I never expected to hear that word. Cancer. It has such an ugly ring to it. Eleven years ago this month my gynecologist discovered my cancer. It came like a thief in the night and robbed me of my fertility. Not that I wanted children anyway but it stripped away the possibility that I could ever have any should I change my mind.
That’s what cancer does. It denies its victim of the possibilities – and in some cases, hope. It creates emotional scars, and physical ones, too. Every time I get undressed I see a scar the length of a surgeon’s fist across my lower abdomen. This scar serves as a constant reminder that cancer once existed in my body. This same scar serves as a badge of courage and reminds me how lucky I am. My husband tells me my scar is sexy. I disagree. I think he is just being sweet.
Cancer is like a soldier at a gate holding an Mk 47 telling me I can’t go any further. It kidnaps those of us who least expect it and takes us hostage. We’re the healthy ones, the strong ones, the ones who don’t look like we have cancer. I think that’s why it is attracted to us in the first place.
In some cases, cancer has no symptoms at all until it is too late. My cervical cancer was quiet, shy, and revealed itself only after I got that Pap test. Once it was discovered it never let me forget that it was living, breathing, stretching, and relaxing inside my body. Cancer has a way of making itself comfortable and making its prisoner miserable.
You have to brave, strong, and resourceful to figure out how to beat cancer because once it’s got its hold on you, it grips you tightly and doesn’t want to let go. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you go to bed. You wish you could just take a shower and wash it away along with the other filth that lingers on your body.
Cancer turns you upside down, right side out, and everything in between. It likes to be in control and introduce you to emotions you never knew you had – depression, anger, and especially fear. I’ve never experienced anything more frightening than cancer. If you want to see what real fear looks like, visit a waiting room at a cancer hospital and look at the families’ faces. Sometimes they’re more fearful than the family member who has the illness. Mostly they fear the unknown.
Cancer is demanding and wants to be number one in your life. Everything becomes less important – the evening news, your job, sometimes even your loved ones and the will to live. If you stop fighting, it might win. Even if you don’t stop fighting it might win anyway. It’s cunning and relentless. It leaves you asking yourself, “Will I ever be me again?”
(Dear Readers: I am happy to report that I am healthy and have been cancer free for eleven years.)