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

Dear Cancer, Thank You, But Never Come Back

by Mandy BrixeyPatient and SurvivorJune 28, 2023View more posts from Mandy Brixey

Dear Cancer,

It’s been nearly a year since you were evicted. I don’t miss you. But that doesn’t mean I’m grateful for this experience with you. So I wanted to write a letter to tell you my feelings. While you stayed silent, I still have my voice, both literally and figuratively. I won’t let you just leave without my feelings being known.

I ignored you for who knows how many years. Until my body finally made it so I could hardly speak without pain anymore. Doctors didn’t know what you were. I had one doctor say it was just sinusitis. My oncologist at first said you were a cyst, likely not cancer, because “I’m too young for cancer.” Clearly not. She was stunned when she realized it was actually cancer. That you were sitting there the whole time. Not smug. Not defiant. I was told you were dangerously known for metastasizing, but you didn’t. You remained where you were. As if you were waiting to be found. Everyone says cancer is evil, but I’m not sure you were. Why did you come? Why did you choose me? Was it because I had some lesson to learn? I guess I’ll never know now. Was I being punished?

You definitely uprooted my life. Me, who was already alone here in Japan, you made me feel more alone. You reminded me that we are all essentially just atoms, the smallest things in the universe. You eventually destroyed the one relationship I was in, but at the same time, I think you were waiting for me to realize how bad it was for me. You made me face an impossible decision: to have only radiation or both radiation and chemo? The 2% difference didn’t comfort me, but somehow I wanted to do all I could for myself. You reminded me of my worth, and that I’m worth fighting for, even if it’s me doing the fighting. You also reminded me of your own grace. You left without saying a word after treatment finished. After I suffered agony and wished for the end, while secretly wondering if what I was doing was going to do anything, was going to be worth it. You made me a prisoner of myself, taking away my voice, like making a deal with an evil sea witch. But no true love could bring it back. I was forced to be silent and wait. You taught me patience.

And then when the first scans after treatment came back clean, you gave me hope.

You reminded me that life is too short, and not to take things for granted. You also made me realize that being alone isn’t bad. Some people are only meant to be in our lives for a season. You reminded me that there’s still a lot I’ve yet to discover about myself. You taught me about good connections and good people. To never take for granted things like speaking, eating, and swallowing. You showed me what life is like without simple things like taste. You reminded me that my situation could always be worse. That I should still practice gratitude for every experience, even if it wasn’t a positive one.

So despite the bad experience, and the side effects I still have, I still want to say thank you. Thank you for showing up to teach me what I needed to know, and thank you for leaving and giving me another chance at life.

I choose to be grateful. I know it could have been so much worse for me, and other cancer patients might not have as gracious of a cancer as I did. Thank you for existing. Thank you for leaving.

But never come back.

Sincerely. Never come back.

Written February 22, 2023

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