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The Point of Cancer

usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

On Wednesday our beloved Kathi started an interesting thread about the point of cancer, but unfortunately not many folks replied. It was a very thought provoking idea - the point of cancer. Thank you Kathi, for inspiring an opportunity for some deep thinking.

I grew up in Southern California, spending my summers as a kid playing on the sand and shores of Huntington Beach and San Clemente Beach, two great beaches for surfing. I loved the water. It was the best part of summer.

I remember times while playing in the water that an occasional large wave set would come in and cause me to wipe out. I remember the uncontrolled feeling of being thrashed around feet over head in swirling water, foam and sand, holding my breath, desperately swimming for the surface. When I could finally break through I would gasp for air, only sometimes to be knocked down by the next big wave in the set.

When I was diagnosed last summer it kind of felt the same way. I was immediately swept up in a wave of cancer with doctors appointments, tests, scans, surgery, chemo, blood tests, hospital stays, side effects...wipe out.

Early in the midst of my cancer ride I decided to look for meaning in the experience. I figured it would help me find something positive while I had my head stuck in the toilet after a hefty dose of Oxaliplatin. I decided that if I couldn't find meaning in being sucked into the wave of cancer consciousness I would miss the point of the experience.

Before cancer I had allowed myself to get bogged down by unimportant life choices - work, superficial friendships, consumption, work, work, work. It wasn't until I was knocked off my feet that I realized that I didn't like where I had been standing. Even though I considered myself a happy person, my life lacked real meaningful purpose and I was letting life pass by.

Cancer taught me to appreciate the deadline of me and not some deadline at work. I learned to choose to live and not just exist. I learned that above all else my family truly loves me and I love them. It secured my faith in God, the Universe, and faith in myself and my ability to make the right choices. In realizing that life is short I opened myself up to exciting awareness, discovery and possibility, which opened my mind and opened my heart. With my heart and mind open I met a wonderful man, SpongeBob. Now I'm married and I have and continue to discover meaningful purpose in my life. I'm happier now than I have ever been.

That is the point of cancer for me. Have you discovered your point?

Thanks again, Kathi - you have always been an inspiration to the Semi-Colons!

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2599
Joined: Apr 2003

Hmmm... maybe great minds DO think alike... I just posted this at Kathi's original post a couple pages back because I thought it was such a thought-provoking thread start. Thanks, Katie, for bringing it back - I believe it's really something that many of us need to think about. Like you and I were in the early stages of our Dx and surgery and chemo, I know a lot of the new folks here have their heads elsewhere than in the deeper "meaning" of this disease and why it affected them (namely, their heads are probably in the tiolet!) but I hope this gives them something to think about - and I know it's something the conversation always seems to come around to at Colon Palooza (once we get Scouty down from dancing on the table).

Here's a re-run of my reply I just made to Kathi. It's nice to see that we think so much alike (especially considering we're married!) Oh, by the way, honey, will you pick up loaf of bread on your way home from work (you know the kind I like, 9 grain without any high fructose corn syrup!) Here's my post:

Wow... what a thought-provoking post, Kathi. I doubt anyone will ever read this response since the thread has rolled over to page two (maybe three by now?) Anyway...

I think that cancer IS a beast. I think the term "terrorist" has become somewhat cliche these days so I really try to avoid using it unless it involves some guy with a bomb. BTW, did you know that drug smugglers are now referred to as "narco-terrorists"? Very "Clear and Present Danger" stuff. Anyway...

I agree with you as far as you took your argument; cancer IS a beast that trys to rob us of our faith. I believe you his the nail squarely on the head there. But, the eternal optomist in me says that that's only the beginning... that attempt to rob us of our faith brings us to a crossroads. We can either crawl inside a hole and let it do its stuff on our body and on our spirit or we can rise up and fight it - and even go one better - we can USE IT AS A CATYLIST FOR CHANGE. To borrow from a popular song, we can:

"finally [be] the husband,
That most the time I wasn't.
And I became a friend a friend would like to have.
And all the sudden goin' fishing,
Wasn't such an imposition.
And I went three times that year I lost my dad.
Well I finally read the good book,
And I took a good long hard look at what I'd do
If I could do it all again.
And then.

Go Sky divin',
I went rocky mountain climbin',
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.
And I loved deeper,
And I spoke sweeter,
And I watched an eagle as it was flyin'.

That's what cancer did for me. I believe it helped me move forward to a better place mentally, physically, spiritually in my own life. I don't really see it as a terrorist, I see it as a devouring beast that reminded me I am - much to my chagrin - not immortal and I have left a couple of messes behind me here on this earth that I need to clean up. I am. And I am, as many here have said before, actually thankful that the beast (or the Dragon as I affectionately call it) gave me a wake up call and reminded me I'd better live like I was dyin...

