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Celebrate With Me

On July 3, 2017, my world was forever changed. Three words, “You have cancer” followed by the compound adjective, “late-stage,” sent my head spinning, my heart beating wildly. I tried not to cry as I sat stone still, nodding like one of those silly novelty dolls you place on the dashboard of your car. The doctor, who delivered the diagnosis, seemed rather clinical and matter-of fact, and I remember thinking how unfortunate that all of those years of medical school hadn’t taught him how to soften the blow for his patients when they are at their most vulnerable. Of course, I also now realize that the biggest, most significant moments in life are subject to your own memory, clouded by perception, but it is hard to forget even the most minute details of that day.

A few weeks into my initial treatment, I made the mistake of asking Mr. Google about my odds of survival. Ovarian cancer, especially at Stage IV, is relatively aggressive, resistant to chemotherapy and known to recur far too quickly. Perhaps it was a form of self-torture, but I wanted a number, something objective. In those early days, as I swam in a big sea of uncertainty with waves of fear bringing me to my knees, I researched like crazy, looking for a glimmer of hope from some random website. Instead, I was given a frightening dose of reality by the American Cancer Society: my chances of being alive five years after diagnosis was a mere 17%.

I tried not to think of that as days turned into months, with each scan delivering disappointing news. I readily agreed to surgeries and one form of challenging treatment after another, refusing to give up the fight. And all the while, I kept a firm grip on that elusive companion called hope.

I wrote as often as I could, compiling these little snippets of my experience until I had enough for a book. Life is BeauTEALful is the third volume. Somehow, I had convinced myself that preserving these moments was important that maybe I could help somebody else by sharing these hard-won lessons. Perhaps that gave me purpose. I think it did.

Today is my "cancerversary," a coined word that acknowledges the victory of endurance. This marks an important chapter in the story of my life. While there are many unexpected surprises that come with being human, cancer certainly has been an unforeseen plot twist for me. But I am a survivor, a title I was unable to bestow upon myself for a very long time. Now, I have earned it. And I am mighty grateful to still be here.

I I know this for sure: Mr. Google doesn’t know everything.

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