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What It Really Means to Be a Cancer Survivor

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I am a survivor, a Wilm’s tumor cancer survivor.
“Congratulations!” they say.
“You’re lucky!” they say.
“41 years? That’s amazing!” they say.
“Wow, you’re such an inspiration!” they say.

But am I?
All the poking and prodding.
All the body deformities.
All the doctor appointments.
It’s exhausting!
It’s stressful!
It’s scary!
How many times can one hear, “We’ve found some precancerous cells.”
Only to be followed by these words, “It’s going to be OK.”
It’s going to be OK?
It’s. Not. OK.
The constant worry about what’s lurking inside my body…
Who says that’s OK?
Who thinks that’s OK?
What makes that OK?
Those “precancerous cells”‘ are anything but normal.
And yet they just keep popping up inside of me.
In my belly.
In my breast.
Where next?
And how did I get so “lucky?”

More poking.
More prodding.
More doctors.
More appointments.
More tests.
More invasive procedures.

Just drink these 4 cups of Miralax.
No big deal, right?
“Let’s just repeat this test in 6 months,” they say.

In the meantime, what about the fear?
The worry?
The cranky lady wandering around with enumerable emotions and scenarios and possibilities swirling around in her mind?
The lady who from outward appearances keeps it all together, but on the inside feels as though her life is spinning out of control?

“Don’t worry till you have something to worry about,” they say.
Don’t worry.
Because this 46-year-old hasn’t walked this same path a dozen times before.
Because this woman hasn’t heard these same words uttered by other doctors, different doctors, so many times before.
Always guarded
Always ready.
Trying to make sense of the nonsense.
Trying to rationalize the ever-present wondering, “Why me?”
Trying to remain calm.
Trying to maintain my sanity.
Trying to prepare myself for anything as opposed to being blindsided.

Some say I’m a worrywart.
I say I’m being realistic.
Because that’s fun, right?
Who gets to decide when I’m just being emotional?
Or that my feelings, emotions and worries are valid?

I. Get. To. Decide.
I walk around in this wreck of a body.
I try hard to take care of it, the best way I know how.
I fight to stay positive.
Yet it doesn’t seem to be enough.
Yet enough is what it has to be.
I. Am. Enough.
I. Do. Enough.
I. Am. Enough.
I. Do. Enough.
“So how are you doing?” they ask.
“I’m fine.”
“How are you feeling?” they ask.
“I’m fine.”
Because I’m a survivor, right?
I’m one of the lucky ones, right?
I am.
I truly am.
Deep down I know.
Yet there’s so much more to being a Survivor.
To holding that auspicious title: Survivor.
So much more than what meets the eye.

I’ll wear that Survivor title loud and proud.
Just don’t look too closely.
Because if you do, you’ll see all the imperfections.
Dings, dents, misshapen parts.
That’s me.
A compilation of imperfections, banged up body parts.

But most of the time
I’m motivated.
I’m determined.
I’m courageous.
And I’ll get through this,
Whatever the current this might be.

Because that’s what I do.
That’s who I am.
I. Am. A. Survivor.

Originally published: January 14, 2020
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