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12 Years & Would You Reverse Your Cancer Diagnosis?

An audio version of “12 Years & Would You Reverse Your Cancer Diagnosis?” is available via my free resource library.

It’s been 12 years since I heard the words, you have ‘a’ cancer. Yep. 12 years. Every year as the anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, I reflect (okay ramble). Usually, there’s a blog post. This year is no different. Then again, it is. I mean, it’s been a dozen years of NED (no evidence of disease). What do I say at this juncture?

I’m also wondering, if you could, would you reverse your cancer diagnosis?

I can’t wait to read your answer, so be sure to share with a comment at the end of this post.

12 years is a decent chunk of time. For some folks diagnosed with metastatic disease, 12 years would be like winning the lottery.

This fact is not lost on me.

There still is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about cancer. Some people don’t understand this, which is fine. But many, maybe even most of you reading this, probably do understand.

Anyone who’s heard those three words knows fully well they could hear similar ones again. Cancer Havers understand this on a deep level. Hence, the reason that instant bond of understanding exists among us. And my friends with metastatic disease, well, they’ve already heard the worst words — the ones no one wants to hear.

You might want to read, You Have Cancer.

A cancer diagnosis isn’t something you forget about or just move on from. At least this is not the case for me.

As I’ve written about before, I move forward every day — on — uh, uh. There’s a big difference.

You might want to read, Moving Forward vs Moving On.

Even if I wanted to move on (which I don’t, but that’s a different post), the mirror wouldn’t allow that. Every day when I shower or get dressed I am reminded, oh yeah, that really did happen. And just last summer, I had my umpteenth cancer-related surgery. So yeah, forgetting is out of the question even at 12 years out.

There are a ton of other reminders. But this post isn’t about all that stuff.

For some of that stuff, click here.

This post is to mark a milestone I am fully aware many who’ve also heard those words never make it to.

I know how incredibly lucky I am to be around to welcome and hold two new grandsons. These are the moments we endure grueling treatments for.

12 Years NED. Moments like this is what we endure harsh #cancer treatments for. #breastcancer #family #grandparenting
First snuggles with Amadeus, born 1/28/22

So many moms don’t get to see their own children grow up much less hold a grandbaby in their arms. When I held my grandbabies for the first time, you better believe I thought about those who didn’t and will not get this opportunity despite grueling treatments they endured hoping for such moments too.

And yes, there is survivor guilt that rears its head. That, too, is a different post.

I just wanna mention that those who are single, by choice or not, and those who do not have children, again by choice or not, have moments they very much want to stick around for too. I’ve heard more than once how some without partners and/or without children sometimes feel marginalized. Like their lives are less worthy, which, of course, is ridiculous.

You might want to read, When Your Cancer Diagnosis Feels Marginalized.

Moments like this is what we endure harsh #cancer treatments for. Would you reverse your cancer diagnosis? #breastcancer #family #grandparenting
First snuggles with Dax, born 3/28/22.

Each person who’s diagnosed with cancer teams up with an oncologist to devise A Plan. I had/have A Plan.

My Plan included genetic testing, a bilateral mastectomy, a salpingo oophorectomy and hysterectomy, chemotherapy, breast reconstruction (not once, but twice), endocrine therapy, and ongoing follow up. My Plan continues. We monitor for symptoms of recurrence and stay on alert for other cancers I’m at elevated risk for due to being BRCA2+.

It sucks to need A Plan, but since I do, I’m glad I’ve had and still have one. So far, my Plan is working.

My mother had A Plan. Every Cancer Haver has A Plan.

Why is it that some Plans work and others do not?

Cancer is such a crap shoot.

I remember the day I heard the words like it was yesterday. I remember the days, weeks and months that followed that were filled with a whole lot of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety.

You have cancer. The day I heard the words. Would you reverse your cancer diagnosis? #breastcancer #cancer #cancerdiagnosis #womenhealth
Click on the image or here to read more.

These days, I still live with those things to some degree, but I’ve learned how to keep them corralled to the back of my mind. Most days anyway. Actually, it’s not so much that I’ve learned how to do contain them. It’s more that I’ve gotten used to them lurking around and gotten better, for the most part, at ignoring them.

I don’t think about recurrence a whole lot. I’ve done what I can to dodge that possibility. I don’t worry much about other cancers popping up either. Why bother?

At this point, it’s pretty much back to that crap shoot thing.

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I feel a lot of gratitude. Yes, of course, I do.

Who wouldn’t?

I also still feel pissed off that cancer intruded into my family’s life with so much bluster and yes, cruelty.

I find that keeping a bit of anger bubbling inside me is helpful. (Weird? Maybe. Maybe not.)

I just finished reading Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Juoad — a really fine read. I highly recommend it. Juoad is a superb writer, and like so many others, I loved her memoir.

Her answer at the end of her book to the question, “If you could take it all back, would you?” really stuck with me. That answer was this:

If I’m thinking about my illness — abstracted from its impact on the people around me — then the answer is: It (cancer) has left me with an awareness that haunts the edges of my vision — it can all be lost in a moment — but it’s also given me a jeweler’s eye. No, I would not reverse my diagnosis if I could. I would not take back what I suffered to gain this.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the statement from her writings that sticks for most people, and I’m guessing it’s the not the takeaway Juoad wants remembered most from her story.

But it’s what sticks with me and what I remember most.

I respect Juoad’s words and how she’s chosen to navigate her unique cancer maze, which unfortunately, includes a recent relapse.

