Year of first diagnosis: 2009
Kind of cancer: follicular non-hodgkin’s lymphoma
- 1. What was your initial reaction to hearing “You have cancer”?
I went deaf and blind; stunned into a deer-in-the headlights freeze. I recall mental numbness and a sense of being present but absent at the same time. My ability to think and analyze went AWOL.
Fear. I was diagnosed in Nov. 2009. Soon after I recall being outside marveling at a towering, twinkling Christmas tree with my family and wondering whether I would be around next year to see it with them.
- 2. What has been your greatest learning experience?
Cancer has taught me nothing ever turns out the way I envision it so there’s no point in telling myself scary stories. How I respond to what happens to me is a choice. Make plans but let go of expectations which are building blocks of disappointment.
Dwell in possibility. Say yes to opportunity and do it now. Later doesn’t come for everybody. Pay it forward. Reach out to help someone in CancerLand as someone has reached out to help you. My mantra: What I do this day is very important because I am trading a day of my life for it.
- 3. What has proved most helpful for you in staying with the process?
I knew I had no choice, crap shoot that treatment was and always is. Choosing not to be treated would be signing my own death sentence. It was fight or flight, and flight was not an option. As Winston Churchill once put it, “If you’re going through hell, just keep going.”
- 4. What resources (people, places, books) have offered the greatest support?
My two families: biological and my family of friends.
- 5. Has your own spirituality been enhanced or lessened by cancer?
Enhanced exponentially. Morning and night I express gratitude for the special people in my life and for those second chances I’ve been given.
- 6. What would you say to someone who was diagnosed with cancer today?
You are stronger than you think you are, and you are not alone. Life will look much different a year from now. The right diagnosis is the key to everything: Ask to have your biopsies analyzed at a major cancer center.
Take a friend who has had cancer to all appointments with your oncologist. Her ears are not blocked by fear and her brain is not on information overload.
Ask your doctor if there is a clinical trial which might be a treatment option. Laugh a lot because it unnerves the cancer but actually primes your body to fight it. No matter what the cancer might do to your physical body, it cannot touch the essence of who you are!