Monday, May 26, 2014

Redefining Myself

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer I was in denial, and yet I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace. I felt a protection that left me with a sense of calm that nothing was wrong; this was just something that I had to go through. I truly believe I was blessed with healing and health, and I thought that I wanted to share this as my story. But it never happened. As a result of wanting to share my story I started this blog.
Instead of sharing what I thought was my message of healing and hope, I have learned more about breast cancer. The fact is that one size does not fit all. I have learned the reality of my own diagnosis and realize that I am not off base in feeling blessed. And I have said “yes” to situations that I never imagined would come my way.
I have shared how I became involved with the Avon Foundation and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. This upcoming weekend I will walk in my fourth Walk. It has become a passion and a goal to walk in each city where the Walk is hosted. After this weekend I will have walked in half of them.
This year is especially meaningful for me because the Avon Foundation has committed to funding research projects that are specifically related to metastatic breast cancer. No, I have not been diagnosed with a recurrence or metastatic breast cancer. But my friend Linda is dying. And I have been part of her transportation team. I never imagined I would find myself in this place. The truth is that cancer kills.
Recently I have seen postings by people who offer a false hope. Their message is that God healed them through some miraculous diet and you, too, can be healed. These websites make me angry. It is not that I do not believe in God’s grace and healing touch. I do. But to tell someone that all they have to do is have enough faith, and they can be healed is false and misleading. Part of me wants to call them out as hacks on social media. However, that is not fair. They truly believe in their miracle, and I hope they are not disappointed in 15 to 20 years.
I now know that I do not want to be that person. I want to be realistic. The truth is I am fortunate. I was diagnosed with Stage I triple negative breast cancer, which is almost unheard of. I did not have a recurrence in 36-48 months. I have just passed my six years after treatment date. (My oncologist measures my progress based on when I finished treatment).
Mine is still a story of healing and hope. The hope I now share is the hope of God’s grace.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Unfortunate Side Effects

Metastatic cancer kills. That is reality. That is the final truth. A diagnosis of metastatic disease means the end of life. Death is not a side effect. It is the end game. However, along the way, there are side effects that have nothing to do with chemotherapy or radiation or any of the other treatments for cancer. They are the side effects of living.

Living with metastatic cancer impacts everyone around you. It affects your doctors and nurses. No matter how many times they have watched other patients die, they give themselves to you with kindness and compassion. You can’t fake that kind of care or the gentleness in their voice as they deliver news you don’t want to hear.
It affects your co-workers. You may have made friends at work but now you need to resign or retire because your disease is too much for your job.
It affects your friends. No one wants to watch you die. You should live a long and healthy life so that you can go on doing all the things you love. Some friends will stay by your side and help during these troubled times. Others will send cards or call once in a while. Still others you may never see again, though they will show up at your Memorial Service.
Living will change your family. Those with whom you live will care for you to the best of their ability. Some will remain by your side. Others will choose a different path.
Most of all, living will affect your primary caregivers. Dying in front of their eyes will give them the chance to grieve and say “good-bye” while you are still here. But living, and loving, and letting them love you, that my friend, is the greatest gift of all. And not at all unfortunate.

If you enjoy my blog and would like to follow me on Facebook, I can be found at The Reluctant Survivor. And on Twitter @relucsurvivor.