What made us decide to start a cancer column? The idea came after Laurel D’Andrea, publisher of Beyond 50 Magazine, was following the journey of two cancer patients. Michelle has documented her journey in Beyond 50 Magazine and I started writing a column after a recurrence of cancer. Laurel thought it would be great if we could get cancer patients, caregivers, supporters, maybe even staff and volunteers that work with cancer patients to share their journeys, wisdom and experiences. Our hope is that we can take away some of the fear of someone newly diagnosed by reading what others have experienced and found helpful.
This column will be about sharing experiences, but will not be about sharing what type of treatment to have. Each of us has to make our own decision on treatment and what works for someone may not be the best option for someone else. My hope is that people that work with cancer patients will maybe share how they deal with the stress of having so many different patients; cancer patients can share what helped them get through their journey; caregivers and support people can tell others what they found most beneficial; staff and volunteers of the different cancer agencies can inform others about why they do what they do. The idea is to help others that are on their own journeys.
My journey began in 2008 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was very fortunate to meet someone who had been through breast cancer the year before and she was able to take away many of my fears. I was also very fortunate to have an incredible support network beginning with my family. I also learned a lot about myself during the journey. I was much stronger than I realized. I found that visualization and meditation were a great way to calm my mind and ease some of my anxiety. When I was re-diagnosed in 2012, I had a strong sense of what worked for me and what didn’t work. I have just finished my second round of chemotherapy and laughter has helped get us through.
I have found that laughter is wonderful to lift your spirits especially when it is laughing at the little things that happen. Right now, I have just a little bit of peach fuzz starting to come in and I have not had reconstructive surgery after a double mastectomy. I have been laughing with my family and friends because some strangers are not sure if I am a man becoming a woman or a woman becoming a man! I receive some pretty funny stares. Then today my husband and I had a great laugh. We were shopping at Ikea, I went in to use the washroom and was in there by myself. As I was washing my hands, a mother came in with her daughter and looked at me and said, “Oh sorry!” As she is rushing her daughter out, I overheard her telling her daughter that they had gone into the wrong washroom. A few seconds later they are back and the mother’s face was quite red. The mother quickly pushed the daughter into the stall and was quite flustered. I felt bad for the mom but Greg and I had a great laugh.
As this column begins, I hope we can learn and grow from each other.