In a remarkable memoir, 5 Months, 10 Years, 2 Hours, Lisa Reisman writes about her diagnosis of glioblastoma, her treatment and her survival. She was 32 at the time, a lawyer who quit her job and planned to get a lipstick-red convertible and tool around the country. Instead, she got cancer.
I asked God for a year. OK, truthfully, I begged for 10. Because I wanted to be your father for as long as possible, until each of you became adults. It was a begging rooted in my personal desire to see each of you grow up. Mature. And step into life. That's why today is rather special.
It is important to understand this is an ongoing process but one that is definitely doable. It's also important to understand there will be some situations in life you will have no control over. The only thing you can control is your reaction to them.
I decided it was my turn to take control. Matt and I waited outside for the salon to open. At 9 a.m., I put one foot in front of the other and walked in, chin up. In my bravest voice, I said, "I'd like to get my head shaved. I have cancer."
As they waltzed around, locked in an embrace, looking at each other lovingly, they seemed to be sharing a bond that few of the rest of us could ever know or understand. Related by shared bone marrow and white blood cells, they danced the wedding's first special dance together.
As I reflect on the one-year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis, I don't really know how to feel or how to make sense of it. I survived it. I remember it every day, and will always live with the aftermath of it. Still, I must keep moving forward.
My father is now a long-term survivor who has completely defied the conventional wisdom about his disease. He has survived for seven years: seven years living with a disease whose five-year survival rate for the most favorable patient class is a dismal 14 percent.
Just like for rock-climbing, I have the build for "quadstepping," my term for walking with crutches. I can even tweak the verb for related activities, like "tristepping" if I go non-weight-bearing; "quadsquashing" if I pole-crush bugs; or "quadfleeing" if I leave the scene of a crime.
Of tantamount importance in the cancer lexicon is some acceptable name of a group of individuals who have been diagnosed with cancer. Far too frequently this nomenclature has been applied to, rather than derived of, this amazing group of folks.
Sometimes, cancer would stroll next to me, repeatedly kicking me, punching me, making me fall.I fell down a lot. Sometimes it was more like tripping over my feet. Sometimes I didn't know how to get up. Everyone I know who has gone through cancer has felt this.
I am writing from the final throes of age 29, a narrowing corridor of weeks until I embark upon my 30s. But for some of us, 'survival' of this particular decade is jarringly literal. I am a cancer survivor.
You will be different. You will never have the same sense of self. You should embrace this. Your old self was probably really great. Your transformed self will be even better. Give into what is happening and trust it.
More people are getting cancer and more are surviving it. The costs of survivorship -- financial, physical, psychological, social, emotional -- affect not only survivors and their families, but our country and our communities.
"When you're fighting something that makes you question everything, and makes you feel lost as anything else, all it takes is just knowing that even if you feel alone, there are others in the world who want to be lost and alone with you."
Continuing our series featuring the submissions of winners of the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation's annual Andre Sobel Award, this week we share the Second Place winner's essay, "All Pains Aren't Physical."