12 Years & Would You Reverse Your Cancer Diagnosis?
An audio version of “12 Years & Would You Reverse Your Cancer Diagnosis?” is available via my free resource library.
It’s been 12 years since I heard the words, you have ‘a’ cancer. Yep. 12 years. Every year as the anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, I reflect (okay ramble). Usually, there’s a blog post. This year is no different. Then again, it is. I mean, it’s been a dozen years of NED (no evidence of disease). What do I say at this juncture?
I’m also wondering, if you could, would you reverse your cancer diagnosis?
I can’t wait to read your answer, so be sure to share with a comment at the end of this post.
12 years is a decent chunk of time. For some folks diagnosed with metastatic disease, 12 years would be like winning the lottery.
This fact is not lost on me.
There still is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about cancer. Some people don’t understand this, which is fine. But many, maybe even most of you reading this, probably do understand.
Anyone who’s heard those three words knows fully well they could hear similar ones again. Cancer Havers understand this on a deep level. Hence, the reason that instant bond of understanding exists among us. And my friends with metastatic disease, well, they’ve already heard the worst words — the ones no one wants to hear.
You might want to read, You Have Cancer.
A cancer diagnosis isn’t something you forget about or just move on from. At least this is not the case for me.
As I’ve written about before, I move forward every day — on — uh, uh. There’s a big difference.
You might want to read, Moving Forward vs Moving On.
Even if I wanted to move on (which I don’t, but that’s a different post), the mirror wouldn’t allow that. Every day when I shower or get dressed I am reminded, oh yeah, that really did happen. And just last summer, I had my umpteenth cancer-related surgery. So yeah, forgetting is out of the question even at 12 years out.
There are a ton of other reminders. But this post isn’t about all that stuff.
For some of that stuff, click here.
This post is to mark a milestone I am fully aware many who’ve also heard those words never make it to.
I know how incredibly lucky I am to be around to welcome and hold two new grandsons. These are the moments we endure grueling treatments for.
So many moms don’t get to see their own children grow up much less hold a grandbaby in their arms. When I held my grandbabies for the first time, you better believe I thought about those who didn’t and will not get this opportunity despite grueling treatments they endured hoping for such moments too.
And yes, there is survivor guilt that rears its head. That, too, is a different post.
I just wanna mention that those who are single, by choice or not, and those who do not have children, again by choice or not, have moments they very much want to stick around for too. I’ve heard more than once how some without partners and/or without children sometimes feel marginalized. Like their lives are less worthy, which, of course, is ridiculous.
You might want to read, When Your Cancer Diagnosis Feels Marginalized.
Each person who’s diagnosed with cancer teams up with an oncologist to devise A Plan. I had/have A Plan.
My Plan included genetic testing, a bilateral mastectomy, a salpingo oophorectomy and hysterectomy, chemotherapy, breast reconstruction (not once, but twice), endocrine therapy, and ongoing follow up. My Plan continues. We monitor for symptoms of recurrence and stay on alert for other cancers I’m at elevated risk for due to being BRCA2+.
It sucks to need A Plan, but since I do, I’m glad I’ve had and still have one. So far, my Plan is working.
My mother had A Plan. Every Cancer Haver has A Plan.
Why is it that some Plans work and others do not?
Cancer is such a crap shoot.
I remember the day I heard the words like it was yesterday. I remember the days, weeks and months that followed that were filled with a whole lot of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety.
These days, I still live with those things to some degree, but I’ve learned how to keep them corralled to the back of my mind. Most days anyway. Actually, it’s not so much that I’ve learned how to do contain them. It’s more that I’ve gotten used to them lurking around and gotten better, for the most part, at ignoring them.
I don’t think about recurrence a whole lot. I’ve done what I can to dodge that possibility. I don’t worry much about other cancers popping up either. Why bother?
At this point, it’s pretty much back to that crap shoot thing.
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I feel a lot of gratitude. Yes, of course, I do.
I also still feel pissed off that cancer intruded into my family’s life with so much bluster and yes, cruelty.
I find that keeping a bit of anger bubbling inside me is helpful. (Weird? Maybe. Maybe not.)
I just finished reading Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Juoad — a really fine read. I highly recommend it. Juoad is a superb writer, and like so many others, I loved her memoir.
Her answer at the end of her book to the question, “If you could take it all back, would you?” really stuck with me. That answer was this:
If I’m thinking about my illness — abstracted from its impact on the people around me — then the answer is: It (cancer) has left me with an awareness that haunts the edges of my vision — it can all be lost in a moment — but it’s also given me a jeweler’s eye. No, I would not reverse my diagnosis if I could. I would not take back what I suffered to gain this.
I’m pretty sure that’s not the statement from her writings that sticks for most people, and I’m guessing it’s the not the takeaway Juoad wants remembered most from her story.
But it’s what sticks with me and what I remember most.
I respect Juoad’s words and how she’s chosen to navigate her unique cancer maze, which unfortunately, includes a recent relapse.
But I do wonder how it is that she, or anyone, can feel as if they wouldn’t choose to reverse their cancer diagnosis. As much as I loved her book, I was a little disappointed upon reading that answer. To me, it borders on that cancer is a gift type of thinking.
I would gladly give back my cancer experience. Before cancer, I was aware of life’s fragility and not in need of a jeweler’s eye to better see or understand life’s beauty and my priorities.
It’s not like it matters, of course, because no one can turn back time or reverse a cancer diagnosis just because you’d rather not deal with it.
Still, it makes me wonder (again), why don’t I feel that way?
Why do others seem more noble — yes — better somehow?
What’s wrong with me?
Nothing. Of course, I know this and yet…
I’m not exactly the person today I’d envisioned myself to be prior to cancer. But that’s okay.
For better or worse, I’m still here. 12 years later. This is what matters. What I do with this life from here on out, that matters too.
So, 12 years NED. Still grateful.
And yes, still pissed off.
But mostly grateful.
Thank you for reading this year’s ramble.
If applicable, how long has it been since your diagnosis (or your loved one’s)?
Do you feel survivor guilt, and if so, how do you deal with it?
If you could, would you reverse your cancer diagnosis?
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