One Year Cancer Free… Again
I remember how cold the OR waiting room was a year ago. For whatever reason, the warm blankets weren’t cutting it that morning. Maybe it was the frigid temperatures of the hospital, or it possibly could have been that my nerves were fried and my body temperature off. Plus, the sterile wall paint color wasn’t helping calm me either.
My family was crammed into the tiny 12×12 space they allotted me. We had mom, dad, Mike, Nick, and I think at one point Mike’s parents joined us too. It was comforting yet scary. Looks of compassion, yet fear behind the glances. Everyone, including myself, hated that I was in that spot again. The tubes, tape, ugly hospital gown – we all hated that I had to go through it again. But what gets me is that we didn’t even realize what was to come.
The surgery went relatively “well” in surgery terms, except for that it kicked off a three-week extravaganza of me residing in a hospital bed after many complications and a second surgery. Apparently removing almost all of your large intestines through a major colon surgery isn’t always a four-day cake walk. For some, it is. Unfortunately, I drew the small stick that day because in addition to a physical “hospital-esque” beating, I was handed my second diagnosis of colon cancer.
I struggled going into surgery. I had a heavy feeling that I was entering something much more than just life without colon. And after my pathology reports confirmed that the polyp-in-question was indeed colon cancer again, I understood why something inside of me just didn’t feel right.
You know, cancer is a beast. It’s scary, confusing and just mind-blowing. And although today marks a day where I “should be” celebrating that I’m “one year cancer free… again” I just see it differently this time. I’ve had a one-year cancer free anniversary before, it was in January 2002 and this upcoming year I will have been a 10 year survivor. But today feels so different than any other cancer anniversary I’ve had. It is joyous and exciting, but it’s also emotionally difficult because as much as I want to celebrate it, I don’t feel “cancer free.” My CEA levels and path reports may indicate it, but my heart doesn’t feel it. And I’m not sure that it will ever get back to feeling quite right.
I say all of this not to be a bummer, nor gather a crowd to feel bad for me. But I say it to be real, and to hopefully encourage any other survivors or caregivers out there who are going through the same thing. Today I celebrate that I’m only in a routine of check-ups and that I’m able to live a “normal” life … from the outside. I celebrate that I’m not hooked up to a chemo bag nor sent through a radiation tube each week, and that I haven’t been for nearly 9 years. I rejoice that we found the cancer early one year ago, and that it was completely removed with surgery.
But I also pray today for what’s to come. I pray that as much as I wish that this cancer book would just close, I have the strength to realize that it probably never will. I pray that I can put on the “armor” I need to stand strong and keep fighting it off when it continually tries to come back. And I pray that the further and further out from the cancer diagnosis I get, and the more and more I realize what being a cancer survivor really means, I’ll keep believing it’s why I’m here in the first place and find my joy in that.