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Living Alongside My Cancer

A personal journey with cancer and the years that follow; cancer is not just physical, it’s emotional and incredibly difficult to escape.

Have you ever heard the words “you have cancer” and wondered why they never seem to depart your soul?  Perhaps you know someone who has been diagnosed, going through treatment or living in survival mode.  It’s a special club with a growing number of members and often a confusing honor.

I was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.  The diagnosis came out of nowhere.  I was the first in my family and one of the healthiest in the bunch.  I was surprised, angry and unaccepting of this privileged membership.  I didn’t want to be associated with the cancer club, but I had no choice.  Like most, I Goggled the status I had been issued, “melanoma” and thus my journey began.  I was surprised to learn I had the deadliest of skin cancers.  You mean people die from skin cancer?  I was shocked!  What do you mean there is no cure?  I am only 34 and a mother of two young children, wife to an adoring husband – this can’t be for me.  I thought cancer was for smokers, drinkers and those who abused their health. 

But the journey ensued and, with our without my acceptance, I was stuck with the status of having cancer.  I was a good patient although perhaps too trusting and not as informed as could have been.  I was too busy to accept what I had, let alone to try and figure out how to trump my medical team with my preferred treatment approach.  I had two surgeries, a wide excision, a sentinel node biopsy and a good deal of fear and tears. 

At one point, I was required to meet with a coping counselor to learn how to breathe.   This had to be one of the most insane exercises of the entire ordeal. We sat in a dark room and she requested that I breathe in and the out…in and then out…ever so slowly and deep.  Are you kidding me?  Not only had this individual not had my personal experience with cancer and probable mortality, but how could she not know that holding my breath for the last month was the best I could do.

There were many firsts in the whole ordeal; first time under the knife, anesthesia, stitches, nuclear medicine, advanced health directives, telling my kids and family I could die.  There are too many memories and not many are pleasant.  So today, while there is no evidence of disease in my body, I will never be cured.  The odds are against it.  My choice is to now live alongside my cancer.  I do not let my cancer own my day, months, years or soul.  If it chooses it can watch me thrive and work hard to advocate against it; to warn people of the risks and provide comfort for those living in its shadow. 

It is an honor to have a life changed by an incurable disease and to understand the fear and suffering that comes along with it at the core of a human being.  Only those who have been there can truly be connected to a fellow member of the cancer club.  The Internet is connecting those newly diagnosed, brave warriors in the midst of battle and those survivors out running the beast. 

My cancer led me to want to help others.  www.TreatmentDiaries.com is a unique social network centered on the health and wellness of those battling illness.  Treatment Diaries is a personal inspiration as a result of my succeeding journey with cancer and a priority that has given me purpose in my disease.  I challenge you to not let your cancer live inside you.  Commit yourself to make it stand alongside you and have it answer to you.  Tell cancer you have purpose and the power to beat it.  Be the boss!

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