Dear Cancer: You didn't get me

Dear Cancer: You didn't get me
A great place to belong

Today is a very important day for me. And I would like to address the visitors in my life that make it so.

Dear Cancer,

No, I didn’t say dearest cancer because well, as we all know, no one likes you. Basically you suck. You took my mom, my brother in law, my friends, but damnit, I’ll be a son of a bitch if you thought you were going to get me.

On that sunny July 11th day in 2003 I woke up excited to go see my daughter play in a softball tournament. But you had other plans for me. You decided to make your appearance in my boob, usually reserved for my husband. But you thought it was okay to plant yourself there and in a pretty big way.

You couldn’t have just been a little cyst or something less bothersome. No, you just had to hit me with your best shot and take over a year of my life. From that July day forward, you really screwed things up for me. You left me with a boob and a half (okay, I am definitely grateful that you did not take both my boobs, eternally grateful actually) and weird fitting bras. Those first couple weeks you had me spending all my time in hospitals and doctors offices. Not exactly where I wanted to spend my summer.

The one thing you didn’t count on was that I decided right from the start that I had you but you did not have me. I had too much life left in me and daughters to raise. I know that others who lose their battle feel the same way and are unsuccessful in winning their fight against you. You mother fucker, you took my mom so I know not everyone kicks your ass. But I feel as though I did. I feel as though every single one of us cancer survivors who can call ourselves just that, has kicked your ass. We need to.

On this 8th anniversary of that day you very unwelcomingly showed up, I am proud to let you know that I am cancer free. Those first 5 years after you showed up all I could do was pray that I would make it this far. Every year around this time I get a sick feeling as I wonder if you are ever going to try to come see me again. You best stay away as I will kick your ass even harder. Not so sincerely, ME

Dear Chemotherapy and Radiation,

I write to you both as in weird ways I have to thank you for helping to save my life. Although chemotherapy – you suck rotten eggs as rotten as they come but I depended on you in huge amounts.

The first time I watched the tube with your pink Kool Aid colored poison going into my veins I thought “wow, this is really going to be bad”. You had to be monitored because if you touched my skin I could suffer a third degree burn. How exciting that you were entering my body.

You didn’t take long to make me puke by the hour and within 2 weeks you gave me not only bad hair days, you gave me no hair days. And a big fuck you to all the people who ever said to me “it’s just hair, it will grow back”. Go shave your heads and check back with me. And your legs, eyebrows, eyelashes, arms and crotches too.

You took my taste buds away so everything tasted like shit. Anytime I could find anything that tasted decent, I stuffed my face with it so thank you for the thirty pounds I gained while we were friends. It’s been a joy trying to lose it and keep it off.

Thank you for the days that I felt like a bullet to the head would feel better. Those were great. But like the initial cancer, I kicked your ass too. The second I was able to get out of bed, I did. I never missed an important trade show or appointment. I still went to important events for my girls and even after I burned the front of my wig (don’t try to use a curling iron on synthetic hair) I still managed to handle my baldness with some degree of pride. And without you, I may not be here to speak.

As for you radiation, you were a walk in the park. Not much to say to you other than thanks for the glow. Sincerely, ME

Over the weekend as I was enjoying the Gold Coast Art Fair and the wonders of our beautiful city, I stumbled upon the Cancer Survivors Plaza on Randolph. I never knew it existed but thought wow, a whole plaza dedicated to those of us, and there aren’t enough, that have met the demon and beat him.

There will never be enough words of gratitude for my survival. The way I look at life is so very different than BC and only other survivors can understand that feeling. So, in ending my letters of the day, I will repeat what I had said once just as I completed my treatments.

There is a reason that I was saved. Not only to be here for my family and watch my girls grow up but for one other reason: I had not yet lived to see the Cubs win a World Series. With that being said, I know that I am going to live a very, very long time.

PS: This letter is also dedicated to my dear friend Jackie who I met in treatments. We laughed together and cried together and it pains me still that she lost her battle at the age of 40.

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