A friend emailed me a few days ago. With everything happening in the world right now, she was both mad and worried that I had to be in the middle of cancer treatments at the same time. She said that she couldn’t imagine anything worse than going through chemo and radiation while a deadly virus was virtually at my doorstep. I understood. I felt her concern for me.
But I had an answer for her too. “What is worse than what I’m going through?”
“NOT going through it” I replied. Seriously, I am one of the lucky ones. My treatment schedule hasn’t missed a beat in 10 weeks. My third chemo round was completed on March 4th, and the daily radiation kicked in March 25th for 5 weeks. The chemo will resume near the end of May. In contrast, I know that there are thousands of cancer patients who have had critical surgeries and/or treatment delayed, their health put on hold, because hospitals were forced to close down surgeries and treatment centers for safety. I watched a woman on the news share her frustration because her double mastectomy surgery had been delayed indefinitely. “I want to live” she said in tears.
“How terrifying is that?” I thought. You know you have cancer. You suspect it’s growing. It’s what cancer does. And there is not a single option to move forward. It’s maddening.
I had only a small dose of that anxiety having to wait 7-8 weeks after surgery before my first chemo round. Doctors wanted me to heal and gain strength, but I just wanted to get to it. Even at a microscopic level, I wanted it out. Decimated. ASAP wasn’t fast enough. Ultimately, however, I got the luxury of a start date. COVID-19 is preventing that for so many patients. In fact, since there have been no screenings such as mammograms or colonoscopies etc. for three months, there are people who have cancer, but don’t know it yet. That is a crushing thought.
And just a word related to that anxiety cancer patients face about it growing. It never goes away.
This may seem like a strange turn, but I am a fan of the television show Survivor. It’s a special season right now where only winners from past seasons were invited to compete with each other. One of them is Ethan Zohn. A former professional soccer player, and all-around nice guy, Ethan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009 and again in 2011.
Unfortunately, he was voted out early which means he was “exiled” to a separate island to wait a long time with other contestants for an opportunity to rejoin the game. They eat next to nothing. They sleep very little.
“Days are long, nights are longer…this couldn’t be good for me; for my body” he shared with a fellow contestant.
“My body is not the same as it once was. This not eating, not sleeping. Your cortisol is skyrocketing, like it could give this (bleep) a chance to grow inside of me. You know, I think about that all the time.”
If a person is diagnosed, they can’t wait (literally) to get it out, and once it’s out, they catch themselves waiting for the other shoe to drop…that it’s back. It’s the nature of this beast. You have to find the balance where hope and fear can co-exist.
I truly hope the woman has her surgery soon. It seems like some hospitals, at least, are beginning to loosen restrictions. I pray the delay doesn’t haunt her and that she has a successful recovery. I feel enormously lucky that I am actively moving through treatment – it’s a huge “wait” off my mind.
Boy do I love the synchronicity of life. The serendipity of it. I wrote this piece about four days ago. Yesterday was Mother’s Day. I received the most unique gift in the world from my son and daughter-in-law. To watch, click here: https://www.cameo.com/v/jzt0ueBjJ
For details on my cancer treatments, visit: