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6 Year Lifeaversary

MAliceR's picture
MAliceR
Posts: 98
Joined: Mar 2015

Since this is my asurvivor anniversary I thought I would share some thoughts. 6 years ago today I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer. I heard the words "you have cancer" for the first time. I have "survived" 6 years. My life has been changed forever by those 3 words. Unfortunately I heard "your cancer is back" 26 months after the 1st diagnosis and again 28 months after the 2nd. Over the last 6 years, I have had 3 major surgeries, had organs removed, been spliced, diced and sewn back together. Had 2 minor surgeries, 14 months of chemo, lost my hair, had CT scans, PET scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, pretty much just about every kind of test possible. I have been diagnosed with cancer related PTSD and had months of therapy. There were days I was so ill I wasn't sure I could make it through the day. I remember lying in bed with the chemo pump whirling away infusing me with the “cure” counting the hours. Telling myself I had just made it through one more hour. I could do this. Vomiting and counting down again.
No one goes through aggressive cancer treatments without being changed. People will tell you how strong you are and how much courage you have, but the truth is, I didn't and still don’t feel any of those things. Honestly at times cancer breaks you. There have been times I have been crushed by it all. But if you want to live, you do whatever it takes. This isn't bravery it is simply the will to live. You live in the fight or flight mode every minute of every day. Like going into battle, this has its emotional consequences. Even when treatment is over, the fear, night frights and PTSD triggers stay with you. Living with cancer becomes your new normal. It is called being a cancer survivor. I struggle with that title. To me being a survivor means you have gotten through something that is over. 
Cancer is never over. 
Even if you are fortunate to have had a successful treatment outcome, tests and waiting for results and hoping each twinge and ache or pain you might have isn't a recurrence doesn't end. You live with the "what ifs" for the rest of your life. You honestly try to forget, and sometimes hours or a day can go by when you do, but it is never far from your mind.
You learn a lot about yourself and others when you have cancer. Things in life you thought mattered no longer do. You learn that if given the chance you will enjoy life every day. You don't wait for tomorrow. 
You also discover the people in your life that matter. They are the ones who continue to be there for you, embracing you in the hard times and rejoicing with you in the good. You don't have the emotional stamina for people who bring negative drama into your life. You appreciate and value people who enhance your life and meet you halfway. You love deeper and aren't afraid to say I Love You. You also aren’t afraid of cleaning out the clutter and surrounding yourself with the people and things that matter most.
So here I sit today 6 years after my initial diagnosis. The last 6 years, if looked through a cancer lens would seem truly horrible. But that isn't true. During the last 6 years I have retired from a successful career, contracted to teach a professional development program, managed some DIY projects, traveled extensively to Europe, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama. I recently celebrated my 62 birthday. Greg and I are embracing life. 
Today is my 6 year lifeaversary. I am still here! I do not know what next week, month or year will bring. I wake up every day so grateful to be alive. Hopeful yet cautious. Optimistic yet realistic.  Cancer rides like the monkey on my back. Sometimes he is awake and sometimes he sleeps but he is always there. I can feel the weight of him every day. But today I am here. I am celebrating 6 years of life.  I thank God for the opportunity to live today and every day He gives me. I AM ALIVE! Thank You!

Trubrit's picture
Trubrit
Posts: 4856
Joined: Jan 2013

Its an impressive six years, the good and the bad. 

Everything you say rings true.  Is true. 

I don't call myself a survivor either, I tell people 'I am surviving Cancer'. 

I have been sick these past few days. I worried all though the first night, that the fever was going to 'activate' the Cancer cells. I have stomach pains. It must be Cancer. I have body aches. It must be Cancer. My ablated liver is twinging. It must be Cancer. It never leaves you.; that fear.  I could have a pain in my big toe, and I would think it was Cancer returning. 

Continue to live like it is your last day. 

Thank you for sharing your celebration and your wisdom with us. 

Tru

BRHMichigan's picture
BRHMichigan
Posts: 368
Joined: Jul 2017

What a beautifully written post to share with us all. I am glad you shared the good with the bad at the end there.  What a life story you have.  

