Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lessons I've Learned From Cancer In One Week

 It has taken a few days for the diagnosis to sink in.  At first I thought they possibly had my pathology results mixed up with someone else.  Every doctor I spoke with in the first days of this journey would tell me how surprised they were with the pathology.  I heard over and over how this type of cancer is generally found in older men, drinkers and smokers.  I am not a man, don’t smoke and only drink occasionally.  I refuse to call myself old so surely the pathologist confused my results with someone else. Maybe there was some poor old 70 year old man out there with cancer who didn’t know it because he had received my pathology results.  That could happen right?

During my first visit to UNC Hospital, I knew I was there because I have cancer but the radiology nurse was the first one to actually use the words “You are here because you have esophageal cancer.”  I think she was afraid I might hit her when she said it.  It was like she had just slapped me in the face without warning.  I had spent the past week reading everything I could find on the subject and I was ready for what they would tell me, or so I thought.  I handled myself well in the consultation.  I didn’t cry or scream or even throw things.  I listened to the doctor’s advice, the plan for treatment, the procedure of the surgery, recovery, after treatment and how it would change my life afterward.  I was composed as we talked about what to expect.  I was calm when I explained it to others during the next days.  It was almost like I was explaining the situation of someone I knew, not my own diagnosis.

Then the reality hit me yesterday.  I’m not discussing the condition of a friend.  This is me, my life, my diagnosis, my cancer, my fight. Cancer is inside of my body and it is trying to take me down.  I hear about someone battling cancer almost everyday.  It affects everyone I know in some way.  When you hear a friend or relative has been diagnosed you hurt for them, you want to help, you say you are sorry and you think you understand……but yesterday I realized I never really understood until it was me.

I am just beginning this battle.  The doctor’s have been honest in saying this is going to be a difficult battle.  Esophageal cancer is a tough one because you pretty much need your esophagus to live and they are removing mine.  I have a long way to go, but in the past week I’ve learned my first lessons from cancer.

 25 Things I Never Knew Before Cancer

  1. Cancer is just a word for something going on in your body.  It doesn’t define who you are.
  2. It is ok to be scared.  Cancer is a scary word.
  3. It is ok to be angry.  Cancer can be a bitch and you have to learn to be a bigger bitch.
  4. People want to help, but you often don’t know how to let them. You have to learn to accept help.
  5. When you are diagnosed with cancer, your whole family is diagnosed.
  6. You will find friends and support in people and places you never imagined.
  7. Some people will disappear and that’s ok.
  8. The things you worried about the day before you had cancer don’t really matter so much now.
  9. The people who didn’t like you for whatever past reason don’t really matter now.
  10. Life doesn’t stop because you have cancer.
  11. Doctors don’t always agree with each other so you need to use your instincts about your body and ask questions.
  12. Prayer works, even when others have to pray for you because you are angry with God at the moment.
  13. Sometimes people ask strange or stupid questions, but they are just curious.
  14. Sometimes people say strange or stupid things, but they are just confused.
  15. Anybody can get cancer. Cancer is not picky.
  16. Everyone makes mistakes, nobody is perfect.
  17. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, so you’d better get everything out of life you can.
  18. Life is too short to not take chances.
  19. You can be replaced at work when you aren’t there, no matter how invaluable you think you are.
  20. You never know how much you love someone until you realize your time with them may be limited.
  21. Pathology and ultrasounds usually don’t lie.
  22. Doctors sometimes struggle with telling you that you have the “C Word”, no matter how professional or smart they are.
  23. You never know how strong you are until you have to gather all the strength you have to get through a storm.
  24. You are loved no matter how many times you have felt unloved.
  25. You can fight harder than you ever thought when you have no other choice.  You can beat cancer.

I’m sure there are more lessons to come and that’s ok.  I’m learning I can handle much more than I ever imagined because I have the best family, friends and support in the world.


  1. Just remember it's okay if you can't pray right now. God knows your heart and desires. Just don't forget that He is with you and He doesn't get mad when your hurt, scared and angry. HE just doesn't want us to turn away! :)

  2. I've read at least twice in your posts that you didn't know how many people cared about you. I am glad that you know now how much you are loved. I am just sad it took this for you to know. Your cancer has already taught me a lesson...make sure people know you love them. Take nothing for granted.
    Always on my mind, in my heart and at the forefront of my prayers