Living In Fear That The 'Big C' Will Return To My Body


It's always something, darlings! Learning I had lung cancer and a melanoma in one phone call eight years ago was a real something, darlings! Did I survive my ordeal. Yes! Was it easy for me? No!

I could not believe such awful events were taking place in my personal life. It was really almost too much to bear. For the first time in my life, I did not see the glass half full. "How was I ever going to make lemonade out of lemons?" I asked myself hundreds of times.

Like other women who struggle with life threatening illness, I mourned my lost joy, my happiness and my exhilaration for life. I spiraled from the top of the mountain to depths of despair. My luminous and fulfilling life ended when I heard that I had CANCER. My husband's children and grandchildren's lives were affected because of our deep love for one another.

I attribute my physical survival to a little bit of luck but I believe I am alive today because I am disciplined about check-ups. Darlings, take the necessary precautions with your health and make your yearly doctor appointments. We are responsible for our good health.

Part 1 of my story:

I went to the dermatologist for my yearly body check. A spot on my leg turned into a Stage 1 melanoma that required major surgery. Of course, I needed a chest x-ray for surgery. That showed a mass in my lung! In a 24-hour time frame I learned I had two different cancers! If I had not gone for my yearly body check I do not think I would be alive today to tell you my story because I had no symptoms; I actually had never felt better!

I am a fortunate survivor. I had two surgeries two weeks apart. The melanoma and lung cancer were diagnosed Stage 1. I did not need chemotherapy or radiation. Everyone said, "You are so lucky." I was out and about in no time but I did not feel lucky. I was terrified, darlings.

My emotional survival took five years.

Part 2 of my story:

My emotional healing was emotionally debilitating. It was based on one word...fear. I felt a daily dark cloud hanging over my head, as I constantly wondered, "Will it come back?" For the first three years, I had a cat scan every three months that would put me in 'fear mode' at least a month before the actual scan. I graduated to scans every six months for the following two years and now I have a yearly scan that still frightens me to death ... wondering ... is it back?

It is interesting that for those first five years after being diagnosed with cancer I had the ability to live an exciting and fast-paced life actually doing more than I had ever done. I studied and had my Bat Mitzvah, I became a writer, I traveled to countries most Americans will never see ... Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. And my list of activities goes on and on.

This is how I think I healed emotionally:

To begin with I never felt sorry for myself and I only occasionally wondered why me. My only issue was the fear of the "Big C" returning to my body.

I accepted my feelings and lived through my fear. I did not feel vulnerable about expressing my feelings to my friends who cared about me. I did not sweep my own feelings, of total fear, under the carpet. I sobbed a thousand tears; buckets full for months and months. I expressed my feelings of fear to my husband and my family. A girlfriend who had lung cancer convinced me to visit her psychologist, Jennifer. She gave me tools of thought that helped me feel my way back to positivity as I continued to mourn and mourn over my predicament.

So darlings, here are a few suggestions for emotional recovery.

  1. Live openly through your emotional pain. Don't closet it. Express yourself.
  2. Don't think 'black' about your situation. Think Grey.
  3. Stay involved with life. Smell the flowers as you go through the rain.
  4. Keep your body strong. Work out.
  5. Seek professional help until you recover emotionally.

I learned to think grey because Jennifer taught me to think 'grey'. We go through our lives, darlings, with tons of OMGs. Most of them turn out to be solvable grey problems, not black problems. I now use her teachings when confronted with an OMG!

It is now eight years since I learned of my cancers, almost to the day. I just had my OMG yearly cat scan. I am fine. Did I think grey as I waited to hear my fate from my doctor: No!!! But the other 363 days of the year if I have an OMG, I do, and that darlings, is what matters!

Do something GOOD today: Make an appointment and go for your physical.

Photography by Hallie Duesenberg

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