When you’ve heard the word recurrence as often as I have over the past five years, pausing life for cancer is not going to happen.
In 2011, I was diagnosed with Stage 1B cervical cancer. I underwent pre-surgery chemotherapy to shrink the 7 cm tumor on my cervix, a radical hysterectomy and because one cancerous lymph node was found during surgery, I had additional chemo treatments and 28 rounds of external pelvic radiation.
Ten months later my cancer recurred. A second surgery was needed — a pelvic exenteration. This surgery removed my bladder, colon and caused me to no longer have a ‘functioning’ vagina or rectum.
In 2013, I then heard the word metastasize when my cancer spread to my liver.
You know what word phrase I would prefer to hear? No evidence of disease (NED) or cancer-free. However, there is now a determination that comes with my recurrence. I am determined to keep moving forward.
My life goals have changed drastically. I am no longer motivated to climb the corporate ladder or amass great wealth or travel the world. I now strive to keep my inner joy and to always be present. This sounds simple enough, but with a recurrence, even the easy stuff can be challenging.
But I asked myself, how do I want to fill my days? Do I want to fill them with fear and anxiety? Or would I be happier focusing on the things that make me smile? I choose to surround myself with good, loving people who help me smile.
I’ve been back in chemotherapy several times and I even spent over a year NED. But I’m no stranger to cancer and chemo side effects, both physical and emotional. Some days are easier than others, but I’m kind of addicted to the sunrises and sunsets I take in each day, and I want more.
I have also found my advocacy voice and sharing my cancer story has become part of my life. Being able to reach someone, helps put my life in perspective. Today is more important then yesterday or tomorrow.
Follow Carol’s adventures on her blog, Cancer Avenger.