I had cancer – several times. Though I thought it was the same recurring, my physicians said, after two 5 year hiatuses, it was a new cancer – until the final four years; then, it was a recurrence. I did not have breast cancer. My cancer was and is not glamorized nor even addressed in the mainstream media. My hope is someone, somewhere, shares their years long breakthrough with other researchers so others won’t lose part of their tongue, or neck, or clear speech, or swallow….
I’m also a nurse, an RN, who uses the stethoscope around my neck, which I bought; it is purple on purpose – a physician won’t long borrow it in such a color. I see people “surviving” terrible illnesses every day, yet they are not called survivors nor heroes (that now ubiquitous word, the true meaning of which is being lost in almost everyone being a “hero” these days). They lean on family and healthcare workers, they depend on insurance, family, church, and government assistance to survive and when there is none, they often die or come close to death because they cannot afford their medicine or the gas to get to the physician.
After and during my cancers, treatment, and side effect treatments still occurring, I rescued and now foster dogs, preferably Beagles. I drive transport legs, so one to three dogs get to a better home or rescue from a kill shelter or backyard neglect. I train my dogs in my home. They learn to become dogs again, not things, not beaten, not ignored, but treasured. As a now foster home, I collaborate with several Beagle rescues as a short term foster home for those close to me till a foster there is available. Then, the fosters move on to their longer term rescue foster or to their new home.
I am not just cancer, yet the effects of my disease affect me every day. I’m done with cancer. I support many venues, but I won’t, I don’t Pink Up. I don’t need to be reminded and pulled around a walk every year. Of course, I donate, but I donate to systems where the research and need is actually supported and met, like the Michael J. Fox Foundation, Pets of the Homeless, Partners in Health….I listen, and I try to hear the back story to my patients’ pain and treatment, to understand and appreciate that “all behavior has meaning” every shift I work, and in my community at large.
I’m done with cancer as a definition of me…and yet, it always will be so. I’m try to keep it at bay as much as I can. I just want to be a normal person…and I never will be again.
The most charming comments on my change in appearance and sound came from a 3 y/o girl at my vet’s office (sometimes my second home!). She walked up to me and said, “You have a crooked face.” “Yes, I do, ” I replied. She gasped and said, “You have a crooked voice, too!” and I smiled as her dad got all apologetic. “Please,” I said, “she means no harm, she is making a simple observation…and a charming one at that.” Out of the mouths of babes. I don’t Pink Up – everyone carries a burden; if not now, later in life. Carpe diem. Or, at my house, carpe osseous (seize the bone).