Sunday, November 25, 2012

surviving cancer "r" us

One of the stranger twists in the year of living with a lung cancer diagnosis is realizing that a year that began with my primary question ‘how long do I have to live’ is morphing into relearning to live.

Seems silly to write after all I’m 61, one would think I would know how to live by now. But cancer changes you. ‘Survivorship’ is more than about the cancer. 

I ‘acted’ through Christmas and New Year's last year hiding the life altering phone call. It was emotional hell for the holidays while all around me fa, la, la, la …

Honestly I considered skipping Thanksgiving. It’s already been an emotional maelstrom for me for almost a quarter century since my wife woke up Thanksgiving morning unable to walk, and barely able to see or talk with her first major Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation. That Thanksgiving ended with her hospitalized and me holding our 18 month old daughter in my arms never feeling more lost and alone in my life.

Yet as the holiday dust settles I am beyond thankful I chose to continue my annual tradition of visiting with cousins in Northern New Jersey.

It’s impossible to feel like a ‘cancer leper’ when a 6 yr old liver cancer survivor climbs all over me. I feel no stigma or judgment of a lung cancer diagnosis when sharing time with the family of a breast cancer or ovarian cancer survivor. Family stories of survival and not survival are shared effortlessly in and out of the conversations of three generations from life to football to the trials and tribulations of a pre-school New Jersey princess.

When I am not the only one wearing the scarlet letter, well in this case a kelly-green C, a pink C, a teal C and a pearl C … surviving sure feels different ... more like surviving cancer "r" us. 
Patrick Leer
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @

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