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

Dear Cancer, Why am I Still Here?

by Sherry GoodePatient, Multiple MyelomaJune 14, 2023View more posts from Sherry Goode

Dear Cancer,

You thought you were going to take me out, but I am still here. Twelve years ago, when the doctors finally found you, I will admit you did have me there for a second (insert nervous laugh). The doctors were perplexed—they were not sure what they were looking for, and it took a painful six months to even get diagnosed. The doctor said, “You have Multiple Myeloma at 29 years old.” You were so cruel, letting me find out on my fiancé’s birthday, too. Did you laugh that evil laugh? The joke is on you though—I am still here. I went through the grief of losing the life that I thought I was supposed to have. I was supposed to get married and have kids. I fantasized about what my kids’ names would be. You took those dreams from me. I lived a nightmare for months, prepping for my stem cell transplant. I even sipped the “be strong” Kool-Aid. What does “be strong” even mean by the way? Did you come up with that? The irony—the folks who said “be strong” were not strong enough to stand by me through the toughest parts of this journey. Thanks for showing me that though.

I am not sure how I really feel about you. I think I only started hating you after you took Maya. The only person who had Multiple Myeloma who was around the same age as me. She was married and had a young son, and you took her—but you left me here. You later took Nancy, who was much older than me, who just wanted to stick around long enough to see her grandbaby. Nancy and I had our stem cell transplants at the same time and even though her transplant was rougher on her than it was on me, she was so concerned for my well-being. How could you be so cruel? Why am I still here? I do not want to die, but I did not have young children or grandchildren who needed me here. Why did you cut their lives so short? You did give me survivor’s remorse for sure. Your family took my uncle painfully due to colon cancer and my aunt from lung cancer within a year of each other. Sitting in the doctor’s office and listening to the doctor tell my uncle that he should get checked into hospice—it was like taking a bullet from a gun. Telling my aunt that I would see her later while she lay on her deathbed and then reading her obituary during her funeral shattered the porcelain wall of “strength” that I had built up around myself over all these years. Again, I ask you now, why am I still here?

I loathed you for not making me a survivor. As morbid as it sounds, there was nothing that could be cut out or cut off to make you go away. My treatment is indefinite. I am grateful that there are no symptoms from you, but that also makes it harder to get rid of you. I hate feeling like sh** every month I go into treatment. I hate that I do not get to ring that bell to say that I have completed my final round of chemo. You are not paying any rent in this body, yet you live and take from me. I cannot do things that I could do just a few years ago because you are here. I wish you would go away and let me say that I won—I was stronger, and I beat you at this game. I am not a survivor; I hate when people call me a cancer survivor. I do not fit into that category.

You have made me feel so alone some days. You stole my youth. You took away my ability to have children; however, ironically, I was relieved to dispose of the eggs that I had frozen all those years ago. You see, every time I would go through restaging and my oncologist would tell me that you were still there, it killed a little bit more of my spirit. You made me hate hope. I hoped every month that I would achieve remission. I hoped that it would be the month that I could finally take the steps to become a mom. I could not give my husband the child that he deserved to have. The guilt of not giving my parents grandchildren. For ten years, my hope was crushed. When I disposed of my eggs, I took back the control you had over me; I felt so much relief. With the relief came the guilt and the failure. It took me years to process this loss, this grief. I was not a survivor—you made me a thriver.

I guess I could thank you for the new perspective on my life. The maturity of my mindset and the clarity that I have achieved through this relationship with you has changed. I do not hate you anymore. In hindsight, I should thank you for breaking that wall because I would have never embarked on my journey of self-acknowledgment and healing. I finally got into therapy. Twelve years later I am finally saying “I need help.” I am finally prepared to accept the cards I was dealt. I have accepted that I am going to be the best aunt that my friend’s kids can have. I am OK with people knowing my story. I am not ashamed of the life that I have been selected to live. Thank you, cancer, for tearing me down, so that I can build myself up. I am no longer alone; I belong to a unique group of individuals. I AM a cancer THRIVER.

Thank you for pushing me to finish my degree. Thank you for pushing me to get married and have the wedding. Thank you for pushing me to go for the promotion. Thank you for pushing me to buy our forever home with my husband and buy my dream car. Thank you for pushing me to have a better relationship with my friends, and for walking away from relationships that do not bring me joy. Thank you for making me an example to others. Thank you for showing me how to persevere in the face of the unknown. Thank you for showing me how to not give up. Thank you for showing me how to say what is on my mind, or to question what does not seem right. Thank you for showing me how to advocate for myself, and for others. Thank you for giving me purpose.

You see, cancer, you thought you had me. You thought you were going to tear me down emotionally and physically and not allow me to get back up. You thought that you were going to continue to disrupt my life. You thought you were going to stop me from achieving my goals and living out my dreams. I did not think I would be around to celebrate my 39th birthday and yet I am on the cusp of bringing in my 42nd. I will be the first to admit, you were close. That wall shattered around me, and I was left vulnerable, but I realized that was when I could accomplish the most. You put me through a lot, but I win. You are the one who lost this battle because I realize that if I did not go through all of what you put me through, I would not have finally become, Me.


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