Coming Face to Face with the “Why?” of Cancer

Some of my go-to tools for healthy living – I love peanut butter!

“But you are so healthy!”

I no longer have enough fingers to count the number of times that statement has been said to me. But it’s OK because the place that it comes from is truly a compliment as to one’s perception of how my life has been led.

It wasn’t always this way. I battled an eating disorder for 26 years that took me down some extremely unhealthy paths. However, the last 10 years have been marked by improved patterns, healthier food choices and always a love for physical activity.

When I do ponder that statement, it very well can lead me or anyone to the question: “Why?”

Early on in my diagnosis I promised there would be no questions where God had put periods. So my answer to “why” is this – the hand is dealt: now play it smart and stay strong.

Cancer is exempt from no one. We all have those not-so-nice cells inside us. How they form and why, of course, is a mystery to many, including the medical field. Having read a few articles and excerpts from books on its prevention, lo and behold I was doing everything right. Discovering that, needless to say, sent me in spiral shortly before my first treatment.

The “why?” wanted so desperately to explode from every part of my body. A promise is a promise and I would not allow it.

I did, however, begin to think about my conversation with my doctor regarding her best guess as to when the 4.0cm tumor might have begun its growth. Something so small causing so much pain. The presumed timeline led back to a very stressful time just under a year ago. Could stress have actually been the trigger? Internal anxiety fuels us negatively and we just can’t let go. Again, not wanting to question, I have to walk away…

Meet Miss Un-Compassionate

woman-850330_640She’s been on my mind since Day 1 and I’ve recanted the story several times, always erasing her remarks quickly from mind. Connie, as I will call her, was a haunting beat in my head. Compassion is good medicine regardless of the source. But on my first day of treatment, amidst chaos and anxiety, Connie was unable to provide a measly 15 seconds’ worth.

Walking into the “treatment” room for my first day of chemo, I was guided by Lynn – she would be my nurse for the day. She showed me the complimentary snacks, beverages and bathroom facilities. I had packed my usual meals based on the length of time of my treatment and asked where they could be stored.

Somewhat surprised at my organization, Lynn tilted her head and smiled as if I was a breath of fresh air. And maybe I was to her. Looking around at my seating options, I honed in on an area where I could sprawl.

As we settled in, Lynn asked a variety of questions including the million dollar one – “Do you have a port, Beth?” My husband David blurted rather quickly and in a very proud voice, “Beth doesn’t need one. She pumps iron and her veins are popping out without even flexing!” Of course, he and I chuckled – how could we not?

But our laughter and the lightness of the moment changed on a dime with Connie’s snide remark in my head. “That’s all about to change. Your veins will become so weak you will want a port. They won’t pop out anymore!”

Ouch! Was that even 15 seconds of uncompassion? It might have been less!

Could I let Connie get away with this? Absolutely NOT!

I slowly turned towards her (there might have been a dagger or two in my eyes) and replied in my most confident voice – “I’m positive (my voice got really loud here) that will not be the case with me!”

Treatment itself brings a multitude of emotions and thoughts – you aren’t yourself. All anyone wants is to be treated with dignity, empathy and compassion. Connie obviously doesn’t get it.

Well, Connie, your statement was my new challenge. To never have a port. To show her my veins at the end of 106 days. To defy and deny her misery, as I would not make it mine. 

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