I believe that a cancer diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence.
When I first heard the radiologist’s words “It is malignant”, I honestly believed “This is it”.
I was 32 years old with stage III infiltrating ductal carcinoma in my right breast and 5 positive lymph nodes. My mother passed years before from the same disease. She was originally diagnosed at 32. I was the same age.
“We need to carry on like everything is normal,” I would say to my husband. But everything was far from normal. I had just started a new job and he had just returned to university. He hesitantly started classes and I started chemo. I lost my breast and my hair fell out. We stopped looking for our first house.
During my first weeks of therapy, after surgery, my conversation was fueled by the idea of my diagnosis. It was twisted entertainment for me to imagine what life would be like after I was gone. I was to be cremated, not embalmed. My funeral guest list and music was planned. My husband was to remarry after an appropriate grieving period.
One afternoon after describing the sites and sounds of my own demise, my husband interrupted me.
“Enough!” he said “ It really upsets me when you talk like that, like your diagnosis is some kind of death sentence.”
That last phrase put the end black daydreaming. The funeral planning ceased. I started back to work between my chemo treatments. We started looking for a house again. By suffocating my perpetual gloom, our future was resuscitated.
On the day of my last chemotherapy treatment, we signed mortgage papers for our first house. It has been over four years now since that apparently devistating phone call.
Now I speak about my cancer without fear. I do not wear pink ribbons or bracelets. I leave that to the people who do not have to host the disease like I do. My scars remind me that I own this disease. There is an army of people that I have come to know and love, who fight with me and refuse to lie down and stop living because of this disease. I survived the battle and live each day to rise victorious in this war, regardless of the outcome. Even if I eventually succumb to this disease, I know I didn’t allow it to kill my future, no matter how limited it may be. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence, and I refuse to lie down before it.
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