Friday, November 2, 2012

On Storms, Cancer and Chronic Illness #NHBPM

I came across this quote recently in a Facebook group I participate in for people living with Hepatitis C.  The person who posted this did so to encourage those currently going through treatment.  Having recently completed it myself, I can certainly relate to the "treatment as storm" metaphor.

But as I reflected on the words, my understanding went deeper than that.

For example, to this day I am still unsure how I survived cancer.  More troubling, I remain unsure why I survived when some of the other young adults I met who were fighting cancer along side me lost their brave and valiant battles.  I have never come up with a good, satisfying explanation and I probably never will.

Since then, there have been so many times when I have asked myself, "When will cancer stop impacting my life?!?"  I am of course referring to the late and long-term effects from cancer treatment I will need to deal with for the rest of my life.  

Perhaps the most frightening one to me is the real risk of heart damage, which could rear its head at any time.  This risk gets greater the further away from treatment I get and there is quite literally nothing I can do to prevent this complication.  I can only screen for it every two years with an echocardiogram and report any new heart-related symptoms promptly to my cancer survivorship doctor.

While I try to maintain optimism in the face of very real concerns, I can't help but wonder if this might put a crimp on my plans to live to the ripe old age of 100!

I do know for certain that my cancer experience forever changed me. And each new diagnosis after it has meant even more change.  And while I have been tempted to moan about all those unwanted and certainly undeserved changes in my life, the truth is that life is all about change.  I've just been taking the advanced course on developing the ability to accept and embrace change and impermanence.  

Having been so tested by life and my health, my consolation is knowing that I can weather any storm that life throws my way, no matter what.  Cancer can't bring me down.  Neither can any other illness that wants to try.  My body may be weak and injured from my skirmishes, but my spirit is battle-tested.  I have discovered that I am strong, resilient and invincible and nothing or no one can take that away from me, ever.   

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