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

Dear Cancer, You Wanted to be My Only Friend

by Michelle BellSurvivor, Stage 3C Endometriosis Adenocarcinoma, OvarianJune 20, 2023View more posts from Michelle Bell

Hello Cancer,

I will never forget the day that we formally met. Your bad reputation had preceded you, of course. You had made a teasing visit in my life a couple of years prior, just to let me know that your presence was indeed a reality. You had visited a couple of other people in my life as well and I knew that you were going to be tough to stand up to. I vividly remember the doctor telling me as gently as he could that you had decided to move in, finding my ovaries to be a suitable place to set up your residence. I heard his words and then I went numb. I did not want to know you on a personal level. I listened to this man tell me that he did not know too much about you, but that he knew that you were inside me. I remember crying and then feeling nothing. All I know was that you, Cancer, were not welcome in my life. Of course, you disagreed.

I went to a wonderful oncologist who was certain that we were going to be able to evict you. Surgery, chemo, immunotherapy, and radiation followed. You took my hair in spite as you were leaving. (You really thought you needed to take my nose hair? Really?) Every 21 days for six months, I sat in a room with a bunch of other people that you had tried to befriend. I listened to their stories and shared my own stories with them. I tried so hard not to become jaded by the experience. I danced around with my IV pole and gritted my teeth while blood was drawn, while my port was flushed, while the day dragged on as chemo drugs were pumped into my body to make sure you were gone.

It was exhausting. It was depressing. You consumed me. My thoughts were constantly with you and left me wondering if I was ever going to be free of you. You made me self-conscious about my lack of hair. Oh, the hair was a huge deal for me. You made me feel ugly and unworthy. My doctor put me on steroids, and I gained weight. That made me even more miserable. This was all your doing. I did not understand why. Why did you have to choose me? I would not wish you on anyone, but I did not want to take you on myself. I questioned every decision that I had made. There were medical issues in my life that had been consistently brushed aside by medical professionals for twenty-plus years that helped you decide that I was the perfect host for your brand of chaos. But could I have done something different? What could I have changed?

One of the biggest mentally draining issues with you, Cancer, is that you wanted to be my only friend. The treatment to get rid of you had a lot of physical complications, but the mental ones—oh boy, they were the devil. You stole my ability to freely dream of the future. Instead of making plans for “down the road,” I could only make plans for the immediate future. What could I manage in the next couple of days? In the next month? The week of chemotherapy was out of the picture as I could not promise that I would want to get out of bed, let alone leave my house and be social. As expected, people stopped asking me if I wanted to make plans with them. I was always an extremely social person and wanted to have plans. Now I had no plans to occupy my time. Your reputation is horrible, Cancer, and you make people uncomfortable. You made people that I truly treasured quietly disappear. They did not want to hear about you or think about you. The mention of your name made them feel bad and they could not find a way to talk to me without feeling sorry for me because you chose me to be your friend. Their loss hurt on such a deep level that I shut down on so many people to save both of us the awkwardness when it was too much. I grew resentful of my friends and family that were living their lives normally. I was living in a house with you as my companion, and you were a bully. You had to go away. Your presence physically inside of me was gone, now your mental presence had to leave.

It has been rough, Cancer. I have a lot of anger towards you and what you have done to me. I will always be confused and question, “Why me?” Because of you, there are physical limitations that I have had to grow accustomed to. But I am healing from you. I have allowed myself to start making plans that are further out than just a couple of weeks. I am starting to feel that it is OK to have dreams again and that the future does not need to feel out of reach. I am working on the bonds with friends and family that you put cracks in. I do not have as many nightmares over you as I used to. My hair has grown back. I am still working on the weight loss, but I will get there.

You helped me develop a dark sense of humor to deflect from overly personal, painful situations. You taught me that I am strong. Even if it is annoying to constantly hear how strong I am for battling you, it is true. You gave me no choice but to pick myself up, stand, and fight. I have scars and three little blue dots tattooed on my body that show me that I have been through hell due to you, and I have beat you. You are a stalker, so I know that you might poke around again, but I am refusing to allow you to control my life again. I can talk about you and not immediately have fear in the back of my mind that you are just waiting to come back around and see if you can reacquaint yourself with me. The person that I have become is not the same one that you first decided to invade.

I hope that we never meet again. I hope that one day I will wake up and not think about you at some point in the day. I pray that when you see me thriving without you that you keep moving on until you are a forgotten memory in the lives of every single person that you try to befriend. You are selfish in your desire to ruin people, and no one deserves to have you in their life. I hope one day that when your name is mentioned it’s not met with immediate fear because there will be hope and better yet, a cure.

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