The Cancer Conundrum
I’ve been wanting to write about this for a while, but haven’t really had a chance to organize my thoughts enough. (I typically like to outline my blogs before I sit down with them and crank them out)
I decided for this one, screw it, I’m just going to let it come out organically.
This is such a sensitive and intimate topic for me. I rarely share my cancer-feelings. I don’t like putting myself into any sort of “victim” profile, but I think this side of my heart should be shared.
I have a theory, more of a conundrum of the way I view cancer.
It sucks. So much. Oh my God, does it suck. It is a destroyer. It destroys cells, mutates them, manipulates an entire living organism and can ultimately destroy that being entirely. A person, a family, doctors and nurses, an entire community. It can ravage lives apart, within as much time from the course of decades to a couple of weeks. All depending, of course, on when you catch it and how it’s decided to behave.
Cancer had a chance to destroy me. It destroyed a part of me that I will never get back. When we fought back with experimental chemotherapy trials, the destruction went deeper. It destroyed my hair. My skin. My nails. My appetite. The race to destruction started being confused between treatment and the actual tumor. It destroyed my immune system. It burned holes in my esophagus. It drowned me, filled my lungs with fluid. It punctured me. I had holes and tubes coming out of my hands, arms, legs, stomach and even my heart. It stabbed me, over 36 times with anesthesia and under the surgical knife. It collapsed my colon. It damaged my kidneys. It infected my stomach, and ate away at my organs. I withered me away into a young, frail, bald, cold skeleton. While it kept trying to destroy me, the tumor stayed strong. It didn’t die. Not even a little bit. Not at all. It scared me. But it did not succeed.
At the age of 9, it destroyed the world as I knew it. It was the worst. It was so awful. I feel really stupid when other “normal” life problems I encounter bother me, when all I should do is read the words above. Normal “problems” are so stupid. It was worse than words can describe. It didn’t just scare me. It scared my family. It scared my doctors. It scared everyone I ever knew.
My cancer wasn’t the only bad one. Cancers of every shape and size destroyed friends I made while I was sick, and plenty after. It robs us of loved ones. It takes away many of our beloved animals. It leaves us scarred, damaged, broken, and disabled. I hate it. I truly, truly hate it.
It was over 15 years ago, and I can remember it like it just happened. Every sense can go back to the ICU rooms and relive the horror that I discovered on this planet. Hell isn’t some place you go to when you die, it’s a place in which you are imprisoned while you’re dying.
Everyone I have ever met has been impacted by cancer one way or another… And this is going to go for an odd turn because as much as cancer destroys, it also creates.
It creates so much. So many lifelong friendships. It creates solidarity where many people would often be strangers. It brings energy into communities that have grown exponentially. It educates. It creates appreciation for every moment. It creates gratitude, for our bodies, our minds, and the bodies and minds of everyone we know. It teaches us patience. It creates hope and shines light in some of the darkest places imaginable. It bonded my (totally demented but also hilarious) family. Most importantly, it creates opportunities. AMAZING opportunities. It brings life into existence. It transcends “cancer world” back to the real world, and even reaches boundaries beyond that. Without it, my life as I know it would never exist.
For every instance I suffered during cancer, in my post-cancer life, it created a greater memory to match it. It gave me all of the people I am surrounded by in my life now. It gave me traveling opportunities. Opportunities to try new sports I would have never tried. It gave me an abundance of courage. It strengthened me. It gave me excitement in monotony.
For each day I spent alone in a sterile hospital room, it gave me that time to find my spark. What gets me going, where my strength comes from. And at such an early age, I was blessed to be empowered by it. And I over came it. I beat it.
It wanted to play chicken with me, and you better believe I played back. It knew I was scared. It knew that I, and even my family, were not going to have me leave that hospital with only one leg; disabled.
That was not an option. So we fought. Hard. But much like many plans in life, we found out the absolute worst option was really our only option. So it dared us, and we took it. And on a leap of faith, we signed the dotted line and had the doctors cut.
And I left that hospital with only one leg; not disabled but enabled.
I hate it. I really do. I don’t know if anything in life is worth hating more than cancer. But as much as it destroyed; it’s replaced everything with infinite creation.
It’s such a conflicting feeling when I really sit down with the concept. How can you resent and hate something but also be tremendously grateful for it?
My life isn’t easy. I know that every day when I get up, it will always have to take more effort than most people. And that’s a cold, hard, fact. Maybe sometimes that’s the reason why I feel so separate from so many people.
It is also what I share with plenty of others that I’ve now met along the way. Those bonds can never be broken.
But then again, no one’s life is easy. We all have our own “cancer.” Everyone carries a cross, and mine just happened to have a clinical name of “Synovial Sarcoma” (has a nice little ring to it, I think) What’s your cancer?
My life is so enriched because of cancer. (How weird is that?!) And although I am one of the few to make it out of the particular type I had, not everyone is as lucky. Not everyone makes a getaway as clean as mine. I fought, I battled, and when it was safe I ran and never looked back.
Please take a moment, and just look at your life, and rejoice. Every moment should be celebrated. It’s an incredible life you live. It’s a miracle just to have each breath. Everyone should be so lucky.
If you’re into praying or not, please take a moment to send some good vibes to my friend K Mac.
I decided to write this since his health kind of took a nose dive. I met Kyle last year through some of the guys I trained with in Colorado. While I don’t know Kyle like my boys do from being on the track team with him at CU, he and I became quick friends. He reached out to me because, well, cancer. Obvs. He and I both had soft tissue tumors, which is very rare. It’s extremely rare to meet someone who survives it, and it’s even MORE rare if that person is not a senior citizen. (No offense to the wiser-minded people out there, but the young-cancer-experience is extremely unique) He is such a vibrant dude. He has been done with treatment (finally) for a little, but Christmas day he had a stroke and an aneurism. He has yet to wake up, but he has had a FLOOD of support through this time.
Here is the most recent article on his progress
If you wish to help his family with financial costs here is the GoFundMe
Cancer didn’t win because of my amputation. I didn’t win because of my amputation. I won because in the battle, I found a source of infinite strength. Kyle beat cancer, because during his battle, he’s found his source of infinite strength. And he’s a damn good fighter.
We’re cheering for you, Kyle.
Thank you. So well written. My daughter is a survivor. Ewings Sarcoma was her cancer. She is in CO. She had her treatment at PSL. She is the most amazing young woman. 20 now and this spring will be 5 years clear! She told me once that cancer was the best thing that ever happened to her in her life. Difficult to understand but this helps.
I had squamous cell carcinoma in my lower rt. leg and had my leg removed above the knee. It’s been 9 months since my surgery. I am sorry you had to endure such a horrific experience at such a young age. I was fortunate to live 67 yrs before going through my experience. I can remember the panic that hit before they took it. I finally just embraced the fear and realized that if I didn’t awake from this surgery I’d never know it (as the person I am) and if I did I’d plunge forward. I remember opening my eyes and looking around and the relief was so great that everything else took a back seat. After 9 months I’m still not walking all by myself but I’m getting there. Now winter is setting in which makes it more difficult. I really thought they just give me my C leg and I’d just walk out of the office. Lol. I’m still getting over that reality but every day is better. I admire all the kids who just move ahead and make it look so easy but I’m thankful I had my beloved leg for 67 years. Hazel is my sweet short leg that needs me to care for her and keep her healthy and I will be there for her. Thank you for sharing your story bit helps the rest of us to stay strong and to fight back.