Love ya, daughter. Have fun in Holland. Don't get a blister from those wooden shoes!

- Sponge

Monicaemilia's picture
Monicaemilia
Posts: 455
Joined: Nov 2006

I missed Kathi s post, but I agree that this is an important subject. Apart from everything that Katie and SpongeBob pointed out, the biggest thing I learned was that I was so busy worrying about tomorrow that I was not living today. It was like I was always on fast forward. The birth of my son coincided with my diagnosis, but both taught me that the cliche live day by day is absolutely true. I always say to people that it is sad, but it seems that one does not learn how to live properly until they learn they might die. And in spite of all the ups and downs and terribly scary moments that have popped up over the last two years, I also have to say that these have been the happiest years of my life. Monica

KathiM's picture
KathiM
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Katie,
I love your comparison to a big wave...cool! VERY apt! When I posted that thread, I actually meant it as a positive thing, in a way. As you know, I am currently dealing with my sister now, and I have observed, from the caregiver standpoint, what I went thru without a net (I didn't know you guys then). I am now my sister's net...AND she has an excellent team...

What cancer has done (I've told sis this...she's not prepared for it yet...she's a bit controlling) for me is taught me patience.
And knowledge that control of everything is not only not a good thing, but impossible.
Depending on others makes you stronger, not weaker.
Living well. Loving well. Laughing often.
Believing in the greater power.
Admitting when I'm frightened and seeking help.
Faith in myself.
Finding joy in just breathing in and out.

Very powerful lessons. Some people actually have learned them WITHOUT the cancer experience...but my stubbornness required 2 rounds of schooling from the beast....

Hugs, Kathi

foxy
Posts: 190
Joined: Oct 2005

Kathi, you are one in a million, keep your sister close to your heart. We know you have been there twice and can do heaps for your loved one.

Virginia.

alta29's picture
alta29
Posts: 435
Joined: Mar 2005

Everytime I talked about cancer I always mention that I have changed sooooooo much...( I would not regret anything of it but the fear of not making it )....we see people differently ,we say Hi to strangers in the elevators or have a good afternoon ( some people will look at you weird) we open our mouth just to say good things about people I don't scream at people when they are driving like maniacs because they may be in a rush to go to the bathroom to do # 2 because of chemo, we look at birds,flowers,sunrise,and sunsets in a different way...
While in Cozumel I went snorkling ( 1st time ever)....I was so into it looking at those beautiful fishes and corals that I didn't notice how far I went from the beach....I remember thanking my husband for the experience....we talked about our life in Dallas...work and hospitals...work and doctors..appointments...etc..We even thought about moving there....suddenly having a nice house,a much or less good pay etc doesn't matter anymore...you just want to be healthy, help people and enjoy all the beautiful things that God gave us...

christeleb's picture
christeleb
Posts: 60
Joined: Apr 2007

Dear friends,

Although my journey with cancer "only" started 3 months ago, I already learned how to prioritize.

It's amazing how much time I have on my hands now.

That's what cancer taught me, to appreciate life even more, to not take work home at night or week ends, to spend time with my baby girl, to not stress out if there are dirty dishes or if there is dust on the bookshelves.

I've always been laid back, but now it's even worse!!

I realized that sometimes people don't understand such a life changing event, but that's OK, I'm becoming a bit selfish in the process as this is all about me. Somehow i don't even have a problem with that!!

Yesterday I found out my CEA was at 6.2 (from 79 pre colon/liver resection). Although money is tight, i went shopping and found a cute pair of shoes (on sale at the nine west outlet store). I felt like I had to reward myself (that's the selfish side of me!!!).

Have a great week end,

Christele

themis01
Posts: 168
Joined: Feb 2005

I am still looking for the point of my mom's cancer. She was a perfect mom, a perfect wife, a perfect nana. She made sacrifices for all of those around her but still took care of herself. She was a retired teacher and a lover of animals. She was all of the good in this world and none of the bad. She knew how to live in the moment, as well as, never forget about tomorrow. The point of cancer taking a perfectly healthy woman away from us all at the young age of 62.. I will never know.

