Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Survivors' Tricks of the Trade

Thank you to those who responded to my “Wanted” post. The survivor stories, advice, blogs, and new connections have been inspiring and reassuring.
The common theme of the advice I’ve received is mindset, and how much of a difference it can make. Mindset, both in terms of staying positive during the treatment process and any potential setbacks, as well as general outlook on life.
When you fight for your life, you reflect on what you’re fighting for. The biggest prize is being there for your family. But life’s small pleasures are spoils of the war as well. Cancer survivors appreciate each day, instead of always thinking about tomorrow. They are spontaneous and choose to be happy.
Yes, the basement closet needs to be cleaned this weekend and I need to catch up on my medical bills log. But Sesame Place is a manageable drive. I want to see sheer joy on my daughter’s face, even if I have to watch it from a bench in the shade while Ryan or my mom wait in line with her for the Elmo ride. The cancer survivors whom I’ve heard from or about over the past few weeks would all tell me to take that trip to Sesame Place.
My grandma, who is battling kidney cancer that has spread to her lungs, gave me an excellent piece of practical advice: throw away the disclaimers that come with the drug packages. The drug companies list every possible side effect, and there’s no reason to let the mind go there. If you feel pain, deal with it then, not before. In general, she ignores the negatives that come with cancer as best she can. Her positive attitude is amazing. She has made a great Cancer Buddy for me. This June, between the phases of her treatment, she is taking our extended family on another cruise in the Caribbean. My family is missing the boat because of my daily arsenic IV. (Yes, Grandma, I’m envious that you get to go, but bringing me back a carved wooden walking stick, a painted coconut, or one of those hats with the fake dreadlocks attached would help mitigate my disappointment.)
Grandma with her granddaughters on a previous cruise

A common piece of advice I received is to laugh. A woman my age, who is in her second year of breast cancer treatments, told me a story about a mosquito. It landed on her arm shortly after she’d received a dose of a very intense chemo drug. Instead of the mosquito flying away in victory with its meal of blood, it shriveled up and died. Now that’s some powerful sh*t. In her words: “It was so awful and hilarious at the same time, and it reminded me just how strong we can be.” I wonder what the mosquitoes this summer will think of my Arsenic blood…