It’s been 25 years of marriage, four children and 3 grandchildren since I was diagnosed with ‘Terminal cancer’ in 1977 with approximately 3 months left to get my life in order. Terminal though, obviously was just a relative term, relative to my perception of the diagnosis. One of the descriptions for terminal, according to the dictionary, denotes ‘the end, of a route, for facilitating connections’. Like in an airport, only one stop towards facilitating change, rushing to make the connection for the next flight. With a terminal diagnosis, I was at the end of a route, of who I was, the path I had been following, and I was at the beginning of a whole new way of living.
For years I have been asked to write the memoirs of my journey with cancer, and for years I have been unable to put it down into words. It has taken me these twenty plus years to put my past into a context that I am comfortable writing about, a context worth reliving, worth remembering all that I went through. Until recently I hadn’t truly understood that writing about my journey, my ordeal, could serve a purpose. I have often been told that I am a true to life success story, a walking miracle. Until recently I hadn’t felt as though I was anything more than just an average individual who, as anyone has, gained experience through life’s multitude of lessons. To comprehend that my experience of living with cancer was more than just one of life’s more irritating inconveniences, but could be a story of inspiration for others dealing with similar challenges was unfathomable.
The notion was brought home to me when a friend of the family, who had cancer at the time, asked to be reminded of the odds that I was able to over come, my journey. As though in the reiteration of it, she could find the strength to be able to retain a positive attitude about her prognosis. It is a tale of ups and downs. Traditional as well as non-traditional. The narrative reads like something from a soap opera, so surreal at times. Out of what could be considered the worst possible circumstances, and through a process of trial and error, we, my family, support group, and all, succeeded.
What I have learned, through experience, that I would like to share, is that I feel it is important to have pursued all of the viable options available. Viable, meaning only a possibility of progress. Why close any doors if there is even a minor possibility of improving your chances for success in the long run? When offered a virtually new chemotherapy program to try, with reasonably good odds for success, I took it. Sure I went through some side effects, some ups and some downs, and now that it is years later, surrounded by my ever growing family, I am so extremely glad I did, not only for myself but also for all those whom I have affected over the decades, personally or through hearsay.
I hope with my apologue I can make a positive, maybe even essential, difference into the lives of the individuals, that I, or the narrative of what I have been through, come into contact with. The point, I guess, is; Work through the illness, whether it is minor or life threatening utilizing every possible option available. Enjoy being positive about your future and accept the times when you don’t. I believe it is in the various combinations of all that is non-traditional and all that is traditional, that holds the key, with a support system composing of caring individuals as well as knowledgeable coordinators, such as your physicians, that will make it possible to succeed one small step at a time. During the interim, maintaining rather than enduring your quality of life. Live in the moment, day by day. Go with what feels right and feel right about what you chose to do. Fear stems from ignorance, learn what you need to, investigate options, and go forward.
My intent in writing this autobiography was not to win any scholarly awards. I do not profess to be an English major. I did want to get the history of my experience down in my own words though, not rewritten be someone who would put it more eloquently. The two years I spent with cancer has been written in such a way as to be kept as brief and easy to read as possible. My hope is removed from academics; my hope is that this narrative can inspire those in need.
(last modified 2008)
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