Nothing says I have cancer like the days following one’s first chemo treatment. At least that’s my experience.
As I type this, it’s been two days since my first chemotherapy treatment. Truth be told, I’m still not sure why my brain has chosen this topic to share with our readership. Perhaps it’s because it’s the most pressing thing on my mind. Perhaps it’s because I’ve “switched teams,” as I’ve told family and those close to me. Or perhaps it’s because I listen to my momma and believe God’s given me a voice and this path for a reason.
Regardless of what the reason may be, the fact still remains that yes, I have cancer and chemo was a bear.
The “switched teams” notion is one which is very real for yours truly. My first 10 years with the paper, I spent as a volunteer (in some capacity) for the American Cancer Society. First covering Oakdale’s inaugural Relay For Life in 2002, myself along with the rest of the office, got sucked in.
We each knew someone that mattered to us that had battled cancer. We each had a passion for finding a cure and ending the disease which plagues so many families. We each joined forces to put an end to cancer.
In mid-April, minutes after hearing my diagnosis was indeed cancer, via Facetime with my doctor, I called my editor, Marg Jackson and our Front Desk Girl Friday, Michelle Kendig. Via a phone call on speaker phone I shared with them the news – I was now a purple shirt.
For those unfamiliar, the purple shirt is given to cancer survivors at Relay For Life to identify the people being honored and fought for. In my tenure, most especially in the early years, I’ve shared the stories of many purple shirts. I’ve heard the stories of isolation from family during radiation, success stories against the odds, head shaving parties, you name it.
So now I’m a purple shirt. Now the wisdom and insight offered by so many before me is truly priceless. It’s been some time since I’ve shared the story of our community’s “survivors.” One thing which always resonated with me was the “survivors” patient perspective.
Regardless of the type of cancer, each seemed to share the same view. Each shared how they felt the journey through cancer and cancer treatments, while hard … at times, was harder on the family and support circle than it was on them. As the patient, they knew their path, treatment plan, as well as plan of attack. They knew the reality of their diagnosis and were determined to beat cancer.
The support circle, while helpful, often feels helpless as they watch the one they love do what many can’t imagine, yet some are chosen to do – fight for their life. That’s the currently reality of the path chosen for me by a power greater than all of us.
To date, I’ve had moments of anger – not for myself, but for my tribe, my family, my kids, my mother and my partner. The people who listened with tears in their eyes, as I shared the long (but treatable) path ahead of me.
So here’s the point of all of this; this really isn’t about cancer. This (for me) is about purpose and faith. Do I wonder why me? Why cancer? Less than four weeks post diagnosis, not once has that crossed my mind. My diagnosis, as well as my treatment plan and actual treatment has happened with a quickness. That is not “good luck,” in my opinion. That is God.
So now as I travel down this path, I’ll do what I must to care for myself, fight the good fight and rest when I must. That being said, I’ll also continue to stay in tune with what’s placed on my heart and when time best suits share that with the audience and voice God has given me.
Care for each other, tap into your purpose and well … don’t look back, because we’re not going that way.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.