I will be coming back to this post often to re-read your experience. Congrats on being 6 years out...I am only 6 months past diagnosis and feel I have been put through hell already.  

NHMike
Posts: 214
Joined: Jul 2017

Always happy to hear good outcomes on the toughest of circumstances and a few jewels of wisdom there which I will no doubt likely appreciate more down the road.

May you have many, many more anniversaries.

SophDan2's picture
SophDan2
Posts: 134
Joined: Jul 2017

Thank you Alice.

After reading what you wrote, I handed my computer to my wife so she could read your words, as you beautifully described what it is like to go through the process and still keep the flame of life alive.

Thanks again

Cindy225's picture
Cindy225
Posts: 172
Joined: Feb 2017

So well said Alice! Very moving. Thank you for sharing. Congrats on six years and many more. Just had my first Lifeaversary October 6 also stage 3. Fight on.... 

Canadian Sandy's picture
Canadian Sandy
Posts: 511
Joined: Jul 2016

What a beautiful way of putting it. My heart goes out to you. May you have many more years of being Ned.

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6220
Joined: Feb 2009

That is wonderful that you are living life.  So glad that you are NED so many years later.  Thanks for sharing your story.  Carry on with life and live it to your fullest.

Kim

ron50's picture
ron50
Posts: 1721
Joined: Nov 2001

     Surviving survival is not easy, sometimes you really have to work at it. At times it would be really easy to say ok ,you win . I give up. If it were anything but cancer I may have done just that but I really don't like cancer so I keep fighting.  The fight takes many forms. Some like yourself have battled recurrence whilst others have battled the long term side effects of the cancer and treatments. I admire you all, it isn't easy. This jan 22nd will be the end of year  twenty of survival for me . I feel like I am 67 going on 80 . Hugs to you ,stay well. Ron.

Kazenmax's picture
Kazenmax
Posts: 357
Joined: Feb 2016

"Cancer rides like the monkey on my back." 

Exactly how I've been feeling lately. There really never is any getting away from it. Any twinge, pain, ache... feels like the cancer is starting again. I'm scared. I'm scared. I'm scared. 

I have so many things to be happy about... my grandchildren, my son, my wonderful husband, my family. but it grips me out of nowhere. What if it comes back? 

People want you to give it up. They want you to live like there was never any cancer but I can't let it go. I honestly try. I have happy moments but alone in bed in the middle of the night it comes at me. 

Today I so needed to hear that someone else feels the same way. Thank you, Alice. 

k

beaumontdave's picture
beaumontdave
Posts: 996
Joined: Aug 2013

Good stuff, Alice! Definitely the words of a cancer veteran, our treatment paths are so similar, I was remembering me while reading you. And life did and does go on, so congrats on your six year marker, and many more to come..............................................Dave

marbleotis's picture
marbleotis
Posts: 696
Joined: Mar 2012

This is a wonderful milestone to read.  When you break down all that you have been through - it is alot to say the least.  

Enjoy!

betula's picture
betula
Posts: 83
Joined: Mar 2017

First congrats on the six years but wow, what a journey.  As a caregiver I can totally relate to your words too.  My husband just finished treatment for rectal cancer and had decent ct scans after (very small spot on liver that may be nothing) and he just got his port out.  People feel like we should be celebrating that it is over.  But I feel that it is just over for now.  I am a realist about this.  

Thanks for sharing your powerful story.

Hope4LRC
Posts: 9
Joined: Aug 2017

Thanks Alice for the beautiful and wise words. I'm in the throws of treatment and tests and probably more surgeries and I really needed to hear some words of hope. So happy for you!  I will return to your words again when I'm in need of a boost. 

Makord
Posts: 36
Joined: Oct 2017

Thank you so much Alice for sharing your story. it means a lot to all of us. I'll be going back to this again and again to take strength. My mother fights stage 4 rectal cancer with mets in liver and lungs, I'm devastated and frightened, your story sheds light and hope! THANK YOU!

wishing you many many cancer free years ahead full of health and love! Enjoy life! 

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