Today is my 4th cancerversary — the anniversary of the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I’m sharing a post I wrote over at my new site, ParentingWithCancer.com, especially for those of you who have been following along at home. Thanks for your well wishes over the years.
My attitude didn’t kick cancer’s butt. The chemotherapy and radiation did.
Four years ago today, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and now, I am cancer-free. I underwent six rounds of chemo, two of them five-day infusions of some of the biggest, baddest chemo drugs, in the hospital. Also, five weeks of radiation when the biggest, baddest chemo drugs left behind a sliver of the 6-inch tumor in my chest.
My go-fight-win attitude didn’t make my cancer go away, but here’s what it did do:
- It got me to leave a local hospital that was working to start chemo for what they thought was Hodgkin’s (a.k.a. the “good” cancer), when really, I had the “bad” cancer.
- It made other people feel more comfortable, because I could laugh about my situation, most notably with a Wacky Wig Contest in which friends and family sent me ridiculous wigs to cover my bald head. Then, the Internet voted on them.
- It made my illness easier on my children, who continued to look to me for emotional support and a sense of normal (all while the entire house was under construction at the same time.)
- It got my butt out of bed, so that the contractors wouldn’t stumble upon a bald, drooling woman on their way to tile the master bathroom.
- It gave me hope.
But I was lucky. I had a “curable” cancer and proven therapies available from one of the best hospitals in New York City, if not in the country. I had good health insurance, thanks to my husband’s job. I had a neighborhood of people who cooked for us and took my kids to swim practice and for playdates. And I had a supportive and loving family. If I didn’t go-fight-win with all that on my side, what a shame that would have been.
And yet, I also cried and worried and feared that I wouldn’t still be here today. I suffered from agonizing bone pain that dropped me to my knees now and then — this for a woman who’d had natural childbirth. I’d catch a glimpse of my two sons running by the window as they played ball outside, and I’d pray that I would be here long enough to see them grow up.
At those moments, I wasn’t so tough at all. I wasn’t a warrior. I was just a parent with cancer. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay.
No, I am not a warrior. I am a survivor, and when it comes to beating cancer, attitude isn’t everything, nor is it the only thing.
Kicking cancer’s ass? That’s the best thing.