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How Dare You? Did You Not Know?

by Nancy SonmyxayPatient, Breast CancerDecember 3, 2019View more posts from Nancy Sonmyxay

Dear Cancer,

There are so many things I want to say to you. My mind is swirling right now as I try to put my thoughts to paper. Well, laptop, but I don’t think that’s a saying yet. I mean, should I keep it optimistic and politically correct by speaking only of the good? Dare I venture into that dark space of my heart and air out the bad?

Since your departure from my life, I was left behind to pick up all the broken pieces of myself that YOU created. The bad. All the good that has come from our time together wasn’t because of you. It was because of the faith I had in my True Creator, family, and friends. They exuded love and laughter to clean up YOUR mess. And since this is a letter to you, I’m almost obligated to air out the bad. I deserve to be heard and to have closure regardless of whether or not you’ll actually receive this message.

You see, I feel heavily laden with survivor’s guilt. Constantly forcing myself to remember that “at least I’m still alive,” has placed me in a limbo. Not sick enough to be grouped with those still fighting for their lives, but not normal enough to be grouped with those who have had the privilege of never knowing you firsthand. It’s like I don’t belong anywhere. Why did you have to pick this stage of my life to show up?

Were you not aware that I didn’t have a husband yet? That I was steadily climbing up that corporate ladder? That I was in no position whatsoever to discuss family planning, or lack thereof, with my significant other? That I still wanted at least the opportunity to maybe fail at breastfeeding? DID YOU NOT KNOW??

You did this to me and you don’t even care. You hid there inside of me, lingering, lurking, like the unwanted stranger you are. My life was great before I discovered you. I mean, it had its problems, but who didn’t? It was NORMAL.

I so envy those that love who they are now, even after you so purposefully stole time away from them. They’re the true survivors. You gave them an opportunity to take more calculated risks, to realize how they really wanted to live life, to become more confident individuals by learning to trust their gut. Me? I had all of that before you came into my life. And now that you’re gone, fortunately and gratefully gone, you took it all away with you. How dare you? That was not yours to take!

When I first discovered your existence, latching onto my body like the mooching parasite you are, I was in a new relationship. We JUST decided to move in together. Your presence made things THAT much harder. Who forces new couples to discuss what they would do if natural conception was an impossibility? If they would be okay with adoption/IVF/surrogacy? And if so, how would they pay for it? Would we want to freeze just eggs or fertilize them and then freeze them? Before or after treatment? How many rounds? Would I still be alive to even make use of them? Would we even still be together? If not, do we destroy the embryos we made? Are we okay with terminating created life? Would we have to lawyer up to resolve this?

And all these postulations are assuming we would eventually get married. Otherwise, these decisions had to be made one-sided. Did I want to delay treatment to harvest eggs just to freeze them? Would there be enough retrieved so that another harvesting wasn’t necessary? And if we broke up, how would I explain this to anyone I dated? Would they be okay with the possibility of not biologically fathering children? Or creating that biological family using science? Also, where would I safely and securely store this “pre-life”? How much would that cost?

Thanks for paring me down to a monthly self-storage unit.

Because of the toxic chemicals I had coursing through my veins, you know, the medicine that helped get rid of you, for whatever reason has made it physically impossible for me to continue my career in the laboratory. Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a scientist. Of course, there are other ways to contribute to the industry, but my foot in the door is no longer there. You pushed it out! Starting over from scratch is only a blessing if you loathed the direction you were heading toward in the first place. Otherwise, it is simply annihilation. Obliteration of a somewhat calculated path to a pre-planned destination. The latter was me. Is me.

What frustrates me the most is the fact that I no longer work on my own timeline. I answer to everyone else’s:
1. To yours. Apparently, you’ve given me until 40 to finish having kids. By the way, I’m now almost 34. With no kids.

2. To the well-trained team of doctors still managing my case. I must wait I have the “go ahead” to get pregnant. Which, as of now, is looking like I must wait another year. I almost believe It wouldn’t be so heartbreaking had I not previously planned on having four biological children!

3. To my support system and everyone else I meet along the way. I’m supposed to be normal and say normal things and not get upset randomly or scared that I might lose my life anytime I breathe differently. Or worse, when I try to explain to my peers, I am almost always replied with, “Well, I’m stressed out too…”

I’m supposed to act like I didn’t just have all these life decisions figured out already. YOU took my life direction and pointed me this way. It’s like, do I even have control of my own life anymore?

The truth is, currently, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean you get to have the last say. I’m tired of rolling over and letting everyone else’s opinions dictate the way I live. The [mostly] happy survivors had it right. They refused to be bullied by you any longer. I can only hope that with time, I learn how to inherit their tenacity and take back the reins, just to show you just how much you don’t matter to me anymore. To quote my all-time favorite singer of all time, “you can’t take that away from me.” And that is where you stand in my life.


Nancy out hikingNancy at a race


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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