Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Other Lessons of Cancer

A friend I met at the LIVESTRONG Summit emailed me a story today from, it's a good one (I love that I still have communication with so many of my Summit friends!). I don't think I have ever said cancer has made me a better person. Different, yes, but not necessarily a better version of me. Mommavia 5.0* appreciates the finer things in life more since April 9, 2003. And if you have ever told me I'm brave, you know what my answer is, "Me, brave? Hell no. I'm not brave, I have no choice but to deal with cancer. Marines are brave. My son's birthparents are brave. Brave is choosing to do something dangerous or heart-wrenching. Me, I am just coping the best I can."
The truth is, having cancer just pisses me off.
I wish that could have been my quote. I have a very visible scar. If I forget I had cancer, I am reminded by a sneaking stare from a stranger in Target, or when I look in the mirror and see the bright red line. Or when I zip up my neck in my coat, but don't feel it. I kid you not, that happened. I like, no, love being an advocate and talking about the disease when I want to. If someone is curious, I will gladly share my Readers' Digest version. But because my cancer is visible, I must deal with the rudeness of strangers.

The article, The Other Lessons of Cancer, really struck a chord with me, mostly because it's as blunt as Mommavia 2.0 and newer. But it also "debunked" a lot of myths about having cancer, and pretty much said what I say:
Firefighters and police officers who plunge head first into dangerous situations
are brave. A child protective worker who gets paid next to nothing and tries to
be a mother to as many as 50 dysfunctional families is brave. Those people chose
their positions in life. Cancer chose me. It's not bravery that gets me up every
morning to try to beat back the monster. It's a survival instinct that kicks in,
pure Darwinism.
Sometimes I think I am a completely different person since becoming a Survivor. I worry less about what people think about me and more about what I think about me. I don't sweat the small stuff (that's from my #1 fan). But I don't really live every day as if it's my last, because I don't want it to be. I want to see Jack grow up, lose teeth, play football, get married. I want to grow old with my husband. I have plans, big plans, and not just for my family. I'm going to be a Cancer Advocate until the cows come home, well until a cure is found; I want to help form more support groups for Survivors, young Survivors. I have a big honkin' To Do List so I can't live everyday as if it's my last.

Today I might be feeling a little bitter.

*Previous versions include The Orginal; Mommavia 2.0: the Survivor upgrade; Mommvia 2.2: thyroidectomy upgrade; Mommavia 2.5: first bilateral neck dissection upgrade; Mommavia 3.0: second bilateral neck dissection, a 10 hour upgrade; Mommavia 4.0: the motherhood upgrade; and the most recent upgrade to Mommavia 5.0: a left, modified, radical neck dissection upgrade.


Jimbo & Family said...

Found you via the Holt BB...

Love this post! We could just about write the same thing in our house right now, thanks for putting into words what we've been thinking each day too. We often hear how strong we are to deal with our infant son's cancer... as if we have a choice! It's not being strong, it's surviving- and it's what any other parent would (have to) do in our shoes.


Mommavia said...

Jen- children like your son are why I am going to be an Advocate until the cows come home...children, adults, people do not need to have this disease in their lives! Glad you visited here!

genderist said...

On this note.. I've contacted the ThyCa site and requested info on how to start a support (not one in OK yet). We're going to take the current cancer support group, and I'm going to develop a group for YOUNG people with cancer (there's not one of those in the state, either). I think I'm going to start developing material to use for them next week. (Do you want me to make copies for you?)

We need to talk one night... I'd love to bounce some ideas off of you for the resource center.

prudentone said...

A very insightful post. From the mind & heart. As I read it..two thoughts. First, how would I handle the experiences that you have gone through. (not nearly as courageous nor fiesty as you) Second thought, what a wondeful example of your faith; seeing God not take away the dreaded cancer but seeing you accept His WALKING with you through the valley AND seeing Him provide the STRENGTH needed for any adversity coming your way. PTL Thanks!

Hunca Munca said...

I loved this post. It is so honest and...real. Your passion just comes out of the screen and comes to life. Actually, many of your thoughts and emotions re: cancer mirrored mine going through infertility. ("Pissed off" is an understatement.) :-) I don't have an outward scar, but I am changed for having gone through it. As much as I hated it at the time - without it I would not have the two children I have - so I'm grateful. Anyway, great post!

Mommavia said...

I am starting to realize that most serious conditions with your body can result in the same feelings as having cancer...the anger, grief, the feelings of hopelessness and desperation...and it's good to have a net of support when you are going through it, and even past the condition or disease. Having support, and even more important people who have been or are in the same place, can help you get through it and understand how to handle it better.

Where would we be without the world-wide-web of support?