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Cancer…one word comprised of six letters that has the power to bring down a grown man. Cancer became a part of my vocabulary in 1976. It was this year that cancer took my mother away…a beautiful, 26 year-old wife and mother of 2 young children. I am still brought to tears every time I talk about her.

You see, my mom was a DES-daughter. DES (Diethylstilbestrol) was administered to expectant mothers between 1938 and 1971. There are many reasons as to why this drug was administered, and I am unsure as to why it was prescribed to my grandmother. What I do know is the effect it had on my mother.

Me and Mom_editedMy mother was diagnosed with an aggressive malignant tumor on her ovary which quickly spread throughout her body. From the time she was diagnosed to the time of her passing…6 months. I remember her being sick; I remember her losing her hair and wearing wigs; I remember her beautiful smile; I remember my father picking me up from school the day of her surgery and telling me that she was gone.

I truly did not understand the impact of her passing until I reached my 26th birthday. I awoke in sheer panic. That year was the longest year of my life. As unreasonable as it sounds, I lived in fear that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and not live to see my 27th birthday. Needless to say, I was very much relieved when that day came around.

I was assured by doctors that the type of cancer that had stricken my mother was very rare and that my chances of receiving the same diagnosis were very slim, if at all. Despite that, the thought of being diagnosed with cancer was always in the back of my mind. Well, now cancer is a part of my medical history.

During an MRI to determine the cause of my sciatica, the radiologist discovered a mass on my right kidney. A CT scan later revealed a 3 cm tumor. Due to it’s appearance, I was informed that there was a 50-50 chance it was malignant. My worst fears had come true. Labs showed my kidneys and liver function was normal and x-rays indicated no metastasis. Surgery was scheduled and, on June 9, 2015, a robotic laparoscopic partial nephrectomy was performed to remove the tumor and a portion of my kidney.

The Unexpected

As I was recovering in the hospital, the unexpected happened. Despite my sense of fear twenty years earlier, I felt a sense of calm come over me…a peacefulness, if you will. I was not scared; instead, I came to realize that I need to focus on the positives in life and to let go of the little things that previously caused me stress.

Prior to my release from the hospital, the surgeon shared the pathology report with me — Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma. Though expected, seeing the words on paper crushed me. It took all my strength not to break down. It wasn’t real until it was in print.

As my recovery continued throughout the summer, I noticed that I faced situations in a whole new light. Rather than being quick to react or get upset, it was if I was looking down from above and realizing that staying positive was the best solution. Frustrations that angered me before were faced with positivity. A friend used the term “revamping my priorities” and that’s exactly what I was doing.

As difficult as it was, I have removed people and situations from my life that brought on undue stress and negativity. No longer do I spend time and energy on people who have toxic personalities. My health, my family, and my true friends…these are my priorities, the important things in my life, and the things that deserve my positive energy.

Yes, I had cancer. However, I do not consider myself a survivor. I was a victim of a terrible disease. In no way does my experience compare to the millions of people, to include far too many family members and friends, for whom cancer has taken a much greater toll. I am, however, a person who was changed by cancer, not physically, but emotionally. And, just as there are different types of cancer, so are the reactions of those afflicted — some people become angry, some people are in denial, some people are accepting, some people appear completely unaffected.

Cancer…one word consisting of 6 letters that has the power to affect change in even the strongest of people.

3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Ann Addison / March 24, 2016 at 12:23 pm /Reply

    I have become paranoid. I think cancer is the answer to every problem. My first experience was in 2004, second one in 2006. Different kinds of breast cancer. Third time metastasis to bone in 2012. Fourth time to liver. I try to say to myself you have survived 11 years, still living alone, driving taking care of my dogs. Just recently it’s in my sternum. Pray that I stay positive. Now that I’m 80. I should be thankful.

    • Anti-Cancer Club
      Anti-Cancer Club / March 24, 2016 at 3:29 pm /Reply

      Ann,

      Thank you for your transparency in sharing your lived experience with cancer and in these present moments. I appreciate your use of paranoid as I think most of us who have faced or are facing a cancer diagnosis have some degree of paranoia whether we admit it or not. Life-threatening illness often requires nerves of steel which most of us do not have.

      Your feelings are your feelings whether thankful, angry, scared, content, or otherwise; ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ ought not be brought to bear on our emotional responses to illnesses of this nature.

      Again, I thank you for sharing yourself, your life with us.

    • Avatar
      Anna / March 27, 2016 at 11:36 pm /Reply

      Mrs. Addison,

      I had no idea of your history with cancer. It seems you are still the strong lady I remember as my teacher in high school. Paranoid…that is a good way to describe it. It seems that, regardless of how we live our lives, cancer finds a way in. It would be wonderful to live in a world free from cancer, free from the fear of cancer, free from the effects of cancer.

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