Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What does it mean to be a Cancer Survivor?

Those of you who have had Cancer will know what I am talking about. Those of you who have loved someone who has had Cancer will guess what I am talking about. But those of you who have never had Cancer and have been blessed with friends and family who never had Cancer, can only wonder.

For the first several years after having Breast Cancer, I was scheduled to be checked every 3 months for the possibility of a recurrence. I would go into my oncologist office and would have my blood drawn, my weight taken and a breast exam done. I would then go to the Breast Center and have my mammogram and wait for the word. In the beginning I would get a call. "All clear!" I'd say phew (realizing I hadn't exhaled since going in) and then go have a glass of champagne.

About a year after I had my surgery, on the same side where I had my Cancer I felt a huge lump. It hurt somewhat and I worried that it might be something I didn't want to know about. But I went straight to my surgeon and asked her to take a look. She said "Hey I don't think it is anything, but bet you would feel better if we just removed it. Am right?" And of course she was right. I didn't want to even think about it at all. The lump was scar tissue and quite benign.

About 2 years into the survival I had some strange symptoms form the Tamoxifen I was taking. I was having some unexplained bleeding (which could be uterine Cancer, a side effect for some people on this drug). I went into my OBGYN and told him I wanted a hysterectomy. I didn't want to ever hear the word Cancer again. So I had a complete hysterectomy... and took care of that worry.

As time passed, the length of time between checks have gotten longer.

But still each year I go to the oncologist, visit my gynecologist and keep a close eye on my one remaining breast. I do self exams, I follow up when I think something has changed, because I do not to ever hear the words "You have Cancer" again.

When a friend has had Cancer you hold your breath along with them through each scare, through each step. You survive together. You celebrate together when things are all clear...and if you are REALLY really lucky, you fight the fight against this disease together.

The best thing I have ever done for my survival is to walk in the 3 day.
With each step I take I am walking further and further away from the disease that almost took my life. With each dollar I raise I know I am helping to find the cure for this killer in my lifetime. And the thing is, in that crowd of walkers there are people just like you. They know what it takes to survive.

Walking with another survivor, especially your dear friend, you realize just how much power you have. You realize that power is multiplied by the strength of those who walk with you.

Today... I am going to drink a glass of champagne, for my friend and for me... because we are FIERCE, MIGHTY, SURVIVORS!

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