take pictures of all the little things when i’m at an outing I enjoy, I take notes almost immediately following a good event so I don’t lose the feelings I had in the moment, I scrap book both digital and handmade and I tend to gift experiences versus tangible items. I soak up every moment, word and response.
Today I go to the marches when I can, I walk in support, I wear the ribbons, I light the candles and I donate to research. There love lives through me and i’ll continue to run the race for as long as i’m here – Sadie ❤
C is for……Cancer