I originally posted this to the Wellspring Blog, decided to repost again to my own… lazy maybe but whatever, its my words so I figure it belongs on my personal blog. I have altered it slightly to reflect the difference in the time since my original post.
Funny how the mind works in life and what you think about and when. I am by no means any sort of writer – but like most people, I guess I think I am clever with words from time to time. So here is my first foray into writing something that I think I would like to share with all of you.
I have breast cancer, I was diagnosed just under 2 years ago with a rarer, aggressive type (HER+, ER/PR-, IBC) but we caught it in time at Stage 3 and I went thru a solid year of fairly heavy treatment commencing with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, surgery and radiation and a targeted therapy. I had great results and I was hopeful that this was a one & done cancer experience. But, as it turns out, that was not to be my path.
My journey is now continuing with a tumor showing up in my brain… and now a full 3 weeks post brain surgery (unreal to even consider) I am just still collecting my thoughts and feelings and obviously resting to prep for the new battle ahead, to quote Shawn Mendez – it isn’t in my blood to give up.
So, when I talk with people that maybe don’t have any experience with cancer and they find out you have cancer, sometimes you get the person that says their polite I am so sorry, that must be so hard… etc. I think we know the general words. Let me be clear, I am not at all judging, I have been one of those people prior to my diagnosis – I get it. Its a super uncomfortable topic and what the heck do you really say to someone facing a life altering illness??
The other half of people that you share this news with, maybe some have limited or arms reach experience, what I mean is that they have someone they are close to but are not the primary caregiver nor have had cancer themselves. I find often with these people -and I know they are doing their best to be encouraging – their answers always seem to be along the variety of them trying to tell you how their cancer person is fine and therefore you will also beat this…
Me answering in my mind: “Greaaaat, that is amazing but not really what I have going on, thanks so much for your prognosis… “
Me outloud: “yes, they have made amazing advances in Cancer treatment. Thank you”
This version of answer happens more often than not, and again I am not judging at all but I also try to find humor in everything, even if it is only the wry humor.
At my daughters last band concert , I literally had a lovely lady tell me that her brother had exactly what I am going thru right now…EXACTLY the same thing. I am thinking “oh really, he had breast cancer 2 years ago and now they suspect it has spread a metastatic tumor to his brain. hmmmm…. Isn’t that interesting!” She is very educated gal, warm & kind and I have nothing but respect for her… most importantly she plays an important role in my daughter’s life and I know she was trying to be encouraging – I really do see that.
But, I am also pretty positive that if I had asked even 1 specific question (and I am just spit ballin here because brain cancer is all new to me!) like “is it primary or secondary brain tumor?” – the blank look and confusion would have instantly washed over her face.
If I had to explain the disease of cancer to someone right now I would say having cancer is like having a car. Let’s look at this, there are many cars on this planet. If I was asked to stand up and talk about myself and instead of cancer I was to say I have a car – no one would be satisfied with that answer because the simple word of “car” is such a vague description in the context of the world of vehicles. Details would be needed, what kind of car, is it an SUV, A truck, a compact, gas, electric, hybrid? How big is it, which brand and which model… hopefully my little musing over this comparison is starting to spark some interest as you see where I am coming from.
I haven’t even brought up the age of the car, or how well was is maintained? Where are your driving this car – do we have a Lamborghini driving in rural Alberta on grid roads? Or do we possible have a motor bike in wintertime in K country.
That is cancer – even the same type of cancer is never the same, and unless you have been on this journey in an intimate way, it is so hard to even start to explain how complex it is to have and be treated for cancer. So I have decided that the next time I have to enter into one of those conversations, I think I am just going to begin with, I have cancer and I also have a car… both/either is so incredibly similar that if you want to know more, please think about all of cars in this world and let me know if you want to hear about my cancer diagnosis.