February 2016 is here, which means I'm a 10-year survivor of cancer. More than that, I have survived shock -- the shock of a mesothelioma diagnosis, of being told I had a few months to live. I have survived loss -- the loss of my health, the loss of a lung, the loss of an expected kind of life. I have survived the pursuit of justice, a pursuit that can never truly return what was taken. Above all, I have survived fear -- fear of losing my family, fear for my family's future, fear of dying.
If you've been reading my 10 Years In 10 Months series, you've witnessed all the moments of survival I just mentioned as each one was given its own chapter; you witnessed them alongside me as I remembered them. You also saw how, without my healing and treatment journey, and without the love and support from my family and dear friends, I wouldn't have been able to tell you my story. But what else? What else helped me survive? This is the focus of the last few chapters of my series.
I almost lost it once, but it was my faith in God that got me through the first years of surgery and treatment. I also had faith in my doctor, in medical science, and soon I had faith in myself. I had to believe in all these things -- in the drugs healing my body, in the possibility of getting better.
Faith in these things came easier with community. There was the support of the medical staff and my family, but I'm also talking about the mesothelioma community -- the people who knew firsthand what I was going through. As isolating as a cancer diagnosis can be, I grew to not feel alone. Soon, these other patients, other survivors, became my family. They are why I share my story.
And then there is the universal glue that holds us all together: hope. If I had no hope of surviving, of living a good life after a cancer diagnosis, I don't know where I would be today. Without hope, you're essentially giving up. This is why it has become my mission to share the hope of surviving with others.
This is what my survivorship, the last chapter of the series, is truly about.
I also share my story to spread awareness of mesothelioma, a rare disease caused by asbestos, a legal and lethal substance that needs to be banned. However rare my disease, I have learned that my journey of shock, loss, fear, faith, and hope is omnipresent. In all of these things, we are not alone.
Ultimately, this series encapsulates both how I survived and what I survived in an effort to spread hope. It is a 10-year time capsule that I plan on opening up again 10 years from now, and I hope others will come to find a sense of community if and when they choose to visit or revisit these chapters. If you have been following me on this journey already, I want to thank you from the bottom of my beating heart. As with most things, I can only hope that it somehow gives you what you need, for whatever struggle you find yourself in.