Being diagnosed with cancer usually changes the life completely. Even the early stages of cancer, that are usually fully curable, cause fear, uncertainty and anger. It makes you ask questions “Why me?”. It makes you really scared of death, especially when you are young and there is still so much for you to do.
It is even worse, when you know that you just can’t be cured. I was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, with several metastases to the liver. This stage is incurable, no matter how hard the doctors would try, they just can’t cure me. They can prolong my life with one chemotherapy after another, but this is all they can do. What a person is supposed to do in this case?
It seems there are only two solutions to this problem. It’s either fighting, at any price, or giving up and waiting for death to come. These two things, in one way or another, determine your life. And even if you choose to fight, or choose to give up, the illness has already won over you. You can say “No, I am fighting it, so how could it win?”. But what else can it be if you sacrifice the rest of your life to fight? The illness becomes the most important thing in your life. And I think you should never ever allow it to happen.
One can say, that sometimes cancer can teach you to appreciate your life. It wasn’t like this in my case. I learnt to appreciate my life long time ago. Many years ago, when I was barely over 20, I lost my parents and was left with no family at all. It taught me that only me and no one else is responsible for my life. I learnt how to live a life, because it is too precious to be wasted. So could I waste it on just being ill? No, I couldn’t.
From the very beginning I knew that my illness wouldn’t determine my life. Instead of asking myself a question “Why me?”, I kept saying “Good it is me and not a mother with little children”. Instead of being scared of death I kept convincing myself that if this is my destiny, I will just accept it. I went through six rounds of chemotherapy while still working full time. I could feel really awful during the first two or three days after the chemo, and then I was desperately searching in my body for enough strength to get up and go to work. You don’t really know how strong you are until you have to find the strength in you. I can’t say that the treatment was easy though, I paid a really high price and I still pay the price every single day. But I didn’t allow it to change my life. That was the most important thing I was aiming for and I succeeded.
My decision about not continuing the treatment was hard. Not for me though, but for everyone else, for people who just don’t want to accept the fact that I may die. But this time I know that getting another chemo wouldn’t just make much sense, because sooner or later it would make my life unbearable, more than cancer itself. I don’t want to prolong my life at any price, and I’d rather have the illness, not the treatment, kill me. It is my decision though, and I know it is a right decision.
But what I want to tell you isn’t about me continuing the treatment or not. I want to tell you that I hope that none of you will ever have to face such an illness. But if something like that will ever happen to you or to a member of your family, or to a friend, please just remember, that whether fought or not, cancer just can’t be allowed to win. It is life, that is the goal, the health, not defeating an illness. Can you see the difference here?
I meet many people suffering from cancer. When I look at 99% of them I feel like the illness is the only thing that keeps them alive. They can talk about it for hours. They spend entire days searching for information about cancer in the internet. They just live with cancer and for cancer. Maybe this is their way to cope with the illness, but for me the acceptance is the key. At least I can keep my inner balance this way.
I will be turning 35 later this week. I found out that I have cancer almost exactly a year ago. An average lifespan for my stage is three months. According to the doctors, I should have died long ago. Yet I still live. Of course, I don’t do heroic deeds, I don’t save the world, I just live a normal, everyday life which I enjoy – I live, I laugh, I love. Sure, I don’t know for how long, but this is something that nobody knows. But, the time I have left I’m going to spend on LIVING.
And on smiling. Because no illness can take it away from me.
After a few e-mails I want to add a short summary. Or maybe not a summary, but just one advice. Live your life and enjoy it, no matter what. Be happy with what you have. That is what I wanted to tell you. :)