robinvan's picture
robinvan
Posts: 1014
Joined: May 2007

Thank you Kathi and Katie for starting this thread and keeping it alive. And thanks to all who have posted so far. There is a depth of wisdom and insight on this board that really inspires me.
I like the image of being caught in the turbulence of a wave, being overwhelmed and thrashed about. I've heard it said that the common denominator in the experience of human suffering is the sense of "not being in control". Whatever the cause of our suffering, be it cancer or whatever, there is a sense of being overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control. Maybe it is only then that we allow ourselves to let go and go with the flow.
Thanks for sharing folks... lots to reflect on this weekend.
Have a great one! Rob; in Vancouver
"A sacred illness is one that educates us and alters us from the inside out, provides experiences and therefore knowledge that we could not possibly achieve in any other way, and aligns us with a life path that is, ultimately, of benefit to ourselves and those around us." Deena Metzger
"A Cancer Journal" www.rob-pollock.blogspot.com

jsabol's picture
jsabol
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Hi Katie and all,
I just came home from my 3 year post-chemo onc visit to find this thread. I remain NED, and my onc is recommending a longer time between appts. My CEA is low and stable, and my PET scan in April (after some unclear findings on CT scan) was "unremarkable". My whole ride home I was lost in thought and reflection.
Even as I get further out, I remain profoundly effected by having had cancer. My dad died from metastatic colon cancer. I agree with the earlier post from themis, that she will never know the POINT of cancer, but I am amazed at our ability to each make meaning from the experience. My dad showed such amazing personal strength in facing his own death that I learned much about life.
As a nurse, I have always been in awe of the strength of the human spirit in mastering all kinds of tragic situations. I hope to never lose sight of that, especially seen through the lens of a cancer survivor. Each day, and the sum total of our lives, is what we make it; cancer reminded me of the importance of keeping my priorities straight. Judy

goldfinch's picture
goldfinch
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

Perhaps it is because I am still being pushed down by that "wave" or bring terrorized by the "beast".
My take isn't quite as positive as all of yours.
Yes, I have gotten much in terms of an understanding of love, the beauty of the moments around me, the presence of joy in the briefest glimpse of a hummingbird at the feeder.
But much of what I am feeling right now is what cancer is taking from me. My energy, my work life (for now), my normal activities, sometimes my sanity and possibly my life, future.
It's been 4 years with this wave or beast. I haven't always treated it that way. I've tried to look for the silver linings, but I'm tired. It's been 4 years and I hate to say it, but sometimes I feel like "it"-the wave or beast is winning.
Don't get me wrong. I'm gearing up for the fight and I will win. I'm just not feeling as fond of what cancer has taught me as some of you seem to be.
Mary

spongebob's picture
spongebob
Posts: 2599
Joined: Apr 2003

Mary -

I can't say that I understand how you feel because I didn't fight the dragon for as long as you have. I can certainly relate to the feeling of what cancer has taken away.

When I was "riding the wave" as Katie puts it I was also going through a really nasty divorce (to put it in perspective, my ex- had my divorce papers served on me at the hospital), I had to get a second job on top of my 60+ hour a week regular job just to make ends meet, and I hadn't seen my kids in nearly a year (no, I'm not a child/wife-beater or a deadbeat or any of that; I just had the misfortune - or good fortune? - of getting divorced from a particularly nasty person in a very draconian mom-friendly jurisdiction at a point in my life when I had neither the time - they lived 4 hours from DC - nor the resources - read as $$ - to mount a defense). I cannot tell you how many times I came in at 10:30-11:00 pm after having been going since 4:30 am and just crawled into bed and prayed for this cancer to just take me like it had taken everything else.

I didn't have any friends, any family, nothing of a support group. I guess that's why I'm still here after 5+ years - CSN became my family and my support group. Additionally, I know that my cancer will probably be back. Katie and I share the same form of genetic cancer - our moms both have the gene and they have both had cancer 4 times. (Probably in some sick West Virginia (sorrt nudgie) way we're related WAY back down the family tree - we're afraid to do our geneology!)

I guess the point of this manifesto is to say that I know that it sucks and it takes so much from you, but I also know that - eventually - you will be able to find that silver lining; you just have to believe.

Love and prayers...

- SpongeBob

usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Sweetheart,

I love you, but please make no implications that because we are both HNPCC positive that we might be long lost cousins. That is just too icky.

I've mapped my family tree and I can say that you and yours are nowhere to be found on any of my branches, including the ones that grow through Virginia.

Although, I have yet to get back to my Swedish side, viking years...hmmm...

Jag alskar dig. Jag saknar dig.

