A recent business transaction resulted in a lengthy conversation. Getting a new battery for my well worn watch normally wouldn’t take very long, but somehow the interaction became personal. The shop owner and I made a connection that led to her request to ask me something personal. Permission was granted and she asked if I would do it again.
Would I go through chemotherapy again?
With a slight hesitation, I replied, “yes.”
Even now I pause a bit thinking back to the feeling that question evoked.
Five words, put together in the form of a simple question, has evoked emotions that aren’t necessarily so simple.
Would I do it again?
I shared with this new found acquaintance that I was grateful for the information I was given after life was so abruptly interrupted a year ago. In fact, I am just two days shy of the anniversary of my diagnosis. I am grateful I got screened and the mass was found. I can’t dwell on the unknowns of what would have been the scenario if I had waited until symptoms surfaced.
Yes, a plug to get screened! Age 50 is the recommended age to get a colonoscopy! I’ll go with you if you need a driver or a push!
Every situation is unique. Every person, every diagnosis is unique. Life is full of uniqueness. In my unique plot twist, I made the decision based on qualified information to proceed with treatment. I never looked back and questioned if I had made the right choice. I’m grateful for the peace that came with that decision.
Never looking back on that decision did not make the process easier or more comfortable, but the peace was there and there was a confidence that came with peace.
I have had people tell me that they wouldn’t have chemotherapy. I cannot say what another person should or would do. It is not real, until it is very real.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that until entering the cancer arena personally, I did not know what it would be like. I had walked along side many whose loved ones had been impacted in a direct way, but this was new. I realized from the comments and questions of many, that this was personal to me. They did not know what I was going through. There are those who have experienced cancer themselves, some who have gone through chemo, some who did not and they often were the ones who would remain quiet or would ask before offering wisdom. They could relate and knew that my experience was unique, but we might share some similar thoughts.I remember someone who was removed from the experience, who was surprised I was still having side effects into my second and third treatments. How I would wish the side effects would subside, but they did not. Some of them compounded with each treatment. This thought of subsiding side effects shocked me. It was not my reality nor that of anyone I met at the clinic, even though the providers made every effort to manage the effects.
But I digress…back to the conversation that sparked this sorting…
As I spoke with the woman who continued to inquire, and she did so with grace and respect, I shared some facts about my experience. Facts that are riddled with emotions. I found myself pausing with certain responses as the emotions surfaced. It wasn’t that I was fearful of tears, but I was taking a moment to experience the emotions.
I’m continuing to learn how this thing didn’t end when treatment ended. That is not to say there is a threat of returned cancer. In fact, I have another visit with my doc next week and will have more scans next month to verify my cancer free status! This thing, what I went through…what my family went through, continues to mold me and impact my days. In that sense, it didn’t end with treatment.
A few weeks ago I spent time with a friend who has walked the precarious road of being the mother of a child who has lifelong health concerns.
The road they have shared is one I cannot imagine, yet we shared a sense of understanding. She voiced phrases that struck home with my heart and mind. She asked if I could believe we went through all of “it.” Did I look back and wonder what all had happened? Did I wonder how we got through it? Did I realize I was stronger than I knew? She knew it wasn’t over. She knew it was still a part of my thoughts and decisions. She knew. And I suspect she and her daughter know a lot more of what I may experience as I approach the anniversaries of the diagnosis, surgeries, treatments and more.
I cannot help but look back a little bit, yet I continue to look forward. This isn’t an encouragement to cling to the past. This is a continuation of sorting and feeling and thinking.
As I return once again to the conversation with the question of whether I would do it again, I reflect on the statement that came in the course of interaction when I repeated three or four times, “I hope I never have to go through it again!”
I don’t know what I would do if faced with new information and the decision of whether to have treatment or not. At times, my mind wonders if I will have to a be a person who faces such a decision. Would I do it again? I don’t want to be that brave!
My thoughts don’t go there often and when they drift in that direction, I don’t stay there long. I have physical reminders of the past year. There are scars, painful joints, and of course the port is still around…for awhile longer. There are emotional reminders as well. They aren’t all painful. That’s a good thing. Reminders come in many forms.
I’m reminded I have a life to celebrate, a husband who graciously cares for me, children who are amazingly strong, parents and family who prayed when I was weary (and they still do), friends who heaped love onto us in ways we wouldn’t have known we needed (and they still do), medical providers who are daily meeting needs of so many, and I’m reminded of a hope that defies description.
I don’t want to face the question in the future. However, I am at peace with what I decided a year ago I was at peace with that choice regardless of the outcome.
I did not expect to have such unfamiliar feelings post treatment Of course, I didn’t expect to have cancer, either. I guess I thought the emotions would subside and I would recognize “normal” again. This is another reminder that normal has changed. I do not wish for sympathy because of these feelings. I do not wish to impose them on others. I am merely a survivor (!) who is continuing to sort using the medium of words.
As I reminisce and reflect, I can say I would do it again if taken back to that moment of decision and looking ahead, I hope I never have to make that decision again.