There was a time when people didn’t talk about being sick. They hid in the shadows and stayed at home as they quietly battled whatever infirmary had invaded their body. When the worst happened, the obligatory obituary in the newspaper referred to succumbing to a “long illness,” the unnamed enemy, which left everyone to speculate.
And along with that same school of thought, the secrecy of illness, cancer has long been a dreadfully loaded word, with folks clearing a wide path for you once they hear of your diagnosis as though somehow convinced that the ugly monster that has come to live in your body might be transmittable. They don’t know what to say to you, so they run away, avoiding you like the plague. (no pun intended) Those who remain to stand with you become your life line.
I think that has changed a bit. I certainly hope so. Thanks to multiple organizations, there is more awareness, which leads to a greater understanding and an ongoing dialogue. Quite frankly, even if we wanted to, it would be pretty difficult to keep cancer a secret. On average, two million people in this country are diagnosed a year and half a million die of the disease. Cancer kills more Americans in three years than have died in all of the nation’s wars. (Yup. I actually did the math.) And it is a fair comparison: if you are battling cancer, you too are a solider with a difficult fight.
Unlike other parts of a person’s medical history, a cancer diagnosis doesn’t become a memory. You heal from a broken leg or an appendectomy. You recover from pneumonia or the flu. But even when you are in remission, even when the scans are clear and the bloodwork is good, you wonder. Most doctors are pretty honest about the odds of a recurrence, cautioning you to avoid Google, where the statistics are enough to send you into an emotional tailspin. Yes, you try not to live in fear, to dread what might come, but that feeling in the pit of your stomach, the “what ifs” of possibilities never leaves you.
You see, for the most part, cancer didn’t invade your body or make you sick because of anything you did. Your cells went a little whacko, replicating at an alarming rate. You count on your body to do what it was designed to do to keep you humming along, oblivious to the how and why, until it doesn’t any more. Cancer is a shocking bit of reality: your body can betray you. And if it can do it once, it can do it again. That prospect can shake you to the core.
And yet, somehow, if you are living with cancer, you greet each day with a bit of hope sprinkled with optimism. Quite frankly, every moment seems more like a miracle than borrowed time.
I’ve been open about my journey because I believed that my experience could help somebody else who might one day walk a similar road. At the very least, I figured it might provide a bit of interesting reading to those who have stumbled across this blog. And perhaps, I thought, by writing it all down, I could someday look back and see just how far I had traveled. Or I might be remembered. long after I am gone. I hope that it hasn't made anybody uncomfortable since that was never my intention.
You see, I have learned that life is not lived in a straight line. The road meanders and there are detours along the way. We never know when there will be an obstacle that alters the route. And we have to be prepared to adapt to whatever happens. So, two days ago, the phone call from the nurse set me on a different path from the one I thought I was taking.
The most recent scan detected a tumor. It isn’t a big one, and it appears to be isolated, but it is “active,” and fast growing, an interloping baby cousin of the large alien that once inhabited my body. And it is a most unwelcomed intruder.
So here we go again.
I am to have a biopsy as soon as insurance and the hospital agree to the rules of engagement. From there, my gyno oncologist will determine a plan a treatment. Surgery perhaps? Chemo? Radiation? That is yet to be determined by the composition of the mass. Such things are complicated, I know. This isn't my first rodeo.
I could describe a dramatic meltdown here, the tears of despair shed over my fate, but that would be untrue, an embellishment for effect. Instead, I will tell you that my resolve is stronger and my faith is deeper. I had a full year of R and R, lovely days in the sun, which has made me ready to fight once more. Quite frankly, I sometimes think that this chapter of my life is more interesting than any story I might have penned. It certainly has been a spiritual education, a textbook on life from The Divine. And no doubt, God has authored a spectacular resolution to this. I am certain of it.
“My people” have encircled me with prayer, which explains the peace. Make no mistake: my heart is not troubled as I continue to be filled with hope. God is good all of the time. I expect another miracle. Just you wait and see.