I went looking for something today and came across this photo of myself. I took it driving back to work from lunch, relaxed on a Wednesday afternoon in October. I took it immediately before I went to my gastrointestinal doctor and learned that I had cancer.
Life changed rather swiftly that day. I was expecting the doctor to say, “Yep, it’s just a little growth, but it’s fine.” He didn’t, and I remember crying in the car outside of his office because I wasn’t sure what the word “cancer” meant. I went home and saw my husband’s face, and it was as if someone punched him.
In the weeks that followed, I explored my own personal reasons for living. I told the whole world frankly about my condition (because it helped me process the emotions), and began to think of myself as someone with cancer. That was a big step! It’s hard to get past the word, no matter what kind of cancer. I’ve since met people who say that they go through denial about their condition; I don’t think I ever did, but I went through other kinds of grief, and found strength through meditation and knowledge.
To find out more about what my own cancer meant, I went through four pretty invasive tests that told me a lot about my body, read up on my father’s in-depth research on Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and began to think about options for a cure. My veins began to look like pincushions!
Along the way I did as much as I could using alternative medicine to try to feel like I was actively working on the issue. This was extremely important to me — meditation, yoga, cutting meat out of my diet, nutrition, everything that I could possibly do to enhance the health of my body meant that I was “fighting” cancer.
Then came the day that I found out to my great relief that my cancer was small, found early, and localized… and we picked my poison, the chemotherapy that I’m going through now. I have one more week of it… And then the long wait (a month or two) before we glance down my throat and see how the Rituxan worked. I know I’ll go nuts in that month, my imagination is strong. But I’m hoping that the words spoken to my aunt by a Thai healer are true, that after this treatment, the cancer will go away.
If it didn’t work, there are other options, stronger chemotherapies. But for now I’ll consider each step a success, including the completion of this first treatment.
I know that I’m going to have to check myself out thoroughly once a year for the rest of my life. I know this means an endoscopy once a year. I know it means more CAT scans and PET scans and fasting… but it also means keeping my life as healthy as I can, and living FOR something. Could I get more cancer? Who knows, maybe. But the important part is crossing things off my bucket list, and being a good mom for as long as I get to be in this body on this earth.
You can probably sense my joy today because I’m almost done with the Rituxan treatment – one more to go! Even though I know my body’s going to feel like crap until three or four weeks from now, I’ve learned a lot over the past few weeks about how to handle the discomfort (yoga and smoothies), and because of this, I feel a lot more in control of my condition.
I think it’s also helped me learn to reach out to people, especially family and my family of friends, and know I can always lean on someone when I need a good chat or a hug. It has taught me that humans are all intrinsically and deeply kind, and give much love to their fellow humans who suffer. This is the God in all of us!
Yeah, it was two months of intense learning that I didn’t see coming at all. But in general, I have to say I’m glad for the hard, solid truths it taught me. Life’s pretty awesome, and the best way to live it is with joy.