I was looking for my resume, of all things and I stumbled across the following. I had forgotten that quite some time ago, I was going to write about the fun and not so fun things about being sick. I even have sections that I titled, but never finished. Now that I found this, I’ve put it on my to do list, so one day, I’ll actually complete it. Here is the rough draft of what I’ve written so far. I started this January 1, 2009. I’m not sure why the spacing got goofy after I pasted it, but I’m not going to fix it…sorry!
I’m just me, with a side of cancer
Just like every
other twenty-four year old woman, I had my entire life ahead of me. I was in college, I worked at a job I was
passionate about and had a great group of family and friends. Then I turned twenty-five and my world was
turned upside down. Just five days after
my birthday, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.
A little background
twenty-four, I’ve got a great job, great friends who loved to have fun and a
couple of boys I was having fun with.
Life was good! In the months that
followed one boy in particular really swept me off my feet. By all accounts, my life could’ve been
considered perfect. Perfect except for
the continuous ovarian cysts I had each month.
After several months of numerous cysts, I asked my doctor to run tests
to determine the cause. Given that I had
an HMO, it was an act of God to get the appropriate tests run. After coming back with inconclusive results I
requested that I be tested for cancer. From
the response I got, you would’ve thought I was an alien speaking Ethiopian to
them. How on earth could I think I might
have cancer? I was a relatively healthy
twenty-four year old. Cancer was an impossibility…
quickly became my reality. I had a
biopsy done within the week of my initial request…a true miracle given that I
was initially met with such resistance.
As I was resting on the couch after the biopsy, my nephew asked what the
doctor did. My mom overhead me telling
my nephew that the doctors needed to see what my insides looked like. He asked me if I saw my insides and I told
him saw some pictures. I described the
picture that I saw as little piece of broccoli.
After hearing this, my mom went to find my dad and tell him what I had
said. Little did I know my parents knew
I had cancer before I did. My dad is
also a cancer survivor, and his tumor looked just like broccoli too.
After the diagnosis
The day I found
out, my dad told me I was now a part of a special group. I had been inducted into the cancer club, I
remember asking him if I could reject my membership. So much changed after my diagnosis. The thing that bothered me the most was how others
treated me. I was no longer just Lori; I
was Lori, the one with cancer. So many
people didn’t know how to react around me.
My friends struggled to understand what my future held. My parent’s friends seemed terrified that
someone so young could be diagnosed with cancer.
More visitors than…
So, by no means
was a hussy in my younger years. My
who-ha, as I commonly refer to her as wasn’t seen by many, and certainly wasn’t
touched by many. That was until I got
sick. Now, I think the number of
visitors she’s had rival that of the Queen Mary. Being that I was that rare 10% of the
population that was HPV negative, I was a medical marvel. Given that I was being treated at a teaching hospital, I think they made a point of sending in every student to see my cervix. It got to the point that the
doctors would give my brief history, always ending with “…and she’s [insert
drum roll here] HPV negative.” At first
I was appalled. Here doctors were
shouting out this status as if it were commonplace. I mean, HPV is listed as a sexually
transmitted disease. Eventually I chimed
in that I was also negative for HIV, Chlamydia and a host of other STDs. The doctors quickly took my hint and stopped
pointing this out at every opportunity.
This was just one of the many times the doctors treated me as a study
guide instead of person. Being the type
of person that I am, I called them on it every time. I remember one time a young doctor came in
while I was receiving a routine exam. My
legs were in the stir-ups and my who-ha was exposed to the world (okay, not the
world but it sure felt like it). The
doctor never said a word to me; he just examined me and walked to the
door. Just as he was about to walk
through the door, I called out to him “Call me.” He was mortified. He stopped and came back over to me and began
to apologize. At this point, I sat
myself up and gave him a piece of my mind, in front of my doctors and many of
colleagues. I mean really, come on! At the very least he should’ve had the decency
to introduce himself and acknowledge me first.
much of the course of my treatment I was kept segregated from others. I had a terrible fear of vomiting (myself and
of others) so when I received chemo, I was in my own suite. This was just fine by me. The last thing I wanted was to be around a
bunch of sick people! Initially, when I
asked about support groups, my medical team advised against them. Their reasoning made sense, I was young and
the majority of those in attendance would be much older, and in many cases,
much sicker. So, I opted to utilize my
own support group of family and friends.
This worked for many years.
