365 days and counting

16 Jun

I woke up this morning knowing that although today should seem like any other ordinary day, it wasn’t. Exactly one year ago today I was diagnosed with cancer.  I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Tuesday and I was anxiously awaiting biopsy results from the mass the gastroenterologist had found during the colonoscopy I had the previous Friday.  It had already been four days and I had no more patience – Jesus managed to rise from the dead quicker than these results were coming in. Around 10:30 in the morning, I couldn’t wait any longer and finally called the doctor’s office to speed up the process.  Now, it is not customary to receive these type of results over the phone.  However I was not about to go through the process of setting up an appointment, paying an unnecessary co-pay and going in for an office visit just to obtain this tiny, yet oh so important piece of information.   When the nurse informed him I was on the phone, he obliged and took my call (in hindsight, probably the first indicator of the news that was to come – doctors are never available to take patients’ calls).  I was ready with a pen and paper in hand to take down notes throughout this highly anticipated conversation, however when all was said and done, I had only managed to write down one word: malignant.

After having been pacing around my office, I found myself frozen in my tracks.  I numbly dialed Nick’s cell phone and tried to relay the conversation but it was at that point that the information caught up with me and I was swallowed up by tears. Nick, on the other hand, was able to remain calm and reassuring (at least on the outside), and was at my work just a few minutes later with the most comforting embrace imaginable.  It was at that very point that the fight began.

Throughout these past 365 days, I’ve learned why the word ‘battle’ is often used when describing one’s dealings with cancer.  You don’t typically hear people say “She is working on cancer” or “He’s making his way through cancer”. It truly is a battle in every sense of the word, and I have no doubt that I have become stronger person as I’ve fought my way through this.  I am constantly reminded, though, that not everyone’s battle takes the course that mine has. Just yesterday, I stumbled across the blog of a young woman whose fight against cancer had too many striking similarities to mine it was scary. She grew up in Minnesota and was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in her 20s, just weeks before her wedding. She underwent the same course of chemotherapy (same drugs and all), and radiation treatment, followed by surgery and then had an ostomy bag. Like me, her cancer spread to her liver and her lungs, but her organs eventually failed and her battle ended less than two years after it started. I had chills as I finished reading her CaringBridge website.  (The foundation her family launched in her honor can be found here.) While I do my best to maintain a lighthearted approach and positive outlook throughout this process, I am also keenly aware that there is also a very real and nasty side to this beast, and I thank God everyday that I have been as fortunate as I have.

June 15th is a date I will never forget, yet I hope it will soon return to being just another day, and be replaced by other memorable dates, such as the date I am told I am free of cancer – the date I kicked ass cancer’s ass.

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8 Responses to “365 days and counting”

  1. Rita Hartert June 16, 2011 at 5:59 am #

    Truth is, Em., you have taught your readers how to deal with adversity….whether you realize it or not….now if we can only remember and follow your superior handling of this beast. Love you and continued best wishes!

  2. Stephanie Djerf June 16, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    You have never failed to amaze me thoughout this year. You should be so proud of this battle you have fought!

  3. Angela June 16, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    It’s amazing how much can happen in a year! You’re a lot stronger than you were last year at this time.

  4. Rose Siebenaler June 16, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Dear Emily, On July 5th, 1987, I had a bleed in my brain. Every anniversary made me cry, until 25 years passed. When I think of that date today, the first thing I think of is your mom’s birthdate. Keep the battle going, we are still all praying for you. Rose Siebenaler

  5. Mike June 16, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Em, keep fighting the good fight and we will look forward to raising the glass in glorious victory!

    Our thoughts and prayers are always with you.

  6. Karen Moger June 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Hi Em,
    May you continue to rise above the ugly beast, and one day you will answer people as I do, “I don’t even think about it unless someone brings it up.” I will continue to encourage you to “soldier on dear one, as your battle becomes an inspiration to many more than you can imagine! Stay strong and let the love and support be intoxicating. Thank You Nick for being the string that holds Em. You are the hidden force that fuels the fight!

  7. Jill June 16, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    We couldn’t be happier for you, Emily! You will always be an inspiration! Love j, p & h

  8. Cathi Britz March 6, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    When I signed up for Emily’s blog I did not go through much of her older posts. I really do wish I knew her better. We worked at the State Bar of Nevada in separate departments but anyone at the Bar could say, she welcomed comfortable co-worker relations even if it was just a hello in the hallway, you walked by her and felt happiness as she radiated positivity. When I found out she had cancer, what stuck me was how willing she was to talk about it..bring the dark bad cancer out of the closet into the light!! I did not feel pity for her, the cancer was in trouble not her!! She had a fighting attitude and that beautiful smile that was always on her face, always. About a year ago at a Bar exam registration we sat together at a registration table. We had a quiet conversation about an acute intestinal blockage I had a few years ago. She asked so many questions, symptoms, my recovery, my diet afterwards, medications, etc. So many questions, I had to rack my brain to remember the details! I felt intimated I admit, she was willing to share and ask questions but I felt reserved, embarrassed by the situation I had been in but I tried the best I could to tell my story. I have thought on that day since and now I see she was getting as much information as she could from anyone for her battle ahead. Her words here are so inspiring and touching even after she is gone, they make me aspire to be as strong yet accepting of “life” as she was. I just read the portion about when she first found out she had cancer, the silver lining to what I read is that she was bound and determined to fight, if the cancer won, she was prepared to accept that also but she would give all she had first. She mentioned in later posts that this battle had made her a stronger person but her words show that she was a strong fighter from the beginning and throughout. I did not know her husband but these posts show she knew she was lucky to have his true love, she was strong but she looked to him for strength as well. I had told her that day we talked my husband was there for me and I looked to him for strength I did not have during that time, she gave a smile of relation and told me how great that was. She truly was and is an angel and the people she came across in this life were the lucky ones, Im positive they all know it. My sincere condolences to her family and those that really really knew her well and I hope you have a great party in her memory.

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