Roughly 15 months ago, I was living most peoples worst nightmare. Within the time it took for my doc to utter three quick words, the word cancer went from being a word I studied in my genetics textbook and associated with unfamiliar faces of patient’s stories I mindlessly scrolled over online, to something even more personal than my toiletries…
Needless to say, I was a brand new CANcer patient. One moment I was a 27 year old with a busy social life and ambitious goals on a quick break from work, and the next I was a head-spinning, shell-shocked cancer patient looking at a long road of treatments, scans and medications ahead of me. I guess the silver lining is that my coffee break went from 20 minutes to a year and a half?? It is difficult to describe what happens in the minutes, hours and weeks following hearing the words “you have cancer”, but it basically involves replaying those words in some shape or form over and over in your heard on repeat. Now, being so far removed from these initial moments, there are some things I wish I could tell my 15-month-younger self:
Cancer will not trump laughing.
Cancer will not trump feeling overcome with joy and happiness.
Cancer will not trump enjoying a glass of wine with your girlfriends on a Friday night.
In those initial moments (well, weeks, maybe…) CANcer will likely be the only thing on your mind as your doctors organize your treatment protocol, you address all the finicky and confusing insurance claim paperwork and you complete any prepatory treatments or therapies (i.e. fertility preservation, naturopathic supplemental therapies). However, this craziness and overall consuming feeling will pass. The mountain of paperwork will soon clear off your kitchen table and your calendar will be neatly organized with a soon-to-be familiar schedule of treatment dates and doctors appointments.
One thing that my husband, Travis, and I talked about almost daily was how this experience was a mere speed bump on the life path we were headed, and that soon enough things would be back to normal. Normal…NORMAL?! If you are a newly diagnosed cancer patient, please do yourself a favour and throw that word ,“normal“, out the window! Correction – we love the word normal when your doc is referring to any scan results or blood work, but we really don’t need to talk about having a normal life.
The truth is, you will create a new normal. It is not as though you check out for that phase in your life that CANcer is a part of – you continue to live. You continue to have experiences and have feelings of joy, happiness, fear, anger and love, and it is up to you whether or not you let your disease dictate these feelings or not. And on the contrary, when you are fortunate enough to put your CANcer journey behind you, it will still be a part of you in some shape or form. It will be in the back of your mind to some degree, but with the more health-full time put between your disease and the present will come greater feelings of ease and comfort around this dark cloud. You could say, it will become normal.
Although I can only recognize it as being something I struggled with after the fact, I know now that if I had chosen to share more about what I was going through with the people around me, I would have found more ease throughout my journey. My mindset was, because I didn’t look sick, I could pretend that things were normal to many people in my life, rather than sharing exactly what I was going through. I know this now, because since I have decided to share my story, I have met and connected with so many amazing people that I otherwise may have never crossed paths with. Being vulnerable opens up pathways for amazing things to happen in your life. It allows space for life-altering relationships, experiences and miracles to happen that you may have missed out on if you had chosen to do the contrary.
For me, when I decided to share my story, May Cause Radiance was born. I found my purpose. Where there was nothing, there is now a thriving nonprofit organization through which I, and my amazing team, are able to reach and connect with other Young Adults who were just like me 15 months ago. I am able to feel comfortable knowing that maybe THIS is why CANcer happened to me. Maybe THIS is my miracle.