Friday, September 24, 2010

From the Mouth of Pam...

This was written by my friend Pam Cromwell. It is very moving. What words come to mind when you think of breast cancer? Pink, Strength, Bald, charity walk? The list goes on ...

I myself have always just thought one word - DEATH.

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage 3.5 breast cancer. This may not sound too unusual especially due to the fact that 1 out of 10 women seem to become diagnosed with cancer. But what made it unusual was that I was only 6 months away from turning 30. Cancer doesn't run in my family at all and besides going to the doctor once a year for a cold, I had never been sick.

Needless to say, my world was turned upside down. Hands down, it was the most humbling experience of my life. I did the normal treatment pattern which included chemotherapy, radiation, and even a mastectomy on the side where the cancer started. I did everything that I was told by the doctor and signed up for every medical study. But the one thing I did not do was become identified as someone with cancer. After about a year of treatment, I was declared cancer free.

Due to various reasons, last year I logically decided to have preventive surgery to remove the other breast. I did not want to have anything else to do with cancer ever again. Well, last year, when I had the preventive surgery they found the cancer came back just as aggressive, and mestasized to the bones. My stage was upgraded to Stage 4. Now, there are a zillion other things I would rather be upgraded to - car rental, flight or even hotel - but not Stage 4.

After this news not only did I lose control I lost my identity. For the past four years, I had been doing everything I could to be known for everything else but cancer. But something had to change, and since I couldn't change the cancer I decided to change myself.

Nowadays, I have chosen to embrace being identified as someone who is living with Stage 4 breast cancer. If there was a button, I would wear it. Why? Each new person I tell my story to means there is one more person who will learn that the face of cancer has changed. They will become aware and hopefully keep the momentum of helping fund research initiatives. Unfortunately, the reality is we are years away from a cure. And for my case, it's hard to find a cure when you do not know the cause. Realistically, doctors are now focusing on my quality of life, and overall body health.

This October, I am yelling from the rooftops that I am LIVING with Stage 4 breast cancer. To some, that statement may sound like a contradiction but to me it is simply the reality. I am currently working, studying, traveling, paying darn taxes, laughing, and the list goes on, all while a major battle is going on inside my body.

I'm sharing this with you because I want you to know that the face of cancer has changed and will continue to change. Research needs to be taken to the next level. But in the meanwhile it is not just about fixing cancer, it's about embracing change in today's world to accommodate people like me, who refuse to be identified simply as someone who has cancer but rather someone who is living with cancer.

- Live, Laugh and Love for the Cure. Next month my friend E and I are doing a 5K walk for Breast Cancer Research. If you would like to donate to our team, Pink for Pam, please click here. Thank you.

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