The Internet can be a scary place… Miley Cyrus discussions, beauty pageant contestants and cancer statistics.
Cancer has been on this planet a long time. Early cancer descriptions were found on Egyptian papyrus and Hippocrates, “father of medicine”, has been credited with recognizing the difference between benign and malignant tumors. And one family of dinosaurs, the Hadrosaurus (a duck-billed herbivore cousin of T-Rex), had cancer.
But what does the Internet have to say about *my* cancer – cervical cancer:
- The National Cancer Institute shows that in 2013, there were 12,340 new cases of cervical cancer and 4,030 deaths.
- Cervical cancer tends to occur in midlife.
- The American Cancer Society says that cervical cancer was once one of the most common causes of cancer deaths for American women but because of advancements in the Pap test, there was a 70% decline in deaths between 1955 and 1992. (What about the years after 1992??)
I am a huge advocate for gaining knowledge and the Internet can be a great tool. However, for a newly diagnosed cancer patient, it brought me fear and anxiety.
None of the information on the Internet has made my cancer disappear and none of it has made it stay. After living with cancer for two years, I focus my Internet searches to cancer blogs, You Tube videos on applying eyebrows and general cancer support in my area. And yes, cute animal videos and heart-warming stories of human kindness.
Waiting to continue treatment (or not). Waiting for scan and doctor visits. I have spent the past few days in a ‘waiting pool’ of despair. Okay, despair is way too dramatic – I had some blue moments.
I have not always been at ease with waiting. At my worst, I was an impatient single mom rushing my kids here and there, forgetting that time means nothing to little ones. Patience was not my virtue and the unknown just frustrated me.
Then yesterday I was reminded that life is the living we do in between (cancer patient or not). The dash between our birth and death is where we live, and what we do in that time either feeds our soul or sucks us dry.
How I face each day has changed. I no longer rush myself or anyone else about; I no longer carry the weight of things I cannot change and I no longer speak harshly. I do appreciate my gifts (visits from my son/daughter, a sunset, my husband’s smile); I listen closer and I love with reckless abandon. I also wade in the shallow end of uncertainty from time to time, because we all do and that’s okay.
Most days I will focus on the chapters of my story and not the ending. Enjoying the humor, adventure, love and heroic feats of happiness.
Yesterday I closed out my fourteenth (cumulative over two years) chemo treatment.
After my third treatment in 2011, I declared that my last treatment was indeed my last. Then I found myself doing five more treatments and adding 28 rounds of radiation too.
I decided that this time I should choose a different word to mark the occasion. Closure. Closing a chapter. Closing time. Then my infusion nurse Shelley starts singing, “closing time, you don’t have to go home but ya can’t stay here.” Song lyrics have always spoken the words in my heart and those couldn’t have felt truer.
I do need to celebrate milestones. If I’ve learned something from cancer, it’s that every good day is meant to be cherished and celebrated. And the ‘bad days’ get held with love and compassion.
So I put away my chemo bag for now and since my insomnia kicks in heavily the night of treatment, I joined a couple girlfriends for dinner and a concert. We ate a delicious meal and danced a little salsa to the Gypsy Kings at a beautiful venue overlooking the valley below. I am happiest dancing to beautiful music with beautiful friends.
“… I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” ~Agatha Christie
I participated in my first Relay for Life with some of my favorite people by my side. As a team, we raised over $10k and our Santa Cruz event exceed $140k. We had very generous donors; some who sadly know too well how cancer can take a loved one.
If you are unfamiliar with Relay for Life, it is the American Cancer Society’s fundraising movement. Relays take place across the U.S. (and in other countries) as local, community events. People come together with a common goal of seeing an end to cancer. And we walk for 24-hours because cancer never stops.
For me, the event held so much hope and love. I met breast cancer survivors, colon cancer survivors, ovarian survivors – all with their own stories of compassion, pain and hope. It was the first time I stood with my cancer not in fear but in strength; as if my cancer were something I could physically manifest, wrap in a tight ball and drop kick to the moon.
I have always been grateful to have a supportive, loving village who rally together when the need arises. Since my diagnoses two years ago, these truly loving souls have showered me with love and kindness. It’s hard to be angry when you’re surrounded by so much goodness. Even though cancer is a bitch, I refuse to be one.
Relay for Life – Carol’s Cancer Avengers