However, as time and the cancer progressed, my attitude changed. Terence suggested that I attend a support
group. He even mentioned how beneficial
and helpful his mother had found her’s.
I told him I didn’t need one, I had my own. As the weeks went by, Terence continued to
encourage me to go and at one point told me I was being very negative and that
I needed to go to one. After being
called a “Negative Nelly” I decided I’d at least try one. We found one at a center downtown, more than
twenty five miles from our home. I was
certain this was the support group for me, as the age limit was between
eighteen and thirty-five. Terence and I
left work early that day so we could arrive to the center together, and on time
(a small miracle for those of you who know Terence). The center was beautiful…calm and
peaceful. As we walked up the drive, a
woman who asked if she could help met us.
We told her why we were there and she looked shocked and sad. Apparently the flyer that I was given was
more than two years old. The support
group that I wanted to attend hadn’t been in existence for almost that amount
of time. I was so disheartened. The woman quickly suggested other groups the
center offered. When I explained that
the reason I chose this particular group was the age of the attendees, she
suggested that I seek out alternative groups, while encouraging me to try the
groups at the center. So, my first
attempt was a no go! The second group I
attempted to contact was for an ovarian cancer group. The woman who was kind enough to call me back
invited me to attend their next meeting.
After sharing with her Terence’s concerns, she told me that it would
greatly help me. She asked a little bit
about what I was feeling and I finally felt a connection. I was talking to someone who had gone through
similar things…not the same but similar.
However, the conversation quickly went south. When I told her that my faith had been put
into question, she immediately told me that I couldn’t feel that way. Well, for those of you who don’t know me, I
don’t take to being told I can’t do or feel anything very well. I was immediately put off by this woman’s
audacity to invalidate my feelings.
Regardless of her beliefs, I was questioning my faith at that time. Needless to say, before even attending the
meeting I decided this wasn’t the group for me.
A few weeks after our initial call, the woman contacted me again. She asked why I hadn’t attended the meeting
and I was honest with her. She then
proceeded to ask me if “Diane” still felt the same way. She carried on for some time about “Diane.” I finally had to stop her and ask who “Diane”
was. It turns out that she had
misunderstood Terence for Diane. I know,
I don’t know how she did it either. To
this day, I still think those two names sound nothing alike! Anyway, after I clarified that Terence was
his name, she immediately apologized and said it was okay if I was with a
woman. As if I needed her
permission. After the second
conversation I was certain this wasn’t the group for me! So, as they say (and by the way, who exactly
is “they?”) the third time was the charm.
I went to a prominent hospital in Phoenix and attended their general
cancer support group. My first time, I
attended with my best friend, Tara. I
invited Tara over Terence, because quite honestly I was still a bit pissy that
he called me a “negative Nelly.” After
work I went to Tara’s house and had dinner with her family, then we went to the
Protecting the ones I love
have always thought that I was the sick one, so the ones that I loved wouldn’t
have to endure this torture. Well, the
reality is that many of my loved ones will battle cancer one day. But I still believe in the sentiment. It might seem odd that as much as I used my
support group, I didn’t allow them to be an active part of my treatment. No one went with me to chemo treatments. When I had a surgery, only one person was
allowed to go to the hospital, the person driving me home. This person was never allowed to be my
immediate family. This might seem odd,
if not downright wrong to some, but I had a reason for this. I had to protect the ones closest to me from
seeing the worst parts of my treatment.
For the most part, I put on a smile.
Looking back, I worked so hard to make it seem so easy. I had to make sure my loved ones knew I was
okay. This was my way of protecting
them for the horror of my treatments.
Some other cancer quirks
in an email, my friends and family had to write one word to describe me. Words like courageous, amazing and strong
were used. Then, there was the word my
brother used…quirky. Yes, I am the
epitome of quirky. Almost to the point
of being downright weird. So, I already
told you that only one person, the one driving me home, could be at the
hospital with me. Well, in addition to
that quirk, I also demanded that the person wait for me in the cafeteria, not
the waiting room. I did this for their
comfort. Who wants to be in a room full
of other people waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery? Food is a tremendous comfort to me and
although hospital food can be scary, the cafeteria seemed to be the most
comfortable place in the hospital. So,
my “driver” had to wait for me there.
Another quirk was my insistence that after any surgery, I walked out of
the hospital myself, without any hospital garb on me. Of course, there were times when this wasn’t
possible and that I was very thankful for that wheelchair ride!