Wrapping your head around the fact that you or a loved one has cancer is no easy task. After my 46-year-old husband was diagnosed, we were in a state of shock and paralyzed with fear. Here are six things I wish we had known at the beginning of our cancer journey.
It's hard to actually convey just how horrendous nausea can get. With my own experience, I didn't have a lick of it after my first three days of chemo. The docs said that most of that was because of the anti-nausea drugs. And then came day four.
Pets are powerful allies. The devotion and caring they dole out is invaluable during the good times, but even more so during the bad. Without even realizing it, Elsie and Sophie brought me great comfort that day, as well as during my mother's illness two years earlier.
Three years ago, I was thrust into this sub-culture of a forgotten population of cancer survivors: young adults. I wish there wasn't a need for my job, but at the same time, I couldn't picture doing anything else.
It's always a horrendous experience when you are told you are going to lose a body part. I unfortunately know way too many people who have had this happen during cancer treatment. But there's a little extra slap in the face when reproductive parts are in the equation.
It's only when you stop resisting change and make the best of the moment, "without knowing what's going to happen next," that the universe supports you to create inspired healing, wellness, and live-out-loud joy.
As I meditate on the impact that illness has had on my life, I realize I'm a better, more grateful woman today because of cancer. I was asleep at the wheel before cancer shook me awake. And though there's still no cure, I continue to live harmoniously with cancer.
I was 22 years old on the brink of graduating from one of the top musical theater programs in the nation, when I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I thought I was Superman, and my super power was my singing voice. Until, that is, the kryptonite lodged itself into my body.
You might wonder why I've decided to write, rather than just curse you in silence. Writing to you certainly won't make my Valentine better. But there's a small chance it might resonate with someone noticing a change in his own body and convince him to bring his concerns to his doctor.
One hospital stay left me confined to the walls of a very small room, no one allowed to enter without wearing a mask, gloves and a gown. But what quarantine couldn't take away was the connections I could make with my writing.
Cancer can take your strength, or your leg, or your breast, or your hope. It can also take your soul if you let it. Do whatever you have to do to keep that from happening. Get up... again, and again, and again.
The conversation with my daughter was the hardest one I've had. The topics were gut-wrenching. But shining the light on them, on this disease, on what happens next, is the only way I know to cope, to help, to keep going.
A golden rule that we learned in kindergarten is still a golden rule: Honesty is the best policy. Both of my boys, ages 6 and 4, know that I had cancer, and they know that I have to get checked every year to make sure that it doesn't come back.
Cancer patients tend to bond with the pain they've gone through. They identify with their greatest pain because it's also their greatest victory. But you are not the car you drive, you are not how much money you have in the bank, you are not your khakis, and you are not your cancer.
After months of chemo and radiation, I walked out of my last day of chemo and radiation and was so excited, thinking it was all finally over. Physically, I was feeling better each day. But mentally, I was fighting a whole new battle. It was harder for me to relate to kids my own age.
There's no manual for dating with chronic illness -- there's no easy way to integrate your sick universe with the healthy without causing friction. You will feel the friction. You will be angry. But bravery is forging ahead anyway.
We're supposed to be in the prime of our lives; we're not supposed to get sick. But my cancer was misdiagnosed for over a year, and all the while my disease progressed inside of me. Doctors must be more aware that young people can, and do, get cancer.