Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cancer Update/ I'm Still Here

   I thought  I was going to wait until next week, after I see my doctor, to give you an update on my cancer, but there's something I want to say today. I'm still here.
   If you have read my post Cancer I Know, then you know that I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in November of 2013, and then moved onto stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2014, when the sneaky cells metastasized to my liver.

    My initial prognosis in 2013 was that I would live for 1 to 5 years. Even after all the surgery and chemotherapy that I endured, that was all I could expect - 1 to 5 years. After it metastasized to my liver, my life expectancy was reduced to 1 year or less. That was just about a year ago today. When I found out this past November, just 5 months after completing chemotherapy for a second time, that the cancer was back again, my doctor took my hands in hers, and with a grave look on her face, said- this is going to shorten your life. Now I really like my doctor, so I held my sarcastic tongue, and just said - I know. But what I was thinking was -  what do you mean by that....don't you think that's a funny thing to say to someone who should be dead by now? 

   When I see my doctor next week, if the lab results show that the cancer is still growing, I will again be told I am dying. Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of people telling me I'm dying. 
I have cancer. The cancer may kill me. But I am not dying! I am living!    I'm still here.

   Considering 1 in 3 Americans will at some point in their life (those are the current statistics) have some form of cancer, isn't it time we started talking about living with cancer? Isn't it time we erased the assumption that cancer = death, so that we can talk about it like any other life struggle? 

   Cancer sucks, but I'm not sure it's the worst thing that can ever happen to a person. The fact that we have made it so, has not only scared a lot of people with cancer into living like they are dying, but it has also isolated a lot of people. 
   The fear surrounding cancer has made it difficult to talk about.  When I was first diagnosed, I told very few people. I didn't want to make them uncomfortable. I knew my cancer diagnosis would change the way they looked at me. I was now someone who might die soon. I was now someone who made them think about scary things - like dying.  That's changed. I no longer feel I need to take responsibility for how others may react to hearing that I have cancer. I now tell anyone and everyone. 

   I don't mean that I run around telling people I have cancer for no reason, but I don't hide it either.  And when I do tell people, I find because so many of us have cancer, or know someone who has cancer, that it gives us both the opportunity to show compassion, and to share our story, or the story of a loved one. It creates a connection. It takes away a little bit of the fear. It let's us be human. Not a statistic. Not a media headline. Just human.  

   So, I just want to say. 

I'm still here.
So is my cancer.
I am alive.
I am not afraid.
I am living!



  1. Thank you for writing so honestly and so matter-of-factly about something that is essentially "taboo" in this culture: talking about death, and the fear of it. You and I have had many conversations about the debilitating fear that surrounds cancer and how we are choosing to respond differently. It's wonderful to see it all here in print. As my therapist said to me when I received my first diagnosis in Feb. 2013, "Love is the antidote to fear." Loving ourselves, loving this moment that we have, loving the gifts that we've been given. Kris Carr also talks about letting the fear be there too though, if that is what we are feeling. Letting it be there, then moving through it--not resisting it, which would of course give it more power. It's a strange thing to live so intimately with the idea of dying, while also celebrating being alive. But that is exactly what we're doing.

  2. I am still thinking about this post, and about the audacity of doctors who think that they can give someone an actual expiration date. My sister-in-law just sent me a video about my nephew's teacher who was diagnosed with colon cancer and given three months to live, and that was four years ago. Of course there are many stories like this, as well as stories of people who also give up when given this kind of prognosis and it then becomes self-fulfilling (although I suppose the doctors would just say they were right). It makes me angry, but again, I feel like you have been able to respond in a way that is empowering and even humorous ("I held my sarcastic tongue and just said…"), and I just want to celebrate that in you. I also want to celebrate your doctor--and mine--who have resisted that temptation, but have found a way to communicate that there has been a shift in our health that could have consequences. It gives us the opportunity to make some changes in our lives, in order to effect that shift in our health.