August 19th, 2012

Me Again

by Jacqueline Whitmore

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.)

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Comments

9 Responses to “Me Again”

  1. Rachel on August 19th, 2012 8:51 pm

    Dear Ms. Whitmore,

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience, but thank you for sharing your story of courage with your readers. I do hope you are in good health now.

    Rachel

  2. Jacqueline on August 19th, 2012 8:56 pm

    Dear Rachel, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my blog. I am happy to report that I am cancer free! Best regards, Jacqueline

  3. Kris on August 19th, 2012 9:41 pm

    My Mom was diagnosed with metastic leiomyosarcoma of the uterus in May of 2003. She was a polio survivor, so when we heard the news, we knew what a fighter she was, and if anyone could beat it, she could. It wasn’t until we did our research that we discovered how very rare this cancer was… diagnosed in only 1000 people in this country each year. We found out that this cancer murders everyone diagnosed… it isn’t an if, but a when. I think they gave her 6 months, but she fought for 18 months and she died about a month before my 30th birthday. She was only 56. My Mom’s Mom died of colon cancer about 6 months after my Mom. My Dads Mom had fought and beaten colon cancer and breast cancer in the early 1980s. My Dad was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer in July of last year. Opting out of treatment that would do no more than extend his life briefly, he died in Sept. 3rd. In October of last year, my Dad’s Mom, who is 93, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors know that treatment is likely to take her life before the cancer does. Due to my family history, I will have to begin screenings for colon cancer 10 years before most folks do. Watching both of my parents die of cancer has built a loathing in my very core for this disease. I will celebrate your victory, a battle in the war against a nightmarish foe, and I will gain hope that one day the word “cancer” will mean no more than a brief inconvenience of treatment or it will be spoken of in the historic past tense. My best to you and I hope that you will have a long and healthy life.

  4. Jodi Blackwood on August 19th, 2012 10:53 pm

    Hello Jacqueline,
    Very powerful words … strong, fighting words that brought pictures to my mind. Well done! Congratulations on winning your war and my very best wishes on your continued good health!

    Kind Regards,
    Jodi

  5. Eileen on August 19th, 2012 10:54 pm

    Jacqueline,

    What a poignat story…I look forward to talking more about this subject (if you are comfortable) and others in September. Thanks for the reminder that I need to call my physician this week! 🙂

  6. Jeancarlo Fernandes Cavalcante on August 20th, 2012 12:23 pm

    Hello Jacqueline!

    I’m a brazilian professor in a Medical School and i told about your personal story to my fellows during a class about lung cancer patients.
    Thank you for sharing your life story.

    Regards,

    Jeancarlo

  7. Arden Clise on August 20th, 2012 7:09 pm

    Wow, beautifully written Jacqueline! Your words made cancer very tangible and real and clearly conveyed the pain and fear it causes.

    I’m sorry you had to experience it and I’m so happy to hear you are healthy.

    By the way, Brian sounds like one amazing husband!

    Warmly,
    Arden

  8. Jayne O on August 21st, 2012 2:38 am

    Jacqueline, I would never in a million years have guessed that you went through this. Last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and am now six months post chemo and radiation (with a thick head of hair I might add). No one understands like someone who’s been there, and your words describe exactly how I feel and think on a daily basis. I’m at that point where I’m moving forward and wanting to make plans, including becoming an etiquette coach, but I hesitate because I wonder if I have the “right” to even make such plans. You have inspired me, and I’m moving ahead. Thank you.

  9. diane jellen on August 28th, 2012 1:04 pm

    Jackie,
    Inspiring post!
    I am going to forward to my friend, Dorothy, also a cancer survivor. Thank you for putting your emotions on paper—they will be an encouragement to others.
    God bless, Diane

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