"As I’ve endured my time with cancer, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve given it preferential treatment. For the past few years, I’ve given cancer the front seat and not only that, sometimes, I’ve even allowed cancer to take the driver’s wheel. I’ve become a passenger on my own life’s journey."
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
There comes a time during one’s cancer journey when a conscious decision has to be made to remove cancer’s right to first place in a life. This is my story and how I made this important decision.
Growing up in the late 1950s, my siblings and I learned to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Back then, it wasn’t hard to find joy. Running barefoot on warm summer days, reading a good book, or just visiting with friends made us happy. Things were easier then. Things were also very different.
On Sunday afternoons, our family would often take a drive through the country. My father would pull our old blue Ford station wagon into position on our gravel driveway while my mother gathered the picnic basket and herded us toward the door. My brother, sister and I would scamper toward the car, pushing and shoving, hoping to get the window seat. Back then, there were no seat belts and the long bench seat in the station wagon allowed us to move about freely as we traveled. But if you were lucky enough to get the seat by the window, you not only could get a clear view of the scenery, but you also had control of the window’s handle. This meant if you were hot, you could roll down the window and feel the fresh breeze on your face. Being stuck in the middle seat was dreadful. It meant you’d be elbowed from both sides. None of us ever wanted to be stuck in the middle.
Sometimes, my father would allow one of us to sit in the very back of the car. Although there was no seat, we could cross our legs and sit comfortably on the carpeted floor. Being in the very back of the car meant we’d often miss important conversations, but having the ability to dodge the pushes and shoves of our siblings was priceless. Often, I coveted the back seat.
But there were times when we didn’t travel together as a family. Sometimes while my father was at work, my mother would need to run an errand and the three of us children would vie for the front seat of the car. Riding up front with our mother was a special treat and usually, as the oldest, I was the one who enjoyed that privilege.
It’s funny how childhood memories have such great impact upon our lives. I’ve never forgotten those long Sunday drives with my family. I’ve also never forgotten the feel of hot vinyl on the backs of my naked little legs during those sultry summer months or how I’d wished my shorts had been longer.
As I’ve endured my time with cancer, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve given it preferential treatment. For the past few years, I’ve given cancer the front seat and not only that, sometimes, I’ve even allowed cancer to take the driver’s wheel. I’ve become a passenger on my own life’s journey.
While I never intended for this to happen, cancer has taken my life off course and now, after almost four years, it’s time to make a vital correction. I’ve realized the need to relegate cancer to the back seat.
If I had my druthers, I’d kick cancer completely out of my life for good, but even if I did, there’s always a chance it’d find its way back. And while I can never forget the road cancer and I have traveled, I have no desire to stay inside the vehicle, seatbelts or not.
It’s time to shift gears. While I know cancer will always be an integral part of my life, on the road to better health, it’s an unwelcomed passenger. I need to find ways to move past all the hospitals, medical offices, and laboratories. It’s time to turn into a place of complete gratitude and happiness. No longer will I give precedence to a disease that’s commandeered my life. And as I move forward into the future of living, I don’t think I’ll want to glance into my rear view mirror for there’s too much pain there. Move over cancer, hope is in the driver’s seat and we’re starting a new journey.