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

Dear Cancer, You Weren’t Invited

by Dana GarciaPatient, Colorectal CancerJuly 10, 2023View more posts from Dana Garcia

Dear Cancer,

You came into my life abruptly and invaded my body. The moment I heard your name you terrorized my soul until it was dust in the wind. You are soul-crushing. Every cancer patient would agree that we wish we would have never met you. But here we are. You make the strongest souls weak. You bring on pain and suffering in a way I have never endured. We fight for another day in hopes you will go away.

Since my first diagnosis in 2021 of stage three Colorectal Cancer, I have tried my hardest to remain positive and untouched by your presence. Those of us who have you in our lives have reasons to hate you. You changed the course of my life within a moment. I was a rather healthy, 34-year-old stay-at-home mom when I first heard your name and since then you have been a constant shadow lurking in the dark. Before starting treatment I had to stop breastfeeding my daughter. Although she was three years old at the time; you stole this special bonding away from us within a blink of an eye. After the initial shock, I went to work. I did the treatments to get rid of you. I had the surgery to cut you out along with a few other organs that were damaged from my treatments—which included a hysterectomy. Another thing you stole from me. The option to have another child; to give my child a sibling. Stolen.

During my treatments, my own mother passed away from health complications. So while grieving the mom and woman I used to be, I also was grieving the loss of my own mother. You made this even harder. No matter what age you are; you always need your mom. On my bad days, I want her so badly to be with me. As much as I wanted her to be close to me and still alive; I also acknowledged that watching her daughter go through this hell would have nearly killed her.

Having lost my own mother, it’s so painful to think that you are trying to take me away from my own daughter. At my age, I still needed my mom and here you are trying to steal a five-year-old’s mother away from her at the age where she should be surrounded by her mother’s love for many, many years to come. I think it’s so hard for me because I know this feeling, this loneliness, and I don’t want my child to go through it—not now.

Her childhood is different from the typical child’s. She makes wishes like, “I wish my mommy didn’t have cancer.” She is at the time in her life where she should be wishing for unicorns and fairy tale dreams. You ruin lives and the lives of our loved ones. I have taught my daughter about you. She knows that you are stealing her mom away from her. But she is my strength. She is my reason to keep pushing on and to fight you off once and for all. And if I don’t get to that point at least she knows I did everything in my power to try to demolish you.

In all of this, I’ve learned to embrace you. They always say, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” So I’d say: I keep you as close as I can. You haunt me as if I have a loaded gun pointed at my head every day of my life. No matter how close I tried to keep you, you returned with vengeance. It happened about six months after I thought I was rid of you—the day that you showed back up. So here I travel again on this bumpy, windy, dark road in hopes you will disappear. After a stage four diagnosis, I can see why people are too tired to fight you. I am not one of those people. On my worst days, it’s hard to function. Between the mental health of walking around with you to the physical attributes of pain and exhaustion you bring to me. I despise you. You have taken so much good away from my life.

Although I’m at the beginning of my stage four diagnosis, it was never easy news to take in. It is hard to find good in you some days. I have found some light through all of your darkness. I have walked through life with the mentality that there is good all around. You might have to search for it or just open your eyes a little wider. The silver lining is always there. Although my family has been through so much pain because of you, we are closer than ever. The bond with my family members feels stronger than ever before.

I have to admit not all my days have been horrible since you arrived. When I have those good moments that I want to just cherish and live in forever, I tell myself to remember this moment. I keep it hidden in my head for those really bad days. When those days arise, I open my memory box in my head and I think of all those saved moments. Some are super fun days and others are just the simple things, like a cuddle on the couch with my daughter.

I am thankful for the community of people that has surrounded me. It is heartwarming. As cancer patients, we show up for one another. Whether we are in a cancer group on the internet or talking with a fellow patient in a waiting room, we are there for each other. The cancer community is there for you when you are not able to be there for yourself. They love you until you find a way to love yourself again. It is rewarding to feel as if you helped someone who is experiencing the same thing as you, whether it’s a suggestion of a remedy to subside a side effect or just sharing your journey with a fellow patient and knowing they understand. I have found some comfort in seeing the brighter side of this dreadful disease.

The Cancer Center is consumed by people who are willing to help you and go the extra mile for your care and your comfort. Between the receptionist that greets you by name as if you’re in an episode of Cheers—where everyone knows your name—to the nurses, doctors, and social workers, I have found so much support through them all. I look forward to infusions because the infusion center has the most humbling people I have met. I have personally bonded with the infusion nurses and the techs. They are the most accommodating and attentive people; I’m so grateful for them.

I have found that you have brought me closer to old friends… Some may say it’s sad that such a horrible thing as Cancer would bring old friends back together. What I say is, “I’m thankful for Cancer, because there is no telling if we would have crossed paths again if it weren’t for you.” So in the end, I try my hardest to be thankful for the moments that I’m still here.

Dana Garcia

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