Hope, in a Word

“Hope, in a Word” is a blog post written recently for www.help4cancer.net. Visit their website for helpful information about cancer.

Sustain Me: Notes on Cancer, encouragement for cancer patients, stage four cancer, stage three cancer

“Cancer is a word, not a sentence.” ~John Diamond

“Insurance usually covers a baseline ultrasound when you turn forty. I’m giving you a prescription for one; call and we’ll schedule you for August,” said the doctor. She smiled. I thanked her, left the office, and walked out the door. It was a simple conversation on a sunny spring morning that saved my life.

A few months later the well-care scan found a mass deep in my pelvis.

I was scheduled for surgery. The doctors were hopeful that the mass was just a fluid filled sac, but the potential of the mass being cancerous was real. The term “possible resection” had been spoken quietly during the consultation with the surgeon. I did not give that word much thought; surely this mass was something they would remove without complications and life would return to normal.

A week or two later I woke up from surgery with a colostomy and a diagnosis of stage III colo-rectal cancer. An ugly thing. A non-glamorous humiliating expression of disease that was threatening my life and capsizing my idea of how life was to “be” at forty years of age. Over the course of eight days our new reality of a cancer diagnosis set in. I was a physical mess. But harsh reality was being tempered and buffered with a peace that could only come from God. The morning of the eighth day I sat propped in a chair, ready to go home. I had just been taught the fine art of changing the colostomy bag by the ostomy nurse. Prescription papers and the hospital folder with phone numbers for home care were in my bag. I started crying.

My husband, Tom, looked at me and said, “What’s wrong?”

I answered, “It’s not like I’m going home cured. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning.”

“We’ll take it one day at a time,” he said.

Oh God. Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Like many cancer patients and families affected by this disease, we’ve learned to appreciate life one day at a time. Four years after that first surgery, I’ve now been through chemo, radiation, ileostomy and take down (colostomy reversal); the return of cancer a year later as stage IV (I decided I’d better write fast, since there is no stage V); the implementation of a wellness plan that included juicing and raw foods; a second round of more targeted radiation and chemo (what? I thought once you had radiation, you couldn’t have it again?); and a continuation of the wellness plan in an effort to regain health. The encouraging news? My last two scans have been clear. I attribute this to the power of prayer, a high commitment to a wellness plan that includes juicing and raw foods (implemented October 1, 2012 to the present), and also to the targeted radiation and chemo pill during my second round of treatment that took place 15 months ago from the time of this writing. I’ll never again assume that medical treatment alone is the “cure” for cancer.

How about you? Are you on the cancer journey yourself, or perhaps a care-giver? Difficult days, no doubt. But there is always, always hope. Remember; cancer is word. Not a sentence.

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Sharon O’Connor is a cancer “surthriver” who shares her personal experience with humor and grace. Her goal as a stage four cancer patient is to encourage others going through the squall of diagnosis and treatment. Sharon blogs about the cancer journey over at www.sustainme.net. You can connect with Sharon on Facebook and Twitter.

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