Don't be surprised if you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster. It is perfectly normal. Denial, anger, fear, anxiety, frustration, irritation, impatience, helplessness, are among the myriad of feelings you may experience. It is OK to exhibit any and all of these emotions, as long as you don't remain stuck in any of them for too long. Find a safe way to release what needs to be released. Talk things out with someone you trust or find a counselor, cry and yell if necessary...find a support group on the Internet or in the community where you reside. It is so very important to know you have someone in your corner who can listen and offer encouragement.
When I saw the ugly, red mass of cauliflower looking tissue on the monitor while the urologist examined me, I knew immediately it was cancer. I did not panic but instead reassured myself that the cancer was superficial and so I thought, this isn't so bad...this can be remedied. I wanted to have the tumor removed as soon as possible and have my life return to normal. Two days later I found myself in the hospital scheduled for a TURB, trans urethral resection of the tumor. I expected to have my tumor removed and to be sent home the same day. I was unpleasantly surprised. After the surgery, the doctor came to my room to notify me that the tumor was invasive into the muscle tissue and he was not able to remove all of the tumor for fear of rupturing the bladder. Not wasting any time on sensitivities, he told me I needed 3-4 months of chemo and then to have my bladder removed. I was still recovering from the anesthesia and a bit groggy. Surely, I told myself, I must have misunderstood. Yet somehow, I knew his words were all too real.
Since the cancer was invasive into the muscle tissue, I was told that I would need to remain in the hospital overnight so I could be x-rayed and scanned to determine if cancer was elsewhere in my body. I was numb. Later that night I could not sleep. I lay there fighting off a panic attack. I cried. More than anything else, I wanted my mother. She, herself, had expired from lung cancer twenty years earlier yet I wanted her to be with me. Like a child, I wanted to be held and consoled.
After the tears subsided, I became angry and asked God, why me? I had always led a fairly healthy lifestyle, had never smoked and was not overweight. I had avoided working around any known carcinogenic materials. Why me? And yet, even with this devastating news, I wanted to be thankful to God. I recalled the bible verse, "in all things give thanks and praise". I asked myself, How can I be thankful for cancer? Then I considered all the young children who have been diagnosed with cancer and thought, why not me? Cancer is not fair. It takes anyone at any age. The thought then crossed my mind that I was lucky my children had never received such a diagnosis. Thank you, God, said I, that I have cancer, and not my children. I then surrendered my concerns to God. I no longer felt overwhelmed. I ask Him to guide me so that I would find the right medical treatment. Having arrived at such a conclusion brought me great comfort and finally I was able to sleep.
Although I surrendered what fears I could to my Creator, I still experienced frustration and anxiety during my walk with cancer. It is a difficult journey with too many unknowns. I would often have to remind myself that God had everything under control while from my view, things often seemed out of order and undefined. I prayed to God for guidance. I wanted Him walking by my side. I knew only He could fully understand my pain. Only He would know what would happen to me. The platitude of taking one day at a time became my reality. If I tried to look too far ahead, I felt lost and overwhelmed. Learning how to live in the present was necessary for my survival. As time moved on, I found this lesson to be one of the greatest blessings that has resulted from living with cancer.
Not all that results from cancer is negative. While on my journey with cancer, I have had the privilege to meet some of the strongest and most noble souls that I probably will ever meet. Some of them I have met in person while others I have met on the Internet and through phone conversations. So many wonderful people that I would otherwise have never had the chance to meet. Individuals who have taught me so much about how similar we all are yet so different...and all of us so special in our own way. Until this crisis, I had not fully realized how very critical it is for us to recognize our connection with each other and the importance of reaching out to others in need.
Early on in my research of cancer, I discovered there were those warriors who came away from cancer with the idea that if they could undo their experience with cancer, they would not. They felt that although it was a painful journey, the end result was so rewarding, that it was worth the pain. I had no idea how anyone could make such a comment, much less record it in a magazine article or book but I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to believe there was a reason I was stricken with cancer. I needed to justify my suffering...to know it was not in vain. I wanted to know there was some hidden benefit waiting for me at the finish line. I had to trust that God would never leave me alone to face such a situation by myself....that somehow all things would work out. Only He could know the outcome of my dilemma. Only He could help me profit from a situation that seemed so dark and frightening. As it turned out, my faith would be my saving grace.
I am so pleased to say that cancer has proven to be a blessing for me. I feel I have gained so many positives from this experience that it was worth the trial and test. I know now that I am a much stronger person than I would ever have imagined. I have learned the hard way, the lesson of patience. I am a better marriage partner and a better mother. I have a much greater appreciation of all things good that life has to offer...things I too easily took for granted....like the simple experience of being able to urinate. I value each and every day for I have found that each day truly is a gift. And each day we have the opportunity to ask ourselves....how do I want to unwrap this gift? We can start our day with disinterest or negativity or we can choose to begin our day with a sense of anticipation and excitement and joy. My prayer is that you also will come to know the peace and contentment that comes from asking our Lord and Savior to walk with you, no matter where your cancer journey takes you.