Reflection on 30 days of writing and 4.5 months of living with the knowledge that cancer cells share my body. My personal #NaNoWriMo, a month early.
The past 4.5 months have both zoomed by like a Ducati on the racetrack and crawled like I-5 at 5 pm when there’s a week night Mariners or Seahawks game.
This exercise — write a post a day for a month — has grounded me in the reality that is breast cancer in ways I did not imagine when I got a wild hair and decided to do this. It’s been challenging in the time commitment, in the search for a nugget to jumpstart 700–1000+ words each evening, in the discipline needed to write when I didn’t feel like writing.
But I’ve learned a lot … and I thought I’d already learned a lot in this crash course in yet another medical crisis.
The biggest lesson in the journey so far is that what I thought I knew about cancer was both grossly oversimplified and often wrong. (I actually thought chemo worked most of the time, that it was painful and had awful side effects but that it worked.)
The second biggest: just how individualized this disease seems to be and the variants disguised by the singular diagnosis, “breast cancer.”
The third builds on everything I learned dealing with the health of my parents: doctors are human and don’t know everything, even when they’re specialists. Maybe especially then. Question everything, not out of spite or fear but to uncover assumptions, unstated unknowns, alternatives.
And even though everyone says “don’t read the Internet” (well maybe not everyone but I’ve had several doctors say this) … that’s not the right advice. Find the organizations and discussion groups that focus on your disease, your cancer. Search PubMed. Read, watch talks, discover the conferences that focus on your disease. Use the Internet mindfully.
In other words, buckle up and drive. Don’t be content to take this journey as a passenger.
So what’s next for me? More of the same.
Learn from the experiences of other women who are willing to share their stories.
Stay current on research and conferences.
Write. Maybe give a talk or two.
Watch the diet. Explore alternative healing — from my qi gong and acupuncture to, perhaps, those experiments with repurposed drugs(metformin, doxycycline, anti-fungal, statin). See the naturopathic oncologist. And the Chinese herbalist.
Travel. Dinners with friends. Laugh more.
A long time ago, I experienced a past life regression with my therapist, Bart Paff. I remember when it was over that it seemed to have taken only minutes, but I was exhausted and it had taken more than an hour. I was a Native American who had outlived everyone dear to me; just typing these words triggers tight throat, burning eyes, and overwhelming sadness. The fear of loss has paralyzed me often, and this story — even if it’s merely a metaphor — has helped me see that reaction in a different light.
Cancer is the ultimate fear of loss.
I choose action.
(1) If you liked this article, please 👏 and share it with your friends. You can clap up to 50 times — it really makes a big difference for me. Thanks!
(2) If you’d like to follow more of my breast cancer journey and the research I’m uncovering, I’m writing semi-regularly at life.wiredpen.com.
Posted at 12:07 am Pacific, 2 November 2017
Header photo via Death To Stock Photography.