Coming to Terms With Life and Death After My Cervical Cancer Diagnosis
“Let’s talk about death, baby”… oh wait, that’s not how it goes.
Coming to terms with dying isn’t something most people my age have to do, let alone accepting it years ago. For the longest time, I was scared to die, terrified of leaving my physical life and what my death would do to my family, especially my mom.
During my second bout with cervical cancer I was extremely ill, sleeping 14-18 hours a day, eating like a bird, hair falling out from treatment and stress. I felt myself slipping. There were mornings that getting out of bed was a chore and other days where I could fully function.
After eight rounds of hormone replacement and radiation, I was labeled cancer-free. The damage to my body was extensive. The sickness I had experienced for eight months continued for another six months, and the emotional damage was even worse.
About a year after I finished treatment I overheard my mom telling a story to her friend about her experience during my eight months of treacherous treatment. In her words, “Every morning I would walk down the hall to Julianne’s room, not knowing if it would be the morning I would find her in a permanent sleep. I would enter her room with hesitancy and would quietly walk over to her, feeling her arm to see if she was warm. Those eight months were long.”
My mom had never expressed her feelings with any of my battles. She had been my strongest supporter and advocate, always understanding that most days I couldn’t do anything but breathe.
Right before I started monthly treatment I had an exploratory surgery, and given my condition at that time, I had to make plans for my future, should something happen while I was in surgery. I completed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) and also an ACD (Advanced Care Directive). I very clearly wrote out my wishes on how I was to be cared for after my death and if for any reason I were to become brain dead.
Harsh words, I know.
Anyways, coming to terms with death was hard at first, as I didn’t ever think it would happen, especially after I was labeled cancer-free and had multiple surgeries to insure I stay that way. I didn’t think it was an actual reality until that appointment in September 2016 and then again with my most recent specialist appointments. I filled out a brand new ACD during my wedding because there was no better time than the present.
I’ve had my total breakdown moments, where I can’t understand why any of this is happening. This is supposed to be the happiest time of my life — starting a life with my husband and exploring the world. Some days I make really weird and inappropriate jokes about death, as that’s one of my coping mechanisms.
Other days, I’m completely content with this life I’ve been given.
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Thinkstock photo by lolostock