Cancer Survivor Story
Cancer survivor story: my journey through the shock of being diagnosed with cancer and how it changed my attitude and my life.
I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary when I went back to the doctor for test results. My symptoms weren’t anything major, just tired and worn mostly. As I sat waiting for the doctor to come in and see me my thoughts were focused on keeping track of the time, I needed to hurry back to work. I remembered the 2nd batch of tests he had ordered, ultrasound and more blood work. Nothing for great concern I thought, “he’s just being thorough”.
When the doctor came into the tiny room his expression was unusual. He seemed distant and somewhat grim. When he started to speak I felt myself stiffen. His voice quavered as he said the words that seemed to cover the entire room in a dense fog that made me immobile. “Ma'am, I’m sorry. Our tests show you have cancer.” I felt like I was suddenly in the midst of some horrible out of body experience. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. My mind raced in several directions at once. “This cannot be real, I’m not that sick……my kids, I’m all they have, it can’t be that…..it’s a mistake, it has to be…..” I couldn’t speak a word as he sat there and explained the type of cancer and possible treatments.
I vaguely remember hearing words like “terminal, spread extensively, should have been caught earlier”. I returned to work and remained quiet that day. It was like my mind was on auto-pilot. I couldn’t think and wouldn’t speak. I was numb.
That evening my sons asked what the doctor had to say. We were so close, best friends. I didn’t know how to tell them so I made a feeble excuse that there were more tests to be done to be sure. I planned to call and schedule the next phase and second opinion the next day.
That night I barely slept. I began moving through the phases of dealing with grief quite rapidly yet didn’t come to any real terms with it. I was everything at once, angry, hurt, afraid, lost. I resolved only to get more information, a second opinion, whatever it would take to make this nightmare end. The next day I did just that.
The results were the same. All agreed that I was loosing the battle against cancer. It had advanced too much and too fast. Treatment was not a real option. The best they felt they could do was to make me comfortable with the time I had left. They did agree they could give me more time if I would agree to surgery but it would mean I ‘d be on life support for the rest of the time I had left as I couldn’t survive without the organs involved in the cancer growth.
The doctors felt this would be best as they could provide me with better pain-killers in a hospital setting. Attitude. That became my initial strength. My anger prompted me to get all the information I could. I had to become ready to fight this battle one way or another. All I really knew about cancer was that it kills. I had lost several family members to this dreaded disease. It was horrible watching them die by degrees. One uncle looked as though he had been cooked from the inside out, going from our pale English complexion to dark and ruddy brown skin from the extensive chemotherapy. I was just a child when he died but never forgot seeing him become thinner, darker, weaker every time I saw him. I resolved not to allow myself to go through that. The doctors assured me that treatment had improved considerably since that time but again, there weren’t any promises offered me.
Pain soon became a constant factor to deal with. It seemed to make me weak and emotional. I took a good long turn of sitting on the “pity pot”. I prayed, screamed and pounded to God. “Why me? How could this be happening? This isn’t fair.” Within a few weeks I could no longer work. The pain was too great. I couldn’t think past it to do my job. I found myself at home full time.
During the next few months I became a regular at the doctor's office. His staff was wonderful. They were so supportive. One nurse always had a new joke for me. She stressed the need to laugh. I devoted more and more time to prayer and getting myself “ready”. I’m not sure when it happened exactly but one morning I woke up knowing things weren’t as they appeared. That made no sense at all but I felt it just the same. I felt more strength coming back…and a sense of peace that truly passed all understanding.
I knew somehow that there was an answer for me. I had no idea how or who or what it might be but simply could not shake the knowledge that something was going to happen, not like I had been told, but better.
I had time……so much time to think and weigh what was important. I made a pact with my sons that every night we would talk. It was important that no matter what happened I had to pass along all that I wanted to share with them while I still could. We talked about life, death, and all points in-between. Through those talks came my greatest attitude adjustment. I came to realize that what is important isn’t a matter of time or material things. What counts in life is what we can leave behind that time cannot corrupt. The times we have helped others, memories we have created that cause a smile or a simple assurance, lessons we learn and share with others are what matters. The bonds between my sons and I became so strong that nothing can destroy them. We clung to each other, learned from each other and all grew together through this.
Yes, I did get my “miracle”. I survived cancer this time. The treatment isn’t as important as what was learned through all of this. Those attitude adjustments have improved my quality of life beyond my wildest dreams. Each day is a miracle. Each day that miracle needs to be shared. Cancer made me realize that.