After I was diagnosed, I can't remember who first suggested that I find my new normal or the first time I saw it written in quotes -- "new normal" -- but it wasn't long before I developed what is presumably an abnormal distaste for the idea. Since then, I've thought often on why it bothers me.
I am confident that if the medical community, research community, business community, elected officials, patients, advocates, and family members all come together -- we could dedicate the necessary resources to combat this deadly disease.
I don't think "Thank you!" can truly express the gratitude that many of us often wish to express to those who are not in the business of treating cancer patients who give their hearts, time and love to those of us that have connected with the disease.
In my teens, I ate wheat, gluten, sugar; basically the normal SAD (Standard American Diet). My dietary staples were breads, muffins, baked goods, hamburgers, Chinese food, spaghetti, pizza. If it was junk food -- I ate it.
Like Walt in Breaking Bad, I have health care insurance from my employer, and like Walt's wife, Skyler, discovers about their insurance, I'm still liable for the deductible, copay and coinsurance portion of the medical fees.
The patients who reach out while in the quicksand of catastrophic illness, like the 49-year-old man who was terminated by his insurance company because he had the nerve to contract brain cancer, are equal parts heartbreaking and inspirational.
"Cancer doesn't discriminate." But the health care system that delivers our treatment often does. And the stigma and stress of living as sexual and gender minorities often lead to behaviors that increase our cancer risks. We need support, and we need to connect with other LGBT survivors.
Misha listened politely as I itemized the tasks for fall. Then he leaned in over the restaurant's loud music and asked, "Do you think, when you get back to New York, you could help someone raise several thousand dollars to get a stem-cell transplant?"
I never in a millions years thought I would thank my mom's cancer, but I am grateful for the perspective it's enabled me to gain. My life will never be the same because I'll be happier appreciating the blessings in my life -- like my mom.
Life unfolds, regardless. Years accumulate, whether we grow or heal, or not. And the things that we can't make peace with, we just learn to live with. Or put way up high and in the back on the "forget or deny" shelf.
I'm angry, I'm grateful, I'm sad and I'm crying because I am so happy I have survived. But more than any of that, I'm inspired by how hard people fight and how much they are loved and how many dedicate their lives in trying to win the battle.
When on cycle two, day two, I told my nurse she was joining my angels here on earth, she told me that one of her previous patients had claimed coming into the infusion room was like going to hell -- now I have a Hell's Angel by my side.