It is almost beyond belief that it has been six years today since I was diagnosed with cancer. One day I was fine, the next day I had cancer. How could this happen?
The horrible words which I heard that day are never far from my thoughts, because, as anyone who has had cancer can attest, the fears remain all one's life. In fact, cancer is never really "cured" since those evil little cells can lurk in the body for years before returning.
(As an example, my mother's breast cancer surgery was followed by NO treatment. It was 12 years later that cancer re-appeared in her lungs!)
Statistics say that the chance of recurrence is greatest in the first 5 years after treatment ends. My recurrence happened 1.5 years after I finished my first set of treatments. Once one has had a recurrence, nothing is ever certain again. All the stats are skewed. So I try to avoid them....as my friend Rita, a brilliant doctor, said at the beginning...."you are a statistic of one".
I did not fight, there was no battle, I was not brave or "positive", I took no journey. (I really dislike all that jargon --- and do not believe that positivity has anything to do with outcome. It just makes those around you feel better!). I did what I had to do to get through to the other side....not always graciously, I know. I whined and complained, and I cried a lot.
So here I am, living a much-diminished life due to the after-effects of chemo and radiation....but I am alive! I wish I were not so slow, that my balance was not worrisome, that I could DO more, that damage from chemo and radiation did not continue to affect me daily from head to foot. I wish, most of all, that I did not worry all the time.
I cannot imagine what would have happened had I not taken a calculated risk and quit both kinds of treatment midway through in the winter of 2012. I am grateful for the advice of a smart pharmacist at the hospital (the kind of pharmacist that deals with oncology) and some great nurses on the cancer floor.
Treatment success is often measured in terms of eradication or control of tumors, rather than the overall well-being of the patient. But chronic toxicities and arise months and even years after treatment. No wonder cancer information is so scattered and unreliable.
I never thought I would live long enough to have a conversation with Charlie, but I did! He and Clara will sometimes ask me why I am so slow, but they are pretty patient. They look at me and see someone who looks okay (looks are deceiving) and loves them more than anything in the world. That is what I really want them to know.
Mostly, I am thankful for Bob, Laura, Ken, Brendan, and Debbie who have all helped me through the absolute worst of times these last six years.