Note: I wish that I could say I am going to write something amazing and wise on this topic. Many others have much more insightful thoughts and compelling stories. This is just something that has been on my mind today, and I felt the need to write about it in order to organize my thoughts.
Cancer. It is one of the words in the English language that evokes a universal, immediate and visceral response. It seems that everyone I meet has been touched by cancer in some way – usually negatively. Sometimes it has also ignited an internal strength that the person didn’t know they had or a renewed vigor for life. Some people battle and win. Others lose. Either way it is life-changing.
Cancer is on my mind today for a number of reasons. The one at the very forefront of my brain is related to our marriage counselor. He told us on Saturday that he has prostate cancer. He was diagnosed in January, and just had his 6 month follow-up. They hadn’t expected his numbers to go up much (I don’t know a lot about what this means, but it is related to his prostate function and the rate of cancer growth). Instead, they had more than doubled. His oncologist told him that he has to take action as soon as possible. So in about a month he is going in for surgery. They won’t know the extent of things until they are in there.
I am scared for him. I also have hope because they seem to have caught this early. Selfishly, I am also disappointed that the therapist we love, who has been wonderful for us, will be out of commission for at least 4-6 weeks. He was so kind and gentle when telling us the news, and he is doing everything he can to accommodate his patients. We set up several appointments for the weeks leading up to his surgery so that he can ensure he is leaving us in the best place possible. I was amazed by his positive, matter-of-fact attitude and compassion for us. Crazy, right? He is the one with cancer! I don’t even want to think of the worst-case scenario for him or us. I am just hoping that things will work out well and sending him positive vibes.
I have a not-so-pleasant experience with prostate cancer. It is what they believe my grandfather had before his cancer metastasized and spread to his lungs, liver, lymph nodes and colon. I talked about losing him and his struggle with cancer in my post Remembering Pa. Even though he ultimately died from a fall, I attribute his death to cancer 100%. In the months leading up to his diagnosis he became noticeably weaker. He used to have the strength and stamina of a bull – moving large rocks for their bulkhead, doing yard work, and being very active well into his 80’s. We all knew something was wrong before we knew what exactly it was.
The discovery of cancer was devastating. I still remember the moment I found out like it was yesterday. I can remember where I was sitting in my office, what I was wearing that day, how my Mom’s voice on the phone sounded oddly calm, and how I didn’t shed a single tear until I told a co-worker. Then I could barely hold them back. Later, I couldn’t at all. We waited for test results, biopsies, scans, information on the best treatment, you name it. I was out of town when they rated him as Stage IV and again when they said that surgery was no longer an option. He was so weak after his first treatment that I could barely recognize him – and he could barely remember my name due to the “chemo brain.” It was such a confusing, terrifying, and emotional time. I can imagine in vivid details what our marriage counselor, his wife and family must be going through right now. My heart goes out to them.
Another reason that cancer is on my mind is because of So You Think You Can Dance. I am an avid viewer of the program, and just love the choreography that they come up with and the amazing dancers on the program. The talent is through the roof. It is easily the best competition show on television, and the only one that I watch. This week they were promoting National Dance Day, which is Saturday, July 28th, by the way. One of the planned events for the day is a gala in Los Angeles where they will have former So You Think You Can Dance contestants and choreographers performing their favorites from the program – including all of their Emmy winning numbers and the “breast cancer dance.” Yep – they mentioned that one specifically.
It brought me right back to the time that it originally aired, in Season 5. In the same week of that performance my Mom had a breast cancer scare. During her annual, they found lumps. They were concerned, and she went in for a biopsy the day before the episode aired. That would be pretty scary in and of itself, but it had even more of an impact for them because my step-Dad’s first wife died of breast cancer. He went with my Mom and waited while she got the biopsy. I can hardly imagine what went through his mind. His first wife’s battle with breast cancer was agonizing, and he was with her every step of the way – supporting her, helping her through her treatments, and ultimately watching it take her life. He had just married my Mom only a few months earlier, and she is significantly younger than him (right at 20 years – just like my husband and I, but that’s another story). I’m sure he didn’t think he would potentially have to deal with that all over again.
Thankfully, the lumps they found were just cysts. My Mom is fine, and my step-Dad doesn’t have to re-live the experience. Except in his mind. I’m sure those weeks after the lumps were found and before they got the biopsy results were hell on him. They watched the So You Think You Can Dance episode together. She called me the next day and we cried together on the phone. I, too, had seen it the night before. By the end of the dance I was sobbing. It still gives me chills and brings tears to my eyes. Nothing I could say can ever come close to the power of that dance – putting music, movements, and emotions together to create a masterpiece. Here’s the video:
- again, the question: who are breast cancer survivors (donnapeach.com)
- If I could turn back time – PCa Diagnosis (kingvalley.wordpress.com)
- 5 Reasons to Support the American Cancer Society study (ymcalouisville.wordpress.com)
- Sharing a breast cancer journey live on Twitter (miamiherald.com)