Let’s be honest, cancer really sucks.
It’s not just the chemotherapy, medications, side effects, surgeries, and radiation; it’s all of the physical and psychological traumas that come with it that makes it so horrible. Cancer is a viscous and conniving disease. It isn’t prejudice against any one type of person, it doesn’t care how well you have or haven’t taken care of yourself; no, it latches onto whomever it so chooses. And once it’s there, the damage it creates with it runs especially deep. And once it is defeated, regardless of if the chance of reoccurrence is less than 1%, the fear remains with you in your mind and emotions along with the many physical, emotional, and mental wounds and scars that are left from your battle.
Once the words “you have cancer” have been spoken, your life is spun around and nothing is the same again. All of a sudden your life is taken over by doctor appointments, tests, needle pricks, scans, medications, chemotherapy sessions, surgery or surgeries, and radiation treatments. Add to that the constant pain and various other side effects from the medications and the treatments you have to endure as you battle this cruel disease and you begin to see things around you differently.
As one battling cancer, each time I go to the doctors I’m asked to rate my “pain level” from 1 to 10. The unfortunate thing is that the pain generally is a constant for me and sometimes the medication I am given won’t even touch the pain. For many of us, we begin to function with a higher pain, anywhere from a 7 to a 9, than others who have not been touched by cancer. But the pain level is different for each one of us. But even on our good days, the pain is still bad. We pray for days without pain, without any of the harsh side effects from the medications, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. We look forward to the day we are able to finally say we are “cancer free”, but sometimes the pain will also remain after the battle is won. A gift from Cancer…and one that is non-returnable.
But cancer is more than just pain. It brings with it so much more than just the side effects from the medications and treatments. From the onset, there is fear and anxiety as we endure multiple pricks from needles for the various blood tests, scans over our bodies, and what can feel like endless waiting as the doctor searches for how advanced the cancer has become or how it has reacted to the current treatments. Then depression creeps in. And we can’t forget the anger we all go through as we are left with the ultimate question, “why me?”
Still we are only asked to rate our pain. What about our mental anguish? Shouldn’t that be rated as well? Shouldn’t there be a monitor on the depression and anxiety with every doctor’s visit? How come there isn’t a scale to rate our mental health? Maybe the doctors should also ask us how we’re “feeling” on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 as in “wanting to give up,” and 10 as being “happy and everything is sunshine and rainbows.” But honestly, how many of those “10” days actually exist depends on where we are in our treatment and how we are feeling from the side effects.
But seriously….Cancer Sucks!!
We all fear that dreaded diagnosis. It does more than just invade and destroy. It can create more than just pain, nausea, and weakness while invading our bodies. It is such an evil disease with all of the mayhem and chaos it brings. But…it also creates strength, hope, faith, friendship, determination, and bravery in each life it touches.
I am a warrior. I am battling against Triple Negative Breast Cancer and face the struggles of depression, anxiety, pain, and uncertainty on a daily basis. But I am also learning more about myself every day. I am discovering that I am much stronger and braver than I ever though I was. I have become more and more determined to love more each day and to try to pay it forward as much as I am able to. Every day I look for reasons to smile and for those precious moments that I would have normally overlooked before. I choose to look for the humor and beauty around me instead of dwelling in the sadness and fear. I still have those moments of depression and anxiety. I still cry for no reason at times, but I try not to linger there.
I went through the normal emotional phases right after I was diagnosed. I was angry. I was terrified. I wept. I screamed out to the world. I asked “why me.” I questioned if I had done something wrong to deserve being diagnosed with Stage 3 Triple Negative Breast Cancer. But then something happened…a sense of peace overcame me. I still have those moments of insecurity, of fear of the unknown. I still have the anxiety over if the chemotherapy is working. And I still cry for no reason at times. But there is still a sense of peace within me. While I may question why I am forced down the path I am, I have realized that what many have told me is true…there is a purpose for all I have gone through, and this is no different.
Growing up, I remember once thinking that I wouldn’t know how I would get through it if I had ever found myself with a disease such as Cancer. I have watched people I love, people I admired and looked up to for their own strength as they battled and eventually lost their battle against Cancer, ALS, Dementia, and Alzheimer’s. I admired their bravery and inner strength as they fought past the pain, confusion, various side effects from their medications and treatments all while they continued to live their lives surrounded by family and friends. They chose to live each day to it’s fullest and made sure they spent as much time with those they loved as they could. Throughout this journey, I know that they have been beside me; holding me up when I was weak, comforting me when I was down, and reminding me that there is more to me than I ever thought or believed there could be.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had my moments of wanting to give up. I’ve been there when the pain, nausea, and weakness were so bad I was unable to do much but lie in bed and feel miserable and cry. I have had many “pity parties” for myself during all of this. But no matter how hard things got, no matter how much pain I was in, I knew I could not give up. Those were the times when I discovered just how strong and brave I was. Every time those thoughts even crossed my mind, some how that peace would come over me again. Was it God laying His Hand upon me, letting me know that He is always with me? Was it my loved ones I had lost previously to their own devious battles surrounding me with their love and strength? Was it both?
Cancer can bring moments where you feel all alone in your battle. Regardless of the love and support of those around you, there is a loneliness in your battle. Those moments while you are going through the scans and your brain won’t shut off, or those silent moments in the dark where your fears start to creep in can really remind you that it is your body going through the fight; and while those who love you are supportive and try to understand, without having gone through the same treatment or process as you, they can only sympathize as we have to deal with the side effects and pain on our own.
But I have to say I am very blessed with the people surrounding me. Not only do I have 3 amazing people I am proud to call family who continually watch over me and grant me the patience and forgiveness for when my side effects are bad or when my attitude is not where it should be (let’s be honest with ourselves…we can all be a bitch or asshole at times and we tend to take our pain and frustration out on those we love and are closest to us). I don’t always deserve their forgiveness, but I am very thankful and appreciative they are always willing to forgive and continue with love.
I’m also blessed because without this cancer, I would never have made as many friends as I have in the past 4 months. I have created bonds with fellow Pink Sisters that I pray will continue for a lifetime.
When this all started, I never knew my writing would touch so many people (for that I am forever, deeply humbled). I never knew that I would create not just one group, but two. One that is dedicated to those family, friends, and caregivers of those with Breast Cancer. I had discovered that there were so many groups on Facebook that catered to supporting the women and men (Breast Cancer is not sexist, it can affect both men and women) but no group existed for those who were loved ones and caregivers to those battling the disease. There we have some Pink Sisters who are able to answer questions these desperate people needed answers too. Plus to give them a place for them to reach out to peers and have a community so they deserve.
My second group was started because I liked the idea of sending little cards or notes just as pick-me-ups during our battle. There are still some kinks to work out, but I believe it will all work out in the end. Thankfully I have help with both of these groups, during the worst of my chemotherapy, I had difficulty being able to monitor the groups and keep things up with them especial the Pink Sisters group.
But without my loved ones and fellow Pink Sisters all cheering me on and sending their support, this would have been a very difficult battle to face. I have been extremely humbled by the outpouring of love and support by family, friends, and Pink Sisters. I have been blessed with two amazing ChemoAngels who I love writing to and reading all of their stories. For all of the gifts, chemotherapy bags, goodie bags, cards, and letters….thank you for always bringing me smiles. Sometimes those are days when I need them the most.
So, yes…Cancer Sucks!!! But it’s also a blessing. It’s sometimes the wake-up call we need to refocus our lives or to refocus on what is most important in life.
So…on a scale of 1 to 10, how are you feeling today?