I have heard the “C” word more in the past five years than I ever wanted to hear it in my entire life. It’s been said about me, my husband, a couple of our friends, and even my own mother. When I hear it, I never know whether to burst into laughter or tears. It is a hurtful word. There’s no way to describe how it makes you feel. I’ve seen it tear families apart and bring them together all at once.
I’m talking about cancer. And boy, do I loathe it.
You always think about the day before you heard the news. Oblivious. Blind to what would come – the pain, the sleepless nights wondering and praying, the loss. Carrying on with your simple, normal day – complaining about the dishes, tickling your son, not a care in the world except “what’s for dinner?”
After the news, life becomes much more precious because it’s faced with uncertainty.
The day my mom called to say she found a lump and that they were going to do a biopsy the following week, I remember being stunned, almost paralyzed. What does this mean for us? What does this mean for my parents? For their future? Their finances? What will I tell the girls? Will I tell the girls? She battled cancer and beat it. You can read her story here: Breast Cancer Awareness Month: My Mom is a Survivor.
A few years later, my husband’s best friend had a lump on his neck. They did a biopsy, surgery, and discovered it was melanoma. They thought they got it all. Treatment after treatment, they kept fighting it. They did everything they could. He was even getting ready to go have a trial treatment done out of state when the cancer made it impossible and eventually took his life.
This past summer, a good friend of mine found a lump, right after a miscarriage. Talk about heartbreaking. I am thankful to report that nothing more came of that lump. There were no biopsies, no further testing. Just a lesson in trust and faith.
Then, my husband had his annual dentist appointment and the doctor was concerned about oral cancer. WHAT? MY husband? The pillar of health? He doesn’t smoke, doesn’t chew, brushes his teeth religiously… you think HE has mouth cancer? We spent the entire weekend in quiet understanding that this could change our lives forever. He got more life insurance before the appointment with the oral surgeon. We talked about a lot of “what ifs.” The appointment came and went – uneventful. He is free and clear.
Most recently, I found a lump in my breast.
My right breast, same as my mom. I don’t think the placement of cancer is hereditary, but it was ominous nonetheless. I informed my husband and my sister right away. I had an appointment with my physician in three days. I would wait three long days. She, too, had concerns when she felt it and said to me, “I don’t want to be six months down the road and wish I would have recommended a mammogram.” She scheduled the mammogram and I waited an entire week. It feels like a lifetime when you know how life-altering cancer can be. In that week, I rallied people to pray for me. I prayed. Constantly. I held my kids tighter and longer, but trying not to be weird so they wouldn’t fear. I trusted that there was a bigger plan for my life. My mammogram appointment came and went – uneventful. I didn’t even have a full mammogram, just an ultrasound. The doctor on staff cleared me and freed me from so much anxiety.
Cancer is real. And scary. And without a cure.
I don’t plan on donating my life or my savings to the cause. But I do plan on being more cautious and doing self breast exams. Early detection is the best way to survive it. My brave mother taught me that.
Also, slather on the sunscreen! Melanoma is no joke. I know sunscreen doesn’t ensure you won’t get cancer, but in this house, we put on sunscreen. Every few hours. Religiously. Annoyingly.
One thing I will credit cancer for is the way it can refocus your life in an instant. What’s real. What matters. What is worthwhile. If you have lost someone to cancer, or are grappling with it yourself, I am so sorry. And I am praying for you. If you have been fortunate enough to never have the word muttered in your home, be thankful. And be cautious.