As you’ve probably assumed from the title of my blog, I am a cancer patient. I first found the lumps when I was 33. I was diagnosed exactly a month after my 34th birthday.
It sounds so simple when I say it like this. But this experience has been anything but simple.
I know there people out there who have faced cancer and who have claimed that they were grateful for the disease. I’ve even heard it referred to as “a blessing” by a select few.
I will tell you right now that I will never be one of those people. Ever. From my first real encounter with the disease (as a child watching her grandmother suffer and waste away from brain cancer), I knew that I hated cancer and that I could never see it as a blessing.
That being said, I cannot say that facing my own cancer and dealing with the aftermath of my diagnosis has been all bad. Yes, the disease itself and the treatments, side effects, surgeries, fear, complications, etc. have been pretty awful. I could downplay how rotten these things have been, and I certainly have done this plenty in my “real life” to make it seem like I’m fine and like it hasn’t been as bad as it has at times. But I won’t do that here. I don’t think trivializing these elements of my experience will do anyone any good, so I will do my best to be honest with you.
What I mean by “not all bad” is that I know there are amazing people I have met or gotten to know better and experiences I have had that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t heard those horrible words two years ago. And that my children are better AND worse off because of my diagnosis. Better because they have been embraced by people who love them and who will be there for them if I happen to not be here one day. And worse because, well, having a mother with cancer is really crappy for a kid on so many levels. And because they might have to bury me when they are still children — and there’s just no way to put a positive spin on that one.
One day I will tell you about some of the incredible people who’ve touched my life along the way. About the amazing people who have rallied around me (and my boys) when we’ve needed support. About the friendships that have been strengthened by cancer, and the relationships that didn’t survive. About my sons’ best preschool friend and his parents, who went above and beyond for us. About my children’s kindergarten teachers and a classroom full of parents who showed up on my doorstep with dinner for my kids or who took them to Chuck E. Cheese when I was too sick from chemo to do it myself. About a school and a school district that came together to make sure my “little” ones had presents under the Christmas tree and that we never ran out of toilet paper when I was struggling to manage these things on my own. And about nurses who’ve been my caretakers and my friends. And people who made me feel like I’m not alone despite what could easily be an extremely isolating and lonely experience.
I will also tell you about tragic losses. And despair. And fear. And sleepless nights. And hot flashes. And night sweats. And dreams shattered. And about how this disease has changed me. About doctors who have been wonderful. And doctors who have failed me. I will tell you about my treatments. About serious infections. About what it’s like to be a young woman who takes pills that suck the hormones out of her body. About what it is like to lose almost all of the parts that make you female by the age of 35. And what this does to your body and your self-esteem. About where the cancer was. About how I found it. And why it took months for me to have that crucial mammogram.
And one day I will tell you about my life “before” cancer. About the people who helped to shape me. About my family and my oldest, dearest friends. About the things that made me “me” before this disease. About the things that still make me “me.”
And so much more…
This is my story, for better or worse. I plan to make it an honest account of what it is like to be given a life-threatening diagnosis at an age when your own death shouldn’t feel so imminent.
At the time of this first writing, I feel that I have so much left to share with my children and so much more to teach them. So, more than anything, what you are reading is meant to provide a written record of my life for my children and a way for me to help them know and remember me and our story if, one day, I am not here to share in their lives. But a part of me hopes it will be more than that and that maybe it will bring someone who is going through something similar a sense of comfort or a bit of virtual support. Or that maybe it will serve as a cautionary tale and that someone, somewhere might pick up the phone and schedule that appointment they’ve been putting off.
For whatever reason you are here, I am grateful that you are. Thanks so much for reading…