As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
It's hard to be sick when everyone else seems healthy.
In 2012, I endured several rounds of radiation for my breast cancer, which was diagnosed in October of 2011. My brother, Mike, bless his heart, drove me to my treatments every day. During that time, I developed an active dislike for Ellen DeGeneres.
My radiation treatments were scheduled for 4:00 every day. That's the time Ellen came on in Akron, Ohio. And the hospital always had the waiting room TV tuned into Ellen's show. So, every day, after I had stripped down to my underwear and put on a gown, right before I prepared to get fried, I had to watch Ellen dancing and strutting merrily along at the beginning of her show.
What was she so happy about? Why was she dancing every damn day? Didn't she experience discomfort and bad days and upsetting things such as severe illness and difficult medical treatments? I guess not. Ellen was just happy and healthy, and I hated her for it.
But recently, six years later, I've made peace with Ellen. Now I love to see her dancing at the beginning of her show. I guess I'm fully healed from my cancer experience.
There is an old saying that I have found to be very true: Health is a crown you wear on your head that only the sick can see.
I remember during my radiation days, I had painful mouth sores, a common side effect of this kind of procedure. Once, I was having coffee with my husband at Starbucks. I was crying; I was broken, and I was allergic to lidocaine. The lidocaine would have eased the pain of the mouth sores, but I couldn't use it because it caused my wind pipe to close up. So, there I was weeping and looking at my husband, who was, of course, perfectly healthy. Yes, he was wearing a crown, and I could clearly see it.
But somehow, those days ended.
A second cancer did come back in 2016. The doctors said it was caused by the radiation treatments I had in 2012. I developed a bright, strawberry red angiosarcoma on my right breast. My radiologist said I was "one in a million," meaning this happened to only one person out of a million folks. He said if things were different, I might have won the lottery. I wish I would have won prize money.
Since 2016, I've been seeing my oncologist once every three months. At my last appointment, she "graduated" me to once every six months. I couldn't be happier.
Sometimes, one does recover from cancer. I am a lucky one.
So now, I'm wearing the crown. I try not to lord it over people. When I see someone I know has cancer, I look away. I know what it's like to be stared at.
If you have cancer at this very moment, know that health can return. You can be wearing your crown again.
It happened to me.