It was Friday morning before the Memorial Day weekend six years ago. I received a phone call that changed my life completely. I hung up the phone. Tears streaming down my face, my body shaking uncontrollably. In a barely audible voice I called Pete. “I have cancer.” Within a few hours, we were meeting a team of people who would come to play a significant role in my life.
I now had a gynecological oncology team. They drew up plans against the invasion of my body snatcher. Lying in recovery after my radical hysterectomy, Dr. Pisani tells me that one of the 15 lymph nodes they removed was cancerous.
Thus began my six year ‘cancership’. I have been in treatment or surgery more than not. I have experienced N.E.D., reoccurrences, metastasis and remissions. The good and bad, the ups and downs, the battles and the serenity. I embrace and celebrate each good: my N.E.D. status, my first remission and now my second remission. But instead of a cancerversary I have a cancership. And it is complicated.
You get a new vocabulary with cancer. Aside from medical terminology (squamous cell carcinoma, human papillomavirus, cervix, pelvic exenteration) you have words that you use to describe yourself: patient, survivor, thriver, fighter, avenger. You embrace the ones you are comfortable wearing and recoil at the ones you dislike. Friends, family and even strangers may place labels upon you as a way of trying to relate to something they have not experienced first-hand.
I choose my labels to comfort and honor me. They are mine. They fit who I’ve always been and who I am now.
My cancer is also an advocacy tool. I take every opportunity to share my cervical cancer story. I want to talk about my cancer and I want to show the world what cervical cancer looks like. No one dons their car dealerships, towns or football teams in teal & white for my cancer. In fact, it’s really up to Cervivors to be the poster women for change.
Let me be clear, I am not in love with my cancer nor do I remotely like my cancer. We occupy one body but we are radically different. I have no respect for this invasion and I will not let it dictate my life.
This post serves as my acknowledgement that six years ago this weekend, I had a shitty day.