In facing life after cancer, one of the biggest struggles may just be watching friends and family lose their battle to cancer
Why is there air?
Why is there air is probably not a typical question you would hear. However, that has been going through my mind all day. To the point where I went to YouTube and pulled up Bill Cosby “Why is there air?” If you have never heard this album, please do yourself a favor and go check it out. If you’re not standing at the gas pump filling your car up, doubled over in laughter, crossing your legs (just in case) because you are laughing so hard your funny bone is not working. Seriously.
I’m not sure why I, probably because I am always relating a thought, or a word to a song, or a movie I’ve seen. Every time I hear “I am not a child” I think of the movie “Raising Helen” starring Kate Hudson. Or if I hear the song “Ain’t no mountain high enough” I think of the movie “Stepmom” starring Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon. I’m pretty sure it’s a gift. Despite being told otherwise by hubby and daughter. So whenever I start thinking about the question, why am I here, I think of …. yep, you guessed it! Why is there air? There is a deeper connection than the fact that they sound similar if you say it fast enough, but I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up a bit here.
Four year survivor
As you may know I just recently passed my four-year anniversary of being diagnosed with Triple Negative IDC Breast Cancer, stage 2 a/b, grade 3. The form of cancer I had is typically very aggressive and without preventative actions (mastectomy, hysterectomy, oopherectomy (ovaries) – basically anything that is feminine gets yanked) there is a 95% change of re-occurrence in the 3-5 year range from diagnosis. I’m smack dab in the middle. June 9, 2020 will be my four year anniversary of my last chemo, which is the date they use to gauge your 3-5 years. So, as you can imagine, while I have done everything I can to prevent any re-occurrence, way in the dark deep depths of my mind lies the fear that I am not out of the woods yet.
In the meantime, specifically within the last ten months, I have lost three people very, very dear to me due to cancer. They were all diagnosed after me – and fought hard, long battles. My daughter’s best friends mom, was diagnosed with Leukemia and fought 2 1/2 years in an attempt to kick that bastard right where it counts. Unfortunately, her body could not fight like it needed any more and she went to a more peaceful state. She happened to be my advocate for my chemo journey. She was the first person who met me at the doctor’s office and gave me and Rodney the biggest and hardest hugs. She made sure that if I was in pain, I received pain medication. Nauseous? It’s 7 p.m.? No problem! We will call the drug store now, you head out. She was a rock for me and the day I found out she had been diagnosed with cancer, I sat down on the floor and cried. How could someone, who gave so much of herself to others, be diagnosed with that nasty, fricking word. To say I was devastated could be, might be, an understatement.
A little while after she was diagnosed, a friend of mine, who lives in Texas and was a fellow avid photographer, announced she had been diagnosed. This gal was an intricate part of the group of friends who raised money to bring dad and I to Washington D.C. so he could see the World War II Memorial before he died. She underwent treatment and heard the blessed news that everything looked great! That is until she went to see the doctor approximately three weeks ago and was told it was back and it had come back with a vengeance. She entered hospice care a few days later and went to be with her maker Friday evening.
Almost a year ago, to the date, I found out my cousin, who was more like a sister to me, had been diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS. MDS is a rare form of blood cancer and in December of 2018, Christmas Eve if I remember correctly, she found out it was Leukemia. Five months later, she too ended her battle. She was another soul who devoted her life to the act of giving. December 2019 was the first Christmas in my daughter’s 23 years that she did not remember receiving an Advent calendar from ‘Tia L’. I don’t have any proof, but I think she bought Advent Calendars by the case loads because she sent every niece, nephew, great-niece, great-nephew, cousins, friends, for all I know she may have sent them to strangers too, a calendar. Even after they had grown-up. She was an educator, a mentor, and the impact her life made on others was tremendous.
Three great women who have all died in the last ten months, and I am still here.
Why am I here?
But cancer did bring me back to photography, which I had not been doing for a while. It brought a tribe of people into my life that I cannot imagine what I would do without them now. It made me come to terms with things in the past, and made me realize that I was not unheard, or insignificant, irrelevant, or trivial. I think my relationship with my husband is better than it was ever before. There are a lot of good things that came out of that bastard cancer.
Crap ton of bad things too.
Like every time I hear of someone dying from cancer, I wonder why was it them and not me?
Cancer changed my reality so that I cannot live like there will always be a tomorrow, because I am not invincible. It aged me so that things I should not have had to worry about for another ten to fifteen years is prominent now. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. There are days where trying to move I feel like I am moving through a pool of Jello with 100 pound weights attached to every limb. If I’m going to be honest, I have memory “blips”.
Which, funny story by the way, when I was diagnosed with cancer I was told how lucky i was to be so young, and that that was going to help me fight cancer. Two years later when I bring up memory problems I get told, “Well at your age…”. Seriously? I went from young to old in two years? Not helpful medical field.
I have had people tell me how incredibly tactless it is that all I can think about when someone dies is why am I here. That just shows me how little they understand. The reality is, that is another “gift” left by cancer. For good or for bad. It is neither a good thing nor a bad thing I think that, it just is. It’s not something I try to think about. I just do.
What is my purpose?
Earlier I mentioned there is a greater correlation between why is there air and why am I here than the fact they sound similar when spoken fast. On Bill Cosby’s album, there is air to blow up volleyballs or basketballs, but I don’t think that’s what a philosophy major would ask. Think about it for a minute. We don’t see it, unless the wind is blowing we can’t hear it, and yet it surrounds us with a life sustaining source that without its existence we would die. It’s purpose is to take what it has been given, and gives us life. But why?
I too, have been given many gifts in my life. I have survived severe bullying when I was in school, a self-esteem that was so low I had to use a step-ladder to climb to the bottom of my self-esteem. I survived being hit by a pick-up truck walking across a road in Mexico. I survived driving my car during an ice storm through a wood fence and into a brick building where I broke the windows of the building. I survived a car accident on a one and a half lane bridge. I love to sing, and to take photos, and to share the beauty of the world I see around me. I love making others happy with my photography. The joy I have when they see something that resonates with them is the most incredible thing. I have survived cancer (so far). But why?
Bless you if you have gotten to this point. I know this is a very long post but the keyboard has been pulling at me all day to get this out of my head and out in to the world. Writing is a way for me to purge all these voices in my head. Oh come on! Admit it, you have voices in your head too! Everyone does and if someone told you they don’t they are a liar. Either that or they have no conscious, which based on what I see around me sometimes is a very high possibility as well.
I am a Champion
I have been guided, not for the first time, to share my journey. Not just the cancer part, but the whole reality of my life. The ups, downs, and huge misadventures. While I probably will not be able to share the deepest and darkest secrets with you because I still have a lot of fear around those things being found out, I finally believe I know why I am here. I am here to share the story of so many others who battle life. I am here to make sure that people know there is someone in there corner. I am here because everyone deserves a champion, especially if they cannot be a champion themselves.
To quote a very dear mentor, “Now don’t mishear me!”. I am not a champion in the sense that I am better than you, or am the winner of some glorious and grandiose prize. I am a champion of life. Looking up the definition of champion on http://www.dictionary.com, the second definition shows it as a verb: to act as champion of; defend; support.
I am here to defend and support. I am the voice for all those who have gone before me. I am the voice of all those who are too weak from fighting to speak. I am their champion.