The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Dear Cancer, I Knew That Something Was Lurking

by Theresa ReesSurvivor, Hodgkins LymphomaJuly 12, 2023View more posts from Theresa Rees

Dear Cancer,

I’m not really sure how to address you. You’re kind of like that mean girl who bullies just because she can or the mysterious stranger in the corner of the room—the kind that people are interested in but don’t want anything to do with.

I would say that I’m mad that you ruined my life. But honestly, you didn’t ruin my life. You made my life take a detour; like most detours, the destination route changed, but I still got to where I needed to go. I was in college when you first sprung up in my life. I had chest pains, and many doctors thought that it was not serious—just all in my head, but well, I knew better, and so did you.

I was 29 when we first met; we met at the end of a needle; we met when a doctor said your name (Hodgkin lymphoma). This wasn’t the weirdest encounter that I have ever had; it wasn’t a meeting that I took for granted, though it’s a meeting that I have thought about these last few years. You thought you had power, but you never really did. Yes, you would keep me up at night, and yes, you would make me feel horrible about how I felt and how I looked, but, well, I never said that this was not an abusive relationship.

What you fail to realize is that I am quite strong; though I may look weak at times, I am not. I did not enter this relationship with grudges or resentments. You tried to come into my life as an annoyance, distractor, and disturber. You could have been all three at times, but I got answers. I knew that something was lurking; I didn’t know what, but I knew something was there. It was you looking through my blood, waiting patiently to be the disruptor that you are. So as I was going through chemo treatments, I had an onslaught of side effects that I was plagued by but also found the answers to my months of previous pain. Months of wanting to be heard, wanting to be understood, and finally being understood when you were found in my blood in a mass close to my heart. You just had to pick my heart, didn’t you? Well, if I were gonna attack somebody, I would go for their strongest part also.

There were multiple masses in my chest, but the main mass cuddled next to my heart like old best friends sharing a room in my chest. But there was only space for one, and you learned that the hard way. Sucks to be you! So, I took a semester off to have treatments because time isn’t precious enough. While having treatments, I would read, enhance my life even more, and I wouldn’t back down. I kept my head held high and a smile on my face. I built my faith stronger. While in treatment, I even helped fellow fighters put smiles on their faces by creating loving bags for them. No one fights alone, not when it comes to you. I bet you already know that you have a fan club—well, I would not so much call it a fan club as people with pitchforks who have loved to hunt you down. You keep adding to your own hunting party. After treatments, I went back to school, and I graduated with honors. But through meeting you, I have met some incredible people; I’ve heard stories of strength, hope, and faith. I knew that my faith was strong, but I didn’t realize how strong it was until I met you. I would have people come up to me and show me nothing but love, but I would also have people come up to me and show me hatred for being in their presence because of knowing you.

When I first started talking to individuals like myself, I didn’t know where I fit in. Some days, I still don’t know where I fit in. My story is not unique, but it is my story—not yours, but mine. So I went to my first support group—yes, a support group—and it should tell you something about yourself if people have to congregate to talk about you because they need support to navigate their lives with you. I will go on. I met a group of four people. Two of them fought you till their last breath. To the other two you became just a memory; you’re not an old friend; you are someone that they despise, someone that they warn others about, and someone they hope does not darken their lives again. The next group I went into was with people who were older, people who had known you for far too long. In their stories, they would talk about how they had to say goodbye to loved ones, the multiple surgeries, and the loss of their dreams. But they as a group still fought you, they still fight you, they will never stop fighting you. The last groups I joined talk little about you; they talk about their days and their favorite shows (K dramas of recent), they talk about their pets and their family and of course if they have time, they talk about the effects that you have had in their life.

I know that you feel that you have so much power; well, I hate to say this, but you do have power, but it is not all-encompassing; it’s a situational power. It’s a power that someone gets when they back individuals into a corner. Now that individual can fight or not, it’s their choice. But, well, you know what my choice was and continues to be.


P.S. Hunting Season is year-round

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