Cancer is the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. There are several contributing factors to cancer, both external (i.e. smoking, drinking alcohol, doing drugs, exposure to chemicals or radiation, etc.) and genetics (i.e. hormones, inherited mutations, abnormal immune conditions, etc.).
No matter the why, it is always scary when you’re told “you have [type] cancer”. In 2005 I was diagnosed with Uterine Cancer, and then in 2006 I was diagnosed with Cervical Cancer. The thoughts running through my mind (both times) were jumbled and a huge mess. I wasn’t able to make sense of what was going on at that moment.
What did the doctor say? Is this real? Is this really happening? What?? I just don’t understand…
Then…as moments pass by and reality begins sinking in…
How could this have happened? What caused it? Could I have prevented it? This isn’t supposed to happen to me! What do I do now? How do I tell my [significant other]? My kids? My family? What do I tell them?
Then…as it really starts to hit…
What happens now? Am I going to have to go through radiation? How sick am I going to get? Am I going to live a long time? Am I going to be in pain for whatever is left of my life? Do I need to get a second opinion? Am I going to be in and out of the hospital? Is my life over?
These are all real thoughts that ran through my head after both diagnoses. It’s scary. Period.
Everyone around me kept telling me it was going to be okay, mostly because they didn’t know what else to say.
But I had to find me. I had to find what truly comforted me. I had to research (and research and research) the cancers, treatments, life expectancy, quality of life, etc. I researched more about these two types of cancers than I probably have anything else in my life. It didn’t help. Everyone’s research is different. Everyone who has had cancer has had different reactions to the medications, to the treatments, and to the cancer itself. The quality of life of anyone with cancer is different than someone else’s quality of life…even with the same type of cancer. This is because every single one of us is different. And every single cancer is different.
I was fortunate to have a wonderful husband who stood by me through the diagnosis and my decision on what type of treatment I wanted. My doctors wanted to do a lot of things, but I chose not to. I did a lot of praying (most people really seem to find God when something like this happens to them…I am no exception). And I prayed even more. I searched my soul for what I should do; for what would be best for me.
In the end, I chose to do one round of steroid treatment (just a pill a day) for the first cancer. I would have opted for the full hysterectomy they wanted to do, but I was getting ready to move and simply didn’t have 6 weeks of downtime I could fit into my schedule. I knew I would hurt myself because I would do too much. I chose no other medical treatment for either cancer.
Instead, I chose to really start taking care of myself. I created (and upheld – for the most part) an extremely positive attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I had my moments of doubt and my breakdowns, but in front of my children (especially in front of my children) I held it together. I began working out and eating right. I began taking care of myself spiritually, emotionally, physically…in every way I could.
**Please note that my situation is really the exception rather than the rule, especially when it comes to something as serious as cancer.**
About a year after being diagnosed with cervical cancer I underwent more tests to see where the cancer was at. To my surprise (and the doctors!) there were zero cancer cells in both my cervix and my uterus. They retested me to ensure the tests weren’t a false-negative, and they weren’t. I have now been cancer-free since 2007. I can honestly, and proudly, say that I am a cancer survivor. But, I can only credit this amazing miracle to God. There is no scientific reason why I was one of the few lucky ones to overcome cancer…not once, but twice.
Because of this experience, I have learned to live my life fully, to spend the quality time with those I love, and to cherish the little things in life. But, I am still scared to go to the doctors.