3 days ago I lost a dear friend to cancer. 3 days ago I became a 10 year survivor of the same type of cancer that claimed the life of my friend. Life has a way of bitch slapping a face. I had gotten to know my friend Mac through social media. Even with its addictive nature, social media is very good for connecting those who never would have connected. After my diagnosis I searched long and hard to find somebody, anybody that had gone through what I was experiencing and had come out on the other side unscathed. Doctors warned me not to look for others as they were few and far between. I had the misfortune of being diagnosed with a type of cancer where most patients died. I was a rarity. Being a rarity puts one in an uncomfortable pit of aloneness. At the suggestion of others I spent a moment in support groups for folks with cancer. Listening to stories of chemotherapy nightmares when I had not suffered that fate or listening to patients with stage 4 cancers speak of their impending deaths caused me to need a support group from the support group. It was not a fit and again I was alone. Well meaning friends led me to women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to scream “I did not have breast cancer.”
Guilt can come at us in many shapes and the guilt I was experiencing for surviving was all consuming. I was the one who had been tapped to survive. The whys are never answered at least for me they have not been. Watching others fight so hard and so long can become a sore spot in the eyes. I was the one who chose early morning doctor appointments to avoid seeing the bald heads and the sallow skin of those that would join the ranks of the dying. I was the one who brow beat the sonographers after each exam to give me an early hint of the results. I was the one who searched every forum or website related to cancer for a hint of a positive outcome. I was the one who was not dealing very well with the beast. I was in full mode avoidance and did not want to admit the fear I was feeling. I was running. I figured if I kept running and only seeing the good, I could outrun my fear, rein in the monster that was nipping at my heels. The night I hit the wall was a night I faced the fear and realized I could have died but I was going to live. My life had become a game of waiting and living from one follow up until the next. I had learned to hold my breath and felt release after every exam said I would survive until the next time. With the help of a good therapist I began to understand what I was doing was not living but existing in a state of waiting for the other shoe to fall, when the beast would finally win.
My friends who have stepped over to the other side taught me a great deal. I will not say they lost the battle. They were not fighting. They were living all along with courage, strength and determination. I learned by watching them that courage and faith are our greatest ally. We cannot avoid the inevitable no matter how often we turn our heads or change our appointments. Thank you Mac, Weicy and Jo for your gift of helping me to see.