This year, I decided to participate in my first Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. I want to bring hope to those living with cancer and the people who surround them. I was given three to five years to live, and today I am living stronger, healthier and happier then ever, five years after my diagnosis.
My whole life, I have always cast a wide net when meeting new people. And the mesh was tight. All were scooped up, all were brought in close, barely any escaped through the tiny holes. I have been told I am friendly -- typically meant as a compliment -- but cancer taught me that even good things require moderation.
Often, the media (and by extension, society) describe someone with cancer as a "warrior" who "battles" cancer. When we take the metaphor further, we describe it as "conquering cancer" when cancer goes into remission, or describe someone as a "survivor" of cancer. But what's the other side of that conversation? Someone who "loses" their "fight" against cancer? Someone who has "fallen"? And to take it to the extreme, would they have "made it" if they "fought harder"? There's a negative side to that language that is coming out, as those diagnosed with cancer speak up.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I got brave and decided that I was not going to make any more resolutions. I made a promise to myself: to win my battle, succeed in my journey, and be around for another year. At year end I also gave thanks and felt the gratitude in my heart that I was around and thriving. This has worked out well for me. Until now.
My newfound wisdom as a cancer survivor has shed the light on a little secret: we don't have to do all that work. I'm sure my family would have been just as happy to stay home, be less busy, and receive fewer presents. I am also certain that all they really wanted was for me to be there -- alive -- with them.
Since I have had my double mastectomy, there have also been a number of community-based organizations that have opened and that cater to cancer patients, survivors and their families. When you are a cancer survivor, you are forever embracing uncertainty and, at times, strong emotions. Your rational mind says you should be over thinking in that way by now.
I have been a cancer survivor for a little over five years. Throughout my journey, I have remained positive, sometimes scared, and at times frustrated. The base of it all, though, is my belief that I will thrive and live a healthy, full life. No matter how many rounds of chemo or radiation you have to endure, or follow-up surgeries you have to undergo, take heart.
I received a call in early January 2006 telling me that I had prostate cancer and suggesting a treatment -- surgery. As a 49-year-old healthy and, yes, hockey playing Canadian, cancer was the last thing on my mind Well they say things happen for a reason but I was having trouble figuring out just what that meant.
Once diagnosed with cancer, a patient's life will never be the same. Once the turmoil of the diagnosis, and the subsequent treatment, whether it's surgery, radiation or chemotherapy, is over life as we know it now commences. There are ups and there are downs. Luckily for me, the ups far surpassed the downs.
Looking back at this old life of mine, I realize how many of these fears, both big and small, were unfounded. But life as it is now, is seen through a cancer survivor's lens. Although I will be first to admit that there is the odd time when I have to stare fear in the eye, and fight to back it down, I fear much less today. Cancer has taught me a few things, and I don't scare easy.
On August 3, 2012, I will celebrate being five years cancer-free. There are days where fear takes over, and it seems to be taking forever to make it to this milestone. Thankfully though, there's a good side to this story. It's the promise of a warm sunny day, and the peace of a lazy afternoon listening to the pitter patter of rain. It is the promise of a new day, and the feeling of gratitude for the one that just passed. It's about life.