Today is my cancerversary. I am embracing the day with a little bit of nausea and a whole lot of gratitude. There are varied opinions about when one is to celebrate this day, but I have chosen the day that my doctor looked me in the eye and said, “This is the conversation that we never want to have with our patients. I am afraid that you have ovarian cancer. It is fast-growing and advanced.” From that day forward I became a survivor.
While others were shooting fireworks and grilling burgers, I struggled to process the implications as I shared the news with my family. And before the red, white, and blue had been packed away for another Independence Day celebration, I was confronted with the obvious question: now what?
Two years later, I am still searching for the answer. I have come to understand that cancer is like an unwelcomed guest who moves into your happy home and causes chaos. It is the obnoxious relative who never leaves, the leech that grabs on in a tender spot and never lets go. It robs you of so much of what you hold dear as it threatens your very existence. Cancer is only a word, but it feels more like a sentence, a life sentence.
I recently realized that even in in my dreams, I have cancer. For a long time, I was strong and healthy in the subconscious world that I slipped into every night, but that is no longer true. The realization isn’t accompanied by any great fanfare; instead, it is more like an acknowledgement of its constant presence. And while it is unsettling, there is a certain truth that the fragile nature of my health has invaded every aspect of my being. It is part of my physical make-up, like having green eyes.
The reality is that I will never get to live life the way I once did. I will never close my eyes to sleep without praying for one more day. I am painfully aware of my own mortality, the statistical probability of my remaining days here on earth. I will always be a cancer patient, and I will always worry about the next scan or test. The dark cloud of ovarian cancer will follow me forever. And while I will have good days, moments that feel normal, most of the time I feel like my sock is slipping inside of my shoe as I limp along.
But as crazy as it might sound, I am also grateful for this experience. I have learned so much about life and people and myself in the twenty-four months since I was handed this diagnosis. I have tapped into a strength that I didn’t know I had. And I have witnessed such indescribable beauty and boundless love as I grew closer to my Savior. Some days, my cup truly runneth over.
And yes, I have written, scribbling bits and pieces of my thoughts into notebooks until they solidify into something worth sharing. Sometimes, my addled brain won’t cooperate as I carefully choose the words which describe this experience, but I have remained committed to the process, hoping that my experience will help someone else. The resulting support has been overwhelming. A burden shared is one which is halved, right? Blessings flow from the least likely of places, I think.
You know, I never fancied myself to be a writer. My fiction career began with a book published only thirteen months before I was diagnosed. And I wrote Angelique’s story during those early days of sickness, when being able to leave this world for hers helped me to escape the pain and fear. I think one of the most powerful lessons I have learned is the simplest: once you have identified your God-given power, you must find a way to make it work for you. To those of you who have read my words, thank you for helping me find mine.