Your loving wife

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1729
Joined: Nov 2001

Hmmmm you know Mary I tend to agree with you after nearly ten years of survival the only thing left of my pre cancer life is just that ...my life and I just mean the drawing breath side of it. I don't give cancer any greater credence than what it is,just a rotten illness. The thing I hate about cancer is the mental and emotional impact that it has on those who have it and those that support them. Whatever our positive outlook we are only a moment away from despair all it takes is the prospect of an upcoming test,a bad test result an illness. I find that I rarely share my feelings with anyone anymore because apart from this board not many really want to know.

goldfinch's picture
goldfinch
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

After sending that past message off, I realized it was more of a downer than usual for me. I guess I'm honoring where I am right now.
Much of my 4 years has been spent trying to look at the silver linings and finding many.
I would just wish I didn'thave to work ALL THE TIME to find the silver lining in each of the many setbacks.
However, having said that I do know now all the people who truly love and care for me. Some of which surprised me. I've learned that those I barely know can give me support in ways I never knew. My family and friends are more important than ever. I've met all of you. Although I'm not consistent in writing here, I'm always reading and getting support. I've always taken a certain joy in the sound of the shore, the sounds of the birds, the beauty of a flower bloom, so many other things, but that is much more amplified now.
Spongebob-I'm so happy things are going so well for you. You deserve this. I remember your story. I do forget your family history and what possibilities may await you. I hope you and Katie are 100 years old before it rears it's head again!
Ron, i agree it's the the emotional and mental impact of this disease that gets to me most of the time. Thank you for expressing that for me.
Mary

usakat's picture
usakat
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Hello Mary,

I know what you mean about growing tired while living under the heavy oppression of cancer. Like Bob said, my Mom had cancer four times. Her second bout of colon cancer started shortly after 9/11/2001 (the 9/11), and then primary lung cancer, and then after lung cancer she was diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV cancer of the mediastinum. Mom was told in February 2004, to "get her affairs in order." She went through brutal sessions of chemo/rad/chemo and miraculously she was restaged NED, December 2005. Doctors are still amazed that she is alive today, and I think if Mom had the chance to kick that surgeon in the shins who told her she would die, she would.

There was a brief and glorious reprieve after the four years Mom wrestled cancer. Everyone close to our family began to relax, and everyone admired Mom's fortitude and amazing attitude in the face of death. Then a mere six months later, May of last year, I was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. It was sad to my family and was shocking to say the least. Just like you, we were growing tired of the relentless confrontational nature of cancer. Mom and I call the five years living in the grips of cancer, "The Cancer Years."

During The Cancer Years our family lost an uncle and two cousins to cancer, and my SIL's mother battled breast cancer. My SIL's mom died this past April, and her dad died within two weeks. Both were young grandparents by today's standards.

When Mom was at her weakest, when she was hairless, frail, most vulnerable and incredibly sick, she said to me that she had adopted the philosophy that she was living with cancer, not dying from it. It blew me away when she said it and I struggled to understand, but now having had cancer I get it.

Just like Bob said, because our cancer has the genetic component and has expressed itself in a very aggressive way, we both live with the realization that our cancer will most likely return. When it will come back we don't know, but both Bob and I refuse to live in fear because it would steal from us the OPPORTUNITY of living today. And the reality is death will indeed find us, whether it comes veiled in the cloak of cancer or some other way remains unrevealed, so exactly how and when is nothing we can control.

This takes us back to the point of Kathi's original post. We cannot control cancer, or even how we die, but we can control how we react to it. Without question, cancer is a taker. It takes away people's innocence. It forces a person to confront their own mortality. And like Bob, my wise husband said, it puts us at a crossroads where we must choose our own direction. We can choose despair or we can choose to LIVE each day in spite of it.

Mary, I will send special thoughts and prayers for stamina and comfort your way. I'm glad to read your second post and glad you're working it out. I know what you're going through, but like Bruce says, "Never, ever give up!" And yeah, I know, easier said than done!

Ron, big thoughts and prayers to you too. You've been through a lot and I wish for you renewal of faith, freedom and joyfulness.

Peace and hugs!
Katie

"Man is the artificer of his own happiness." Henry David Thoreau

jsabol's picture
jsabol
Posts: 1156
Joined: Dec 2003

Mary, both of your posts are absolutely true....those of us who are lucky enough to be NED at the moment see are experience through that perspective. I felt like a shadow figure of myself at times during chemo, and hated the experience. I had to work hard not to let the experience define who I was becoming. Watching my dad die from this disease was so very painful, too.
I also work in a dementia care residence (and my mom has advancing Alzheimer's), and I see every day what can be taken from people.
Knowing that you and others continue this fight is part of what leaves me in awe of the human spirit. I also continue to feel some degree of guilt/ambivalance about continuing to be active at this site now that I am not currently fighting this disease...my intent is to be supportive and return some of the immeasurable help I got here throughout my course with cancer.
I wish us and everyone here continued strength in figuring out how to keep on keeping on, no matter what life throws at us! Judy

goldfinch's picture
goldfinch
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

I am so glad you folks who know NED keep coming to the boards! That's one of the things that keep me going!
Thank you Judy!
Mary

davidsonxx's picture
davidsonxx
Posts: 137
Joined: Mar 2007

I think the point of cancer is not in the disease but in how we chose to respond to it. A life thereatening situation always changes the person who experiences it. Some times for the better sometimes for the worst. I wanted it to be for the better for me. I have discovered strength I never knew I had. I am more patient and less demanding. I also realized I was giving away today worrying abut tomorrow. Before my dx I was very career oriented. Now I'm much more balanced when it comes to my job.

