On March 1st, I found out I had cancer.
I had been fighting for four months with doctors, telling them something was very wrong with me. I was fatigued, my body achy. I had acute pain in my pelvic area. I was bleeding profusely, and yet after they had run blood work, pelvic ultrasounds, and even a biopsy, I was “unremarkable” in their medical vernacular and eyes. They could not look past the data to hear my symptomatic cry for help.
The last doctor I saw through my insurance company was a man my age in his 40s who wore a “Listen to Women” pin on his lab coat. He punched around my uterus trying to locate the pain I was experiencing. I shared every symptom, explaining that my body was often the anomaly, and that it almost never followed the rule books. He looked at me as if I was nuts. I was too much for him. He told me to cancel my upcoming colposcopy biopsy, take some Advil, and give it six months, and maybe this phantom pain and bleeding would go away.
I was devastated and felt as if he thought I was completely insane. He left me bleeding on his table while I cried and used the oversized pad to soak up what he had done. I pulled up my pants back up and sulked out of the office, defeated, demoralized, feeling so abused by this so-called care team, that I vowed to find a solution on my own.
I am lucky that I have always had a team of alternative doctors and practitioners—from acupuncturists to naturopathic doctors. I continued going to my acupuncturist and telling them weekly the symptoms I was experiencing. They tried to needle and calm and stop the problem to no avail, and finally recommended that I go out of network for a second opinion.
Within two weeks of getting outside help and receiving another pelvic ultrasound and MRI, we found the source of my pain and discomfort that had been there all along—cancer.
By now, it had spread from its origination point in my cervix to the uterus and up the vaginal wall. A radical hysterectomy took place on March 10th, barely giving me time to process what was happening. While I had been hunting for the source of my pain and bleeding, I had been so convinced that it was not cancer, that it had to be anything but cancer. I don’t even have cancer in my family, my denial was so enlarged that even as they removed every piece of my womanhood from my body along with the cancer, I was sure this was no big deal.
As I came out of surgery, and began to digest the pathology reports, and get additional feedback from doctors and friends in the field of oncology, I realized the truth. I was and am so f*cking lucky. It hadn’t hit my lymphatic system. We caught it in time so that my worst was chemo and radiation for six weeks. My worst was having to lose only my womb and hormones. My worst meant I may be able to have sex again, but that pain would always play a role. My worst is that I will live and that this true second chance at life would leave me perhaps impaired and potentially shorten what days I have left on earth.
I am only 44, a mom to a gorgeous and bright blonde-haired, blue-eyed, sprite of a girl, and the wife to the man I spent all of my 20s and half my 30s looking for. I am the girl who met “the one“—the guy who brings me coffee in bed and can build a cabinet or fix the garbage disposal. He is my everything, and now at 44, not only am I fighting for my life, but I am also fighting for the life we have left together. That includes our sex life, and that has been forever changed.
The thing about cancer that no one talks about is what happens after. What’s more is when they tell you, you have it, and you meet your oncology team, and everyone gives you a pity face. Pity face is hard to interpret, because it is unclear if it means, “You are going to die,” or “This is going to literally suck the life force out of you for the time you are going through treatment.” There are no real statistics on life after cancer. Because every living body is so unique in its healing and ability to recover, this trauma is unmeasured by statistics.
My takeaway in the days I have left on earth is this. Death was once an enigma. An inevitable—but there was no real belief in its time frame. We all have clarity that we will die, but we put it off and instead replace the death idea in the things we do in life such as, “If I quit the soul-sucking job that I hate and don’t have a backup plan and paycheck I might die.” “If I ask the gorgeous dude out who rides the train with me every morning and he says no, I might die!” or the one I live by, “If I tell people I am psychic and start really marketing my business and then the psychic doesn’t show up, I might die.”
I personally have been living by the “I might die” fear for 44 years. Cancer gave me a wake-up call as the proverbial door to death is no longer a mystery. I saw it, and let me tell you, it is closer than we all think.
Sometimes it takes brushing up against death to fully understand your life. While I didn’t see the other side in the traditional sense—I didn’t see white lights or hear voices—rather I was simply shown to death’s door. I was offered a glimpse, and instead of it being some long-range, mythical time frame, it is quite clear. My time here is limited. and as such, it is time to throw my limiting beliefs and fears of rejection out the damn window.
It is also time to put the smartphone down and stop living life through Facebook and Instagram likes, and comparisons. F*ck, that took up so much time and I am embarrassed to admit how many hours of life I have lost trying to grow my business and followers on Facebook and Insta while actually getting stuck on checking likes and comments versus hanging with my child and husband.
My near-life experience is moving me to live fully and extraordinarily. We have sold our life in Denver, Colorado, and traded up for small-town living in Salida, Colorado where we can hike out our back door, eat dinner on our patio while watching the sun set over Mount Shavano.
I am no longer nearly living—I am embracing and squeezing the marrow out of every day, even if that means staring out the window while sipping coffee, or laying in bed with my daughter while she reads to me. Life is happening now, and I might die any day, or 40 years from now, either way, I am stealing that infamous line from “Shawshank Redemption,” “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.”
Thank you, Morgan Freeman, for always being the voice of God in my head.