2nd and Main St
One of the single biggest issues with us cancer veterans is that of recurrence. I have such a unique perspective that I wanted to share my attitude. What I think, and how I process all this will probably not work for everyone, but when I have shared it with others, I have had people tell me it helped, so I thought I would write it down.
When I was about sixteen, I remember a conversation I had with an adult. I do not remember who the person was other than it was a lady, and I think it was at church. We got on the subject of cancer (not sure why), and I off-handedly used the phrase “When I get cancer…” She was appalled. This lady thought I had the most horrible, pessimistic view of my future. To me, I was being totally realistic, and optimistic. See, in my life, I have been surrounded by friends and family who have had cancer. Very few of them have died from the disease. I realize how fortunate I am to have those experiences. What it has taught me, though, is that cancer is not a death sentence. I do not fear for my life to hear the words “you have cancer.”
Now there were quite a few of those nay-sayers who thought the attitude would be blown out of the water if I actually got cancer, and that I would be just as devastated and scared as everyone else.
Well, here I am, now a two time cancer survivor, and I am here to tell you that, no I was not devastated, and did not fear for my life.
As a quick aside, for those of you who read my posts occasionally, the “two time survivor” may throw you. When I had my hysterectomy this last September, they found pre-cancer cells in one of my fallopian tubes. It was a type of genetic ovarian cancer that no one in my family has ever heard of, but because we got it so early, and had it removed before I even knew it was there, and no other treatments were necessary.
When I got the news that I had breast cancer, everyone thought I was just in shock because I was NOT freaking out. I wasn’t freaking out, because I had expected this, and had been waiting. My attitude all my life was the best for me. I knew it was coming, I watched, I waited, I tested, I even had a basic game plan in mind (no lumpectomy for me, I was going to get this ONCE, and then the breasts would be GONE). I was OK all the way though.
That is not to say I didn’t have my ups and downs, but all total, I have really not been too bad by comparison to so many of my peers who had this come as a total shock.
This brings me to the recurrence issue. I have the same attitude. I expect it. I watch, and I wait. I had actually been delaying getting the complete hysterectomy because I was not emotionally ready to go through menopause. I was terrified of the mood swings and how bad they might be (they have not been very bad at all—easier than PMS). Then, this last summer, of 2011, I had this nudging. I listen to those nudgings because I know that God whispers and he yells. I’ve been yelled at. It’s not pretty. I wanted to hear Him in the whisper.
So, I heeded this nudging which was to get the hysterectomy done, and soon. So I did. About a week after my surgery I get the call that informs me that they found the ovarian cancer as well, and that it was a different type of cancer than the BRCA2 of which I am all too familiar. I was reminded that the fight is still not over. Again, this startled me for about a day, and then all was good. So good in fact I began to question myself as to whether I was in some kind of denial about it all. So I asked some trusted friends who are in this field and we all agreed that I was not in denial, but because I was already mentally prepared for a recurrence, I was fine.
I love to use the word picture of what would you do if you KNEW you were going to have a car accident at 2nd and Main St. You didn’t know the date, time, or severity, but you knew it would happen. How would that change your behavior patterns? Would you go out and buy a safer car? Make sure your seatbelts were always secure? Would you avoid the intersection like the plague? The point is, if you were able to accept that someday, you would have this accident at 2nd and Main St. you would behave differently. I doubt you would go speeding through any yellow lights there. I doubt you would chance turning in time to beat that truck when the roads were wet. You choose to be prepared. You get in the mind set to be ready, and to be set that you would be OK because you were prepared.
That is why I do not fear another recurrence. I expect it. I have not gone through chemo or radiation, but I expect to at some point. That is what I am prepared to do. I also expect to be OK. I am realistic, not everyone does make it. I would be a fool if I discounted that. But that doesn’t change the fact that I accept that this fight will continue.
So, that is me. That is my perspective. I hope it gives some comforting insight to others. Have a blessed day. Oh, and remember, it’s OK to eat dessert first!
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