I didn’t think I’d ever have cancer. Nearly forty years ago, I stopped smoking; my health problems have been identical to my father’s—hypertension, heart, strokes; and cancer does not run in my family. When a cardiologist recently ordered a CT scan of my carotids, I assumed we’d learn that more plaque had built up. As it turned out, the carotids were in good shape, but the scan found a cancerous spot on my left lung.
August 13. Emotionally numb, I take notes on what the cardiologist is saying, and go to the oncologist’s office, where he confirms the spot is cancerous and schedules a PET scan for August 19. I leave the oncologist’s office with no literature, no instruction on the PET scan, no information except that I seem healthy enough to treat the cancer aggressively. I step outside the hospital doors feeling the sky is too vast, too empty. I feel small, alone, lost. I don’t think people should feel that way after being told they have cancer. I feel sorry for myself.
(The no-frills oncology center in the hospital is not operated by the hospital, but by a health insurance company. The doctors are employees. They are not in charge of people who work there—the health insurance company is. Other departments in this hospital are run by a network of hospitals.)
Not only do I feel lost over my cancer diagnosis, I feel ashamed, vulnerable, and weak. I shouldn’t have smoked. I remember why I started smoking. My former husband, eight years my senior, thought I’d look more sophisticated if I smoked. (He was ashamed of my farm girl background.) I tell only my grandsons, sister, and two friends about the cancer. I caution them to secrecy.
Then historical romance writer Cindy Nord changed my mind about hiding my condition.
As I began my journey as a cancer patient, Cindy, a Facebook friend whom I never met in person, is sharing online her experiences with breast cancer. I didn’t know her when she started her journey, but when she had a recurrence, she shared uplifting messages and plans for the future—a new novel, research trips along the Ohio River, gatherings with friends.
Last Monday afternoon, she passed. Rest in peace, sweet lady Cindy Nord.
I decided to share my own cancer experience. I’m not a religious person who thinks in terms of a beneficent God. I am, however, a spiritual person, who lives comfortably in the realm of possibilities.
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