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Nikki Weiss-Goldstein Headshot

I Don't Want My Obituary to Say I Died of Cancer

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BREAST CANCER RIBBON
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Well, I don't.

Being diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer last year put me in warrior mode. I didn't have time to think about the "what ifs." My wife and I just had a baby and cancer was not an option.

In denial about my diagnosis, I only shared the news with a handful of people and kept it a secret at work. Talking about cancer would make it real, and I certainly didn't see myself as a patient.

If you know me, then you know I'm tough as nails. There's no challenge too great. My friends have even made my name into a verb, and they would say, "I just totally Nikki Weiss'd that" when talking about completing a task in an efficient way. With that said, in my mind, cancer didn't stand a chance.

I got through four surgeries, inclusive of a double mastectomy and reconstruction and I've been receiving Herceptin infusions, a targeted form of chemotherapy, once every three weeks for the past year. Seventeen infusions with a smile on my face... until this past Tuesday, my last one.

Most people would celebrate. I, on the other hand, am terrified.

Having Herceptin coursing through my veins, destroying any cell that wanted to go awry, made me feel safe. I knew there was medication battling my disease in the event that it wanted to rear its ugly head. And now, a few days after my last treatment, I have anxiety that I've never felt before. I don't have a safety net.

I didn't want my treatment to end. I liked having the extra "insurance." I liked my tumor markers checked and my CBC run every three weeks. It made me feel empowered. But as my oncologist stated, the standard of care is one year of infusions. Two years wouldn't make a difference in terms of battling the cancer, but could certainly have ill effects on my heart.

So, here I sit, a type A, perfection seeking, control freak, and I have absolutely no control over cancer, if it wants to recur, when it wants to recur and how.

My wife tells me that life is short and unpredictable for all of us and that I should embrace each moment. Currently, I do not have any evidence of disease, and I need to remind myself to live now. I'll miss today if I worry about tomorrow.

But I don't want my obituary to say that I died of cancer. Is that so wrong? I want it to say that I passed away in my sleep at the ripe, old age of 90.

It's hard to be faced with your mortality at age 40. Now 42, I realize that growing old is a privilege. I'll never be unhappy to celebrate another birthday, especially since I plan to have 48 more.

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