A love letter to the newly diagnosed:
Welcome! You have joined the shitty club! It is not a club that any of us ever wanted to join, but as my dad often said, “Nobody ever said life was fair.” Cancer DEFINITELY doesn’t play fair. If you had asked me before I was diagnosed for a word that made me fearful, cancer would probably have been near the top of the list, if not number 1. It is a word that takes your breath away.
People have many different ways to deal with hardship. Everyone has hardship. I am not special in that way. My hardship just happens to be Stage IV incurable colorectal cancer. I found being diagnosed with cancer like going through the grieving process. But like grieving, the process is not linear. Because I believe in science, denial only lasted a few days. When multiple doctors show you pictures of your cancer, and biopsies of your cancer, and tell you that you have cancer, denial doesn’t survive long. Anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance can cycle through my life on any given day. I can wake up happy, thank God for all the blessings in my life, and be crying by noon because the weight of dealing with a chronic illness is just too much in that moment.
After two and a half years of dealing with cancer every day, I have worked hard to not let it define my life. I am so much more than my cancer. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, and a friend. I am a whole person, not just one with cancer. Some days I have to remind myself, and others, of that several times. But some days, I forget about having cancer, and just live.
I was recently asked, what advice would you give to the newly diagnosed? That is such a hard question. I can only tell you what worked for me. Cancer forced me to open my mind to new things.
I joined a lovely group of women that are all in the shitty club with me. We can talk openly and understand what it is like to be in that God forsaken club.
I have new hobbies that I never would have tried before.
I try to take time to look at beautiful things.
I give love away freely and say I love you often.
But mostly, I just try to live and laugh and love everyday.
I also give myself grace that sometimes I am sad, or depressed, or just in a really shitty mood.
That’s okay too, because I know that cancer is there like in my rear view mirror, not in my face. I am not in denial.
This is my party, my friends.