Tag Archives: cancer

The Haunting of Reocurrence

Emotions play a huge role in the life of a cancer patient. From the moment you are diagnosed, fear sets in. So much to fear…surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. These were all unknowns when I set off on my cancer journey. Fear had set in. The unknown is always scary. Perhaps my greatest fear was not being a part of my children’s lives as they reached pinnacle milestones. You know, the graduations, marriages and children. When I thought about them in the future, I continually would see images of them going on with their lives and these milestones with my husband, but I wasn’t in any of these images. Fear and continual worry set in.

Each time I would see my oncologist I would always ask, “Are you sure it’s working?” I wanted to make sure I was going to be around for all those milestones I had hoped and dreamed for my children. I’m pretty sure that I drove him crazy because have had the exact same conversation 29 times (I’ve seen him 29 times since that first meeting). He always assured me that my treatments were indeed working. Since my diagnosis, I have not had any scans that would justify that the treatments were indeed working. So every ache and pain would lead me to the worst case scenario…Fear of Reoccurrence.

The fear of reoccurrence haunts me daily. This fear is BIG and oh so very REAL! A fear that so many cancer survivors face. But, if you remember my post about silver linings several months ago, I do have a silver lining that has come out of all this fear. When my fears would creep back into my mind, I learned that I couldn’t ignore them or bury the reality of reoccurrence. Fear doesn’t let you live your life. It simply weighs you down. So I learned to face my fears and go have fun. CHERISH EACH PRECIOUS DAY!

I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have learned to turn my fears in challenges had it not been for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. This incredible organization helped me challenge myself mentally and physically. Their love, support and encouragement has been paramount in defining my “new normal”. Pre-diagnosis I would have never imagined I would voluntarily challenge the limits of my body with road races, IronGirl triathlons and biking from Baltimore to Key West. As I look back now, I wish it hadn’t taken a cancer diagnosis to teach me how to cherish each precious day and deal with fears in my life.

IronGirl 2013

IronGirl 2013

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Cancer to 5K goal race: Purple Stride in Washington, DC with Coach Meg and Dane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I still fear reoccurrence. In fact, today I will meet with my oncologist for the 30th time since diagnosis. And yes, I will most likely have the same exact conversation I have had the 29 previous times. I am hoping he will send me away with reassurance that all is well. But channeling my fears into a challenge has proven to be incredibly helpful in the past. These challenges have been life changers for me. I wonder what my next challenge will be? Perhaps summiting a mountain.

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Me with my husband, John and my 4 kids, Jack (12), Brady (10), Kate (8) and Maggie Mae (4) celebrating our finish of the HalfFull Triathlon.

Key to Keys 2014: Charleston, SC

Key to Keys 2014: Charleston, SC

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You’ve Got A Friend…

After hearing the shocking words, “You have Cancer,” John and I sat there that evening and thought about how lucky I was to have such great friends and family who were going to help see us through these choppy waters. I knew my mom and dad (who happened to be battling his own cancer battle) would be there every step of the way. They stepped right in to help out with my then 6-month old daughter, Maggie Mae, watching her all day and every night while i recovered from surgery. My brothers and sisters rallied, each in their own special ways. My sisters, Molly and Paige, who were in Paris when I was diagnosed, would Skype with me daily to get updates and added levity as we talked about how my “new girls” were going to look great. My brother, Ben and his wife Jennifer, helped us with daily lunches for my boys until the school year was finished and helped shuttle all of my kids to and from school. My brother, Tim, would text me daily to check in on me. I knew my family was going to be our rock!

I also knew my friends were going to be there for me as well. My dear neighbor, Erin, immediately set up a meal schedule and also pitched in taking care of Maggie Mae. Paula, a dear friend, accompanied me to many of the first appointments to help me navigate the medical language. I was so lucky to have a close friend who was a doctor. My neighborhood community set up prayer groups to pray for my swift recovery. The parents at both of my kids schools helped with meals and carpools. I had so much food left at my door/frig, I could have fed an entire army. I guess with four kids, John and I were feeding an army. Many of these meals were delivered by neighbors or parents I barely knew, yet they were moved to make our lives a bit easier, even if it was only by delivering paper plates and napkins so we didn’t have to do dishes. Even my sorority sisters, who had recently reconnected through Facebook, collected money so that Donna could shop for staple items our crew went through monthly (snacks, diapers, baby food, cereal, paper products, laundry detergent, etc.) for six months. Sisterhood is an amazing thing!

Out of this diagnosis, there were a few developments in my friendships that I never anticipated. The first was that so many people who I had lost touch with since high school graduation would rally the moment I posted about my diagnosis on Facebook. One friend from high school, who I happened to friend the week before I was diagnosed, immediately reached out to me to let me know she was an oncologist in New Jersey and could help me out with whatever I needed in making decisions about my treatments. It turns out that Sarada and I hadn’t spoken since graduation, if we even spoke that day since we ran in different friend circles and she was brilliant (hence becoming a doctor), and yet she had been in residency in Boston with my friend Paula. Very small world or Smalltimore we tend to call it here in Baltimore. Never underestimate the power of that “Friends You Might Know” box on Facebook. Friending a long lost friend or even acquaintance just might become very useful in the future.

The other development in my friendships was one that I never anticipated. The friends who I had known for so many years, who I had imagined in those first dark days to be my “go to” friends, I barely heard from. I know that life is busy and some people have a tough time dealing with the cancer word. I’m not really sure what each of their reasons for essentially abandoning me as my toughest challenged awaited me. To this day, I still try to sort out in my mind why they weren’t there for me. I will probably never know. But in a strange way they taught me about what friendship is and how much it means to someone going through a difficult time in their lives. I know that I will be the mother, the sister, the Paula, Erin, or Sarada (well maybe not a doctor), for any of my friends (even those who haven’t been there for me) or family! Friendships are cherished treasures and sometimes hard to come by. Just remember to be “that friend” you always hope to have in tough times. Friendship goes a long way. Perhaps Bruno Mars sang it best…Count On Me!