Lessons learned – four years cancer free

My colleague Agi asked me recently, “so what have you learned from cancer?”

I replied, “I always thought it was about stress – cancer was a lesson on how to avoid stress.”

But it’s become more than that. Cancer has taught me many things. Some I always know and act on. Others I need a kick up the butt to remember!

Here’s my top five lessons learned, courtesy of cancer:

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Cancer – one year on

This article was written just over one year since I was diagnosed with cancer.

Since then I have had surgery, chemotherapy, six months of lying around on the couch staring out the window at the dappled light of days yawning and stretching over the sky until the night slinked in. I felt suspended in a giant aquarium of a cisplatin; time stopped for six months.

I questioned myself, my work, the world, death, and the spirit beyond. I struggled to have faith in the doctors, in the treatment, and in myself. Everyone was so sure I would be fine – I was such a ‘positive’ person – I would be back and at it in no time.

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Cancer – my wake up call

Four days after I got engaged  I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The doctor said, “You have a cauliflower growth on your cervix. That’s not normal. I am booking you in to see a specialist.”

A myriad of tests and a few weeks later I am getting ready to go into hospital tomorrow and have what is called a ‘radical trachelectomy’ – removal of the cervix, leaving the uterus and ovaries intact in order to preserve my fertility.

I decided to share this story because I know that each one of you reading this will know someone who has cancer, whether it be a friend, family member, or a colleague. I am hoping that some of what I share will be helpful to you.

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How to deal with a cancer diagnosis

I am a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with the disease in March 2005.

As I was getting good test results last week – my CAT scan was all clear – I received emails from two friends. One was also diagnosed with cervical cancer with additional tumours in her ovaries. She is having her tubes and ovaries removed and being scheduled for radiation and chemotherapy treatment. My other friend let me know her mother has been diagnosed with cancer on her gall bladder that has spread to her liver and intestines. She is undergoing surgery at this moment.

What struck me was that even though I am out of the woods with my own cancer and feel fit and healthy, others are just starting their journey. I realised what I went through and what I learned might be of use to others. If you have been diagnosed with cancer recently, or have a loved one who has, then this article is for you.

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Life after cancer

I may have run 6 marathons, the last one 7 months after surgery and chemotherapy for cervical cancer, but I am no Lance Armstrong.

Lance, as many of you know, was diagnosed ten years ago with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. He survived surgery and gruelling chemotherapy to come back and win the Tour de France, arguably the world’s toughest cycle race. He won it not once, but 7 times in a row. Now that guy is a legend.

As for me, I am a back of the pack runner: slow and steady. I was never going to be running up the front with a double D cup chest size. I think even Lance would struggle should he have been so endowed. I run not to win the race, but to celebrate life, living, and being alive. This is ironic really because after running for 5 hours you really do feel half-dead!

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Don’t fight cancer

Fighting cancer is not the best way to heal. Think about it: if you’ve got a broken ankle do you try to force it to mend? If you’ve got a cold, do you fight it into submission? If you’ve got diarrhea to you challenge it to a duel?

Healing occurs in a restful, peaceful state. ‘Fighting’ isn’t so peaceful. Fighting is resisting. And you all know that what we resist, persists. Like that annoying zit you keep picking at, and it keeps coming back. Like the neighbour’s barking dog that drives me batty, and kept driving me batty, until I decided to bless it instead of curse it. Like the cranky teenager that digs his heels in with your repeated attacks on their unsociable behaviour.

Resist = persist.

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