But I do wonder how it is that she, or anyone, can feel as if they wouldn’t choose to reverse their cancer diagnosis. As much as I loved her book, I was disappointed upon reading that answer. To me, it borders on that cancer is a gift type of thinking.

I would gladly give back my cancer experience. Before cancer, I was aware of life’s fragility and not in need of a jeweler’s eye to better see or understand life’s beauty and my priorities.

It’s not like it matters, of course, because no one can turn back time or reverse a cancer diagnosis just because you’d rather not deal with it.

Still, it makes me wonder (again), why don’t I feel that way?

Why do others seem more noble — yes — better somehow?

What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. Of course, I know this and yet…

I’m not exactly the person today I’d envisioned myself to be prior to cancer. But that’s okay.

For better or worse, I’m still here. 12 years later. This is what matters. What I do with this life from here on out, that matters too.

So, 12 years NED. Still grateful.

And yes, still pissed off.

But mostly grateful.

Thank you for reading this year’s ramble.

If you like this post, why not share it? (Thank you!)

If applicable, how long has it been since your diagnosis (or your loved one’s)?

Do you feel survivor guilt, and if so, how do you deal with it?

If you could, would you reverse your cancer diagnosis?

Have you visited my FREE Resource Library yet?

12 Years NED (no evidence of disease) & Would You Reverse Your Cancer Diagnosis? #cancer #breastcancer #mastectomy #brca #hereditarycancer #cancersucks

Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn't Make Me a Better Person
Click on image to purchase on Amazon, or click here to learn more. No sugarcoating. Guaranteed.

NGOC

Wednesday 25th of May 2022

Really appreciate your work.

Nancy

Friday 27th of May 2022

NGOC, Thank you.

Jeff

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Exceptional post (as always). I thought from having read many of your posts that I knew your answer to the reversal question (and I was correct). I too would reverse it in a heartbeat if I could. Everyone has a right of course to have their own thoughts and feelings about having cancer, but when I think just about the pain and agony it has caused those around me — without even touching upon my own traumas — I don’t know how I would ever want any of them to suffer through this again. Whatever “good” may have inadvertently emanated from this loathsome disease is a trifling compared to the destruction it has wrought.

Nancy

Friday 6th of May 2022

Jeff, It's good to hear from you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I could not agree more.

Jenelle

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Oh, congratulations on your grand babies.

Nancy

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Jenelle, Thank you!

Jenelle

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Nancy, thank you for this post and for your book. It has been 12 years for me, too. I don’t often write but I read your blog, always. I have never forgotten. I no longer have scanxiety, but every time I look in the mirror after a shower, cancer looks back at me.

Nancy

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Jenelle, Thank you for your kind words. Gosh, I love how you put that, "every time I look in the mirror after a shower, cancer looks back at me." I might have to borrow that! That is exactly how I feel too. I hope you're doing well after 12 years. Seems long ago and at the same time, just like yesterday, for me anyway. Thank you for sharing.

Helen

Wednesday 4th of May 2022

Try as I might, I can't find anything positive in my case. Nearly ten years since diagnosis. Bear in mind I lost my sister to genetic cancer last year(a mutation I didn't inherit), and she lost her son the previous year to the same cancer gene. All her three other sons have inherited it, as has my other sister (who survived cancer) and two out of three of her daughters. It permeates my family like a sick presence and will for generations to come until it perhaps peters out if there's finally a generation who doesn't inherit it. Highly unlikely since it's basically a 50/50 chance of getting it.

I can't find a positive because cancer and it's treatment has left me scarred, deformed and ageing well beyond my years physically and mentally, part due to surgical menopause at 45. And I'm not talking about wrinkles, I'm talking about degeneration that's occurring at a far earlier age than it should be. I mourn my loss of vitality and strength, honed by years of trying to keep fit. I mourn my sex life with my husband, which disappeared when I was diagnosed. Now thanks to that breakdown of my body, even if I wanted to, I cannot physically have sex. Not that I want it to happen, but I have to accept that if I were no longer in a relationship with my husband, starting a new one would have to involve a lack of normal sex.

I don't live in fear of recurrence, I have moved past that. I was always a glass half full kind of person, so my cancer diagnosis didn't change my mindset. I always adventured, stepped and thought outside the box, cancer didn't change that either. I was still a kind and compassionate person before diagnosis. I do still get anger and resentment, mostly when I see people mistreating their bodies and still in seemingly good health. I see bad people prosper. My resentment is probably because my nephew deserved to live past 31 years old, and his mother well past 60. My Dad who passed on the gene certainly deserved more than 47 years, and I deserved a dad longer than nine short years.

Hindsight would have insisted that my gynaecologist removed my ovaries and cervix along with my uterus four years before my ER PR+ diagnosis. Can't change that. Yes I would have had a mammogram earlier, would have saved me so much pain and grief. So basically, yes, given the chance I would most definitely like to change the course of history for myself. My loved ones also suffered because of my diagnosis, and if anything, being able to spare them this would have been worth it.

Nancy

Thursday 5th of May 2022

Helen, Gosh, you and your family have been through a lot. I'm sorry. I understand that hereditary component. I hope you're getting some help for the issues you mentioned. You deserve some support and guidance. You shouldn't have to give up on intimacy with your husband. And yeah, hindsight...I hear you. I wish I had known about and acted upon the mutation that runs in my family a bit sooner too. All we can do is carry on. Thank you for sharing.

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