I read a post on a friend’s caring bridge site the other day that really brought some things into perspective. She really said some things that made me think about my situation regarding cancer and some of things that make my situation so real. Her words were “please God, I don’t want to die young”. I think reading those words made me realize just how hard it is to have cancer as a young person. Of course, I’m not saying that having cancer when you’re older is any better – but it is different. You’ve likely had the chance to have children, purchase your SECOND home, celebrate your 10-year wedding anniversary, etc… There is so much life lived between the ages of 30 and 60 (the age after which breast cancer is more commonly diagnosed). I couldn’t agree with my Young Survivor friend more, I so badly don’t want to die young. There are so many things I want to do in my life from here, places I want to see, people I want to meet, and chances I need to have.
The truth is, the last month I have been really great at forgetting that I have cancer. I started a new job at Chemeketa Community College and I feel like I’ve really started over. I don’t think about cancer at work like I did before. I guess probably because my office and my surroundings don’t remind me of the chemo days and the hours spent getting radiation. I’ll never forget receiving the “you have cancer” phone call while standing behind my desk at work. I walked out of my office door only to find that everyone else had left for a moment. I was hysterical and fell into my friend Sue’s arms as soon as she came back. WOU was cancer to me and walking away has re-affirmed my life pre-cancer. But its not just work, home has felt less cancerous as well. I’ve been exercising in the mornings and doing agility. I have hair on my head and my clothes are slowly starting to fit again. When I look in the mirror I don’t see the cancer anymore. I know September’s surgery will be the last step in feeling normal again. The thing is, that I don’t feel like the pre-cancer me exactly. I feel like a better version of that person. Like I’ve learned so much about life that can’t be learned in any other way. I feel like I appreciate the people around me more and the chances I’ve been given. It’s my daily reminder to not take anything for granted.
Dr. Luoh said to me this morning that he wanted to watch my bone density because I’m going to be around for another 50 or 60 years. Even though I know he probably doesn’t really believe that, I’m taking it to heart and I’m going to run with it. I’m going to have the most amazing 50 or 60 years ever lived. I can’t reiterate my friend’s comment enough: I don’t want to die young.
So I suppose the positive take away is that cancer is becoming less and less the center of my life. I recently celebrated my one-year cancerversary. A year ago, I didn’t know if I would see that day. I don’t want to be too confident for fear that my confidence would bring the cancer-back (yes, I know confidence isn’t what causes cancer, but I’m superstitious). So, I’ll say that its always in the back of my mind, but is no longer the forefront of my world.
To all of the women who are diagnosed young, please remember that there is every chance in the world that we’ll survive this. Don’t look at the statistics – those are made from events in the past. The future is yet to be written and it’s ours to write. There are amazing people out there working for our cure – keep on pushing through and don’t ever give up. I plan to see you all in 50 or 60 years.