The biggest surprise to me was that I am actually less afraid of dying than before I had cancer. It's as if facing my mortality has made me more comfortable with its end. I am currently NED so it's not that I have accepted my impending death. The cancer journey has strengthened my faith and because of that I am less fearful. Would I avoid the journey if I could, probably. But I do treasure what I have learned from it.

jams67's picture
jams67
Posts: 927
Joined: May 2006

My husband had kidney cancer about 20 years ago, and you are describing the metamorphoses that he went through with his life. His personality changed, and he became aware of the important things in life. He is a much better person today than he was precancer.
I was able to understand this much better after I had cancer. I think a person can say that they understand the fact that they are mortal, without actually facing knowledge that it will happen to them. Death will claim all of our lives sooner or later, and for me, after facing death, I feel like I've been given a second chance at life. I'm looking forward to life, and not mourning my lost innocence, but living life, because I realize how precious it is.
Jo Ann

jams67's picture
jams67
Posts: 927
Joined: May 2006

I have to add one more thing.
It is not where we are now with our lives that we need to think about so much as where we are going. In order to live forever, we have to be prepared to die. I feel like I was given a wake up call and my faith in God is much stronger now than precancer.

crazylady
Posts: 544
Joined: Jun 2004

Hi Everyone,
I have given this subject much thought and have a different take on it than most of you!
I was diagnosed with cancer at a point in my life where I was about to have a new beginning. I had been in a bad marriage for years and was about to be single. I was almost through with school and ready to begin a career for the first time after spending many years as a stay at home Mom. Then I was diagnosed with cancer and my new beginning virtually disappeared. I was able to separate from my husband, but haven't been able to finish school. We aren't divorced because he carries the insurance, something that I have to worry about for the future. I had to sell my house to pay off debt. At a time when I thougt I would be independent my life is in limbo.
So, the point of cancer. I don't think there is one. Yes, of course, I'm grateful that I'm still here and that so far everything has been treatable and I try to live each day in the present. I would like to think that I would have reached this point without cancer.
The things that I have learned from cancer aren't things that I consider to be good. I guess I was quite naive and always believed that if I was a good, honest person nothing bad would happen to me. I learned that bad things happen to good people. After I sold my house, I tried to rent houses, condos, mobile homes, anything. I learned that it's all about business and not caring about people. I offered to pay a years lease up front and was turned down many times because of credit. Six of us now live in a 2 bedroom apartment.
I know that compared to many other people I'm lucky. My cancer has been treatable. A 2 bedroom apartment is better than the hotel I spent 5 weeks in last summer. I have been able to spend time with my children and grandchildren. Yet, I feel that everytime I make a decision to move forward cancer rears its ugly head and the things that are important to me, my dreams, go down the drain.
I'm trying to decide if I should attempt to go back to school next month or just give it up altogether and move on to something else. I don't know how to make that decision!
I'm tired of dealing with cancer,of being in treatment all the time, of having to make all these decisions and I'm tired of doing it alone. I have never reached 100% of where I was physically before cancer and each time I have surgery and or chemo I'm a little worse. I feel that I have had to lower my standards and expectations for myself and how I choose to live because of cancer. I have great friends and family, but they all have their own lives.
This isn't meant to be negative, this is just my reality. I am torn and struggle everyday to make logical decisions and to move forward with my life . I do go out, I have fun and I enjoy a lot of my life, but I can't find a point to cancer!!!
Jamie

goldfinch's picture
goldfinch
Posts: 737
Joined: Oct 2003

Jamie,
I've been sitting here trying to come up with some wise words for you, but I have none. As you can tell from my previous post I certainly understand the feeling of being tired of it all.
And you have so much more to deal with than I.
I'm sorry you've met so many uncaring people after selling your house, but I'm glad you are able to spend time with your children and grandchildren. That's what it's all about!
How much do you want to go back to school? What would you move on to. This may take some soul searching, but only you can decide what is right for you.
Prayers to you for peace, joy and laughter!
Mary

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