Healthy Living

There’s No Right Way To Respond To A Cancer Diagnosis

It’s a personal decision that cannot be judged by anyone else.
07/20/2017 04:03pm ET
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

When the world found out that Senator John McCain has brain cancer, after the collective shock at the diagnosis, I bet a lot of people thought to themselves, “What if I had brain cancer?”

The very thought of feeling deceived by your own body is daunting, but to have cancer in the very part of your body that helps you think, is inconceivable. Not all brain cancers are terminal and hopefully that will be the case with Senator McCain. Some tumors, depending on the location, can be removed and/or treated with radiation and chemotherapy. No matter, cancer is a very stressful diagnosis that is difficult for people to talk about. Senator McCain is a brave man for letting the world know, but we already knew this from his legacy and his run for president.

When diagnosed with terminal cancer there are two options: fight it or don’t fight it and live the rest of your life the best you can until the end. It’s a personal decision that cannot be judged by anyone else, especially if they don’t know what it feels like. If the tumor is in the decision making part of the brain, then it might be very difficult for the patient to make any treatment choices. Be patient with your patient, as even with a fully functioning brain, facing cancer is one of the hardest things to think about and deal with.

When our loved ones are diagnosed with cancer we search the internet looking for answers. We buy supplements, vitamins and books to give our cancer-fighting friend. We talk to doctors, and get referrals and search for a miracle cure. We do everything we can because we don’t want to lose our lover, friend, sister, bookclub member or anyone we ever met to a disease that claims the young, the good and the fearless. We know how precious life is and to envision a future without us in it can cause us to live a little better the next day, enjoy the sunset and give a little more love out. That’s the flip side to cancer, like the shadows show the light, cancer shows life.

My mom thought she had a brain tumor after a misdiagnosis but still didn’t give up hope that she would be cured. She had a cancer tumor in her eye and had it removed, and she went through radiation and later chemo to treat it ― but it was terminal. Watching her face her fears of dying and seeing her live each of her last days with love and grace was all the inspiration I needed when I had to face my own cancer a year later without her beside me.

The best thing that you can do for someone going through cancer is to give them your time, and show them that you care because it feels very lonely going through it. I would’ve done anything to have my mom with me, but I’m so glad I was there for her.

From the moment I was diagnosed until I was in remission, I knew that I would do anything to live. I had surgery to remove the cancer and then radiation to make sure all of it was out of my body. I feel that my soul is my brain, so to have part of that removed would feel like a part of me is gone. There are parts of me that are missing including my thyroid, parathyroid glands and part of my liver, but I know that the brain is something different. If I ever get diagnosed with a brain tumor I will have it removed, if possible. Maybe some of my best memories or the part that craves chocolate would be gone but honestly, I would give those up to just be alive and watch my daughter grow up.

There are two people I know who have had brain tumors and survived. One had surgery to have it removed and he is doing amazingly well now. The other had the tumor radiated and is also doing great, more than 10 years later. Luckily for them, the treatment worked and they had the best doctors and support teams to help them through it. We know that Senator McCain has the best of the best, but we also know that he has a fighting spirit and a warrior mentality.

A cancer diagnosis can be scary and devastating but one’s heart and outlook can go a long way with fighting the disease and helping with recovery. Whatever the outcome, Senator McCain has been a hero, not just for what he’s done for our country, but for how he has shown courage under adversity from which we can all learn from.

If cancer ever had a worthy adversary, it’s definitely Senator McCain.