Had I been in a high risk group, overweight, smoker, poor diet, sedentary, childless, not nursed, or done something that I could point to as 'causing' my cancer; perhaps the diagnosis and seriousness of my illness wouldn't have been such an earth-shattering blow. Perhaps. Those first weeks and months; I cried every day in the shower. Tears of rage and betrayal even more than the tears of self-pity. How could this have happened to me? Why would the body I cared for betray me? A horrible mistake must have been made! Wasn't my life difficult enough already? And the way others looked at me; talked or stopped talking to me. Oh, and the rumors at work that I was on life support or hiding a second pregnancy. As if the illness wasn't hard enough; I had to learn a complete set of interpersonal skills to manage the reactions/questions/fears/ignorance of nearly every person in my life!
I admit, all of it pissed me off. From the "Is it contagious?" or "Did you give it to your daughter while nursing?" kinds of questions to the "God is punishing your sins" and "Think of it as a gift" comments were all bad enough. Then after I was diagnosed as stage IV (terminal), I was accused of faking the whole thing. Seriously. I got cancer and it gave others a lobotomy.
So how did I manage to stay sane and keep a sense of humor? I found others like me. Young people with cancer. Moms, single women, single men, married people with small children - all people in the prime of their lives who had also found themselves living with cancer. Walking into a room with others who were in a similar boat allowed me to drop the defenses and breathe deeply for the first time since I was given the news. I have met extraordinary people! Some of whom have since passed away from cancer, those who are fortunate to be NED (No Evidence of Disease) and the rest of us who continue the non-stop treatments of every type and flavor. Eventually, I stopped crying about it. While I am no where near ready to give up, it's not about raging against the dying of the light. It is about leaving a legacy that is created by every day that passes and by every moment I continue to live.