Things I wish I knew when diagnosed with Cancer

Flickr User Julie Leuthold

Flickr User Julie Leuthold

#1: I needed to know that my Cancer was not my fault.

I needed to know that I did not do something wrong.  God did not do this to me.  It is not that I am not loved or unlucky.  It happens!  Cancer does not discriminate.  It is a disease that happens to the most conscious and unconscious being.  And I was not dying that day, that weekend, that week and mostly likely not that month.  I know there are cases in which one is diagnosed and passes away fairly soon.  However, that is not the norm.

#2. I would have liked to know that there was nothing to fear.

I would have liked to know that there was nothing to fear.  I was not dying in my sleep that night.  And I did not have to be reactive with treatment.  Sure my case was serious and I need to get medical care sooner than later.  But I needed to pause.  Yes, you can pause.  You can breathe.  Take a step back and process what was really said during the diagnosis.

I had the privilege to not start treatment the same day.  The fear and the adrenaline were running high.  The doctor told me, “you have Stage IV Breast Cancer” and when I asked, “how many stages are there,” I was told “four- your case is terminal.”  I panicked. Yet at the same time, a miraculous calm came over me.  I was diagnosed on a Friday and I had my father’s birthday party to attend, so my courageous husband and I decided to wait through the weekend to think about our options.

I called on friends for help to help me find options regarding my care.  I did not know anything about Cancer and the fear of chemo was great.  I feared chemo was more deadly than the disease.  I simply did not know anything about about treatment. Why would I?  I decided to take my power and prayed for guidance.  I knew at my core that God did not give me Cancer but that God could guide me towards true healing.

I spent the next three to four weeks “interviewing” various oncology doctors and praying for a sign as to whom should I pick as my healer.  I realized early on that my oncologist was going to be in my life for a very long time, so I’d better pick someone I could trust, like and understand what they were doing.

I needed God to guide me. And God did guide me; I chose very well.  I refer to my doctor as my second mother.  She quickly tuned into my personality and needs.  She has patiently worked with me and held my hand.  I was not an easy case.  Because I took my time to research and find the right doctor and treatment for me, I was lucky enough to start my treatment as part of a medical trial.  I was able to get medications that were not on the market but proven to be effective.

I also was very afraid of the effects of the medications.  The doctors and the nurses spoke to me about the pre, during and post-effects of the chemo, but I could not intellectually assimilate.  I kept getting flash backs to scenes from the movie Dying Young  and the pain that man went though. I was scared.

When I eventually started treatment and experienced all of the side effects, I finally realized that it was manageable. It was not fun by any means–but it was doable.  I experienced a lot of pain and discomfort, but I got through it.  I was surprised at how physically strong and spiritually resilient I was.  I also know that it is God’s presence that carried me through the worst moments.

#3. I would have liked to know the truth about the hair loss part.

The next fear was what was it going to be like to lose my hair.  I wanted someone to talk to me about it and give me the real details.  All I got was a bunch of recommendations for wigs.  I was told to cut my hair so that when it started fall out it wouldn’t be too traumatic for me or wreak havoc on the shower drain. I was also told that my hair could grow back grey or a different texture than before. All this was not enough; I wanted more and more details. I wanted to know how long I would be bald, but I never got a single direct answer. Instead, people shrugged and said, “it all depends.”

#4. I would have liked to meet someone like me.

I would have loved to have met and talked to someone who had recovered from Cancer and was doing just fine.  I wanted to see and hear success stories.  I needed hope.  I needed someone to put my case in perspective.

#5. I would have liked to feel more hopeful in the beginning.

The medical prognosis was alarming, and so were the gasps I heard from people when I mentioned I had Cancer.  I would have liked the opposite; fewer gasps and statistics. I would have liked more compassion and hope.

The kindest comments came from my doctor who said, “Aleyda, pray because I am and we are hoping for a curative intent.”  My friend Maribel told me, “You are fine. You are going to be just fine. God has a plan for you and many people survive.”  I clung to these words of hope as if they were my water canister in the middle of a desert.

Bless you on your journey…

 

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