For every cancer survivor there is one word you think you want to hear… cured. The big “c” word. Its what everyone strives for. However, once I heard it, I’ve found it is less empowering than expected.
In fact, that C-word is what led to my sabbatical from writing this blog. This past summer marked my 5-year anniversary since my metastatic Melanoma diagnosis. While many doctors will tell you melanoma can never be ruled out, there is still some confidence found in the 5-year mark. This year was the first time the “c” word was used for my case. And while it still brought tears to my eyes, it wasn’t as big of a relief as I expected.
Crazy me, but I thought the angels would sing, the heavens would part and I would wake up the next day washed of my pain and suffering with a completely different perspective on life. Unfortunately, not.
I was talking with a woman I recently met who is a breast cancer survivor (at the age of 35) and since her two rounds of chemo and double mastectomy the doctors are feeling confident that she is “cured.” But she also didn’t find much relief in that diagnosis.
What we realized and agreed on is that no matter what type of cancer you have/had, there is no way to actually be cured. Why?
Because when they cut out the cancer cells and blast you with chemo, there is a part they leave behind and that is the emotional impact of the disease that has settled in your mind.
They can’t cut out the vulnerability, fear and constant panic that has come along with the diagnosis of cancer. It never goes away and it shrouds every life moment and decision.
Prior to the diagnosis, it was easy to live life in the positive: “I’m young, healthy, active…. I’m doing great!” But then cancer. The next thing you know, you are working out, not for the joy or the stress release, but to move your lymphatic fluids and increase your oxygen levels. You watch every bite of dessert or drink of wine, not for the calories but for the cancer feeding sugar levels. You juice and do yoga not because it is what’s best for you, but because someone says they cured their cancer using carrot juice and yoga.
My life journey will now be built on a foundation of “surviving” vs “living.” And that is why I took a break from writing. I needed to step away from the disease and focus on living. Each day is a gift and is full of opportunity. We create that opportunity with the choices we make. This past year, I made the conscious choice to try my best to change my thinking to living in tomorrow vs. today. I tried to make the “c” word an opportunity.
I hope you too can choose to live in addition to survive. Make plans for next year’s vacation or go crazy and plan two years out. Just remember to pack your sunscreen, hat and UPF clothing!