On April 10, 2014 I received news that changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three years later to the day, I found myself at the Seattle Cancer Center yesterday. I was due for my six month mammogram, blood test and a visit with my oncologist. I was extremely fearful since my breast has been swollen and I have been in so much pain. In addition, I had made up my mind I no longer wanted to continue taking the preventative medications despite being advised on numerous occasions doing so would be fatal. Doctors words not mine.
For those of you who have never fought cancer I’d like to say “you’re not missing out!” Fighting cancer is hard and can be very debilitating. Worse are the drugs! The side effects are brutal! It’s hard to describe the pain. I should know. I have a long list of medical issues.
While waiting to see my oncologist I was mustering up the courage to tell my oncologist I would no longer agree to continue taking any more meds. I wanted to give up. What can I say? I’m exhausted!! My regular oncologist retired this past January. I had been referred to a new oncologist that would be taking over my treatment. Score for me or so I thought. I really believed I would be able to stand up to her!!
In walked a lovely young woman. She was not only warm and pleasant but she was very empathetic. Especially as I explained with tears in my eyes I no longer wanted to continue treatment. She explained the aches and pains I have been experiencing especially on my breast were radiation neuropathy. She also explained why it was important to continue with my treatment. Sometimes other people might have the same words you’ve heard many times before but their presentation has a way with resonating in a much more positive way. My doctor explained the type of cancer I have is “incurable” yet “treatable” which is why I have endured such an aggressive treatment regime. The goal was to kill the cancer with chemotherapy, radiation and infusions and to keep the cancer at bay by “treating” the cancer with extended medications. Don’t ask me how but this woman was not only able to convince me to continue taking my medication but she was able to convince me to add another one!!!
My only explanation is when my doctor chose to use the words “incurable” and “treatable” opposed to “fatal” she somehow made me feel like Jim Carey did in the movie Dumb and Dumber. “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?! Lol
My oncologist and I came to a compromise. I agreed to continue my treatment and she agreed to give me a vacation from my medications four weeks per year! Score! Of course she explained that those four weeks would have to be split up in to one week increments!! Who cares!!! Awesome! Now I know some of you reading this might be wondering “does she understand the term incurable?” Yes I do however doesn’t the word “incurable” sound so much more inviting than “fatal?!” I think so!!
Last summer my horrible ex-husband, I’ll refer to him as Barabbas. (You know that horrible, mean prisoner we have all read about in the Bible?) accused me of faking cancer. Even saying cancer was not bad at all. Barabbas has verbally attacked me. He has brought so much strife in to my life especially during this trying time as I have conveniently been “faking” cancer. That’s what people with cancer do. We wake up one morning and say to ourselves “gee I think I’ll fake cancer today and to really pull off this charade I’ll endure chemotherapy, radiation and everything else that goes along with cancer including being told “Your cancer is incurable”. That crazy nut is lucky I haven’t stood up in church and screamed “crucify him!” Lol.
As I drove home I thought of all the horrible things Barabbas has said to me. In the back of my mind I secretly wished he was right and this cancer stuff was all made up or at best a horrible dream. However, this is my reality and the reality of many others who find themselves diagnosed with cancer. Like many of you, I wish cancer had never happened to me and I wish my ex-husband was right and I was merely faking this. I would’ve given up this charade after the first chemotherapy treatment!! Although, I have to keep in mind that unless you’ve gone through this, it’s hard to wrap your head around the challenges cancer can bring to a persons life.
I’ve decided to continue treatment and I have also opted to incorporate a regime of holistic healing in conjunction with my treatment. For the first time yesterday I saw this fight in an entirely new way. Rather than viewing it as fatal I’m viewing it as treatable. My only mission is to continue treating this disease and keeping it at bay. How hard is that?!! Cancer is a part of me but it doesn’t own me. It just takes up space in my life. This fight between myself and cancer has run its course. I accept this disease as my friend who I would prefer to keep at a distance.
In the words of Todd Rudgren……”We can’t play this game any more but can we still be friends?”
I’d rather be friends than be two opponents in battle. Where I am now is a much better place than I’ve been.