Life After Ewing Sarcoma Cancer – A New Perspective
This article appears on American Association for Cancer Research.
Not every cancer survivor can see past the trauma of their initial diagnosis and the realization that something within their own body tried to handicap them. But every experience, good or bad, provides life lessons that serve as new guidelines for life.
My own experience created a new rubric by which I now live and for which I am thankful. You may wonder how someone who watched her fellow cancer friends (patients) pass away one-by-one could be grateful for the very disease that stole them away?
How does someone look past the torment, pain, and suffering to find transforming truth? I never thought or imagined I would be one of those survivors, but after battling Ewing Sarcoma (a rare, aggressive cancer found in the soft tissue), I can say I have learned a lot about myself and how deep I am willing to dig to live.
As a ten-year cancer survivor, I have been through life-altering events when it comes to my health and life after cancer. Survivorship to me is about evaluating the past, becoming fluid, and living for the future. When I speak at my events or meet newly diagnosed patients, I explain that life will never be the same.
A New Normal
There will be a little, scared voice in your head that will always worry about the disease returning. I explain that what you know as your life now is gone and it will never return. But, as time goes on and you learn the new you, a fresh sense of normalcy is born. You gain your confidence back; your strength returns, and you feel more like yourself.
Through all the bone marrow biopsies, CAT scans, PET scans, MRIs, labs, the endless hours of chemo, the surgeries, and physical therapy, you will start to appreciate the lessons that cancer has taught you and the changes it’s embedded in you.
Ten years later, this is where I am in my survivorship.
Awareness of Time
The C word quickly affected my perception of time and how I validated it. A lot of us never really think about how much time we have left, but once someone puts an expiration date on your life, things quickly change.
I went through a process of emotions—from being scared to being in denial, from upset to mad, then to impatient and easily frustrated. Within this process, the sensitivity for time kicked in, and I gained a new appreciation for the days I had left and how I wanted to spend them.
Greater Sense of Empathy
I gained an automatic sense of empathy and respect for everyone going through the treatment process for cancer; whether it was chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, I felt their pain and despair and I became eager to share my story and experience, especially to those who were newly diagnosed.
The need to comfort them and tell them that everything will be okay is still, to this day, a must.
Since I’ve become the survivor, I speak a new language that I pray brings hope to others.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The things that used to stress me out no longer hold a grip on my mind.
I became aware that every moment in life is a special gift and that every breath holds even more weight.
I gained an appreciation for the “Bigger Picture” and become more tolerant. Since having cancer, I have gained a carefree lifestyle and roll with the punches.
Stronger Then Before
Cancer is not only hard on the body, but you are tested mentally and spiritually as well. If you do not have a strong foundation in faith, one quickly forms. I dug deep to find the strength to live, and gained a sense of awareness that I’d never had before.
Being a cancer survivor is a badge of honor to wear, but I would not wish this disease on anyone. Being pushed to the brink of death is scary, and not everyone makes it. But, because of cancer, I know I am stronger, mentally and spiritually.
I have gained an insight to my life like never before because of this experience that nearly claimed my life. Many areas of my life have significantly changed and may change for you as well.
If I can offer words of advice from this side of survivorship: once you get that second chance at life, make the most of it and make it count like never before.