The rules of baseball are fair and as long as you do your best, the outcome is always desirable. But with cancer, there are no rules because cancer does what it likes and constantly changes the game.
I have always loved baseball. I watch it, eat “Baby Ruth” and pretend to be in the United States.
The rules of baseball are fair and as long as you do your best, the outcome is always desirable.
However, cancer is the complete opposite. It is just plain old unfair. There are no rules because cancer does what it likes and keeps changing the game, so that not even the brightest oncologists can play.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, cancer lets you win. However, you can also lose.
“Mom’s sick,” I heard my sister say when I was 7 years old. I did not know it then, but my mom had been suffering from breast cancer. For nine months, she would put on a mask shielding us from the worst of it. Years later, she would snap and say, “They took off half my boob!”
When she said that, I had thought I understood her suffering. But that understanding would come much later at the age of 41 when I too was diagnosed with breast cancer.
I sat there in front of Dr. N with my navigator at my side.
“Oncologists are for parents or old people, not me,” I thought stunned in disbelief at what the doctor was telling me.
“You have triple-negative breast cancer. It is an aggressive type of cancer, and we are going to treat it using an aggressive chemotherapy. We recommend a balanced diet. Take two StaminoGro vitamins per day. Prostate, ovarian and breast cancer are linked. Sugar does not cause cancer.”
Dr. N said a lot of things that day that I can’t remember, but those points I will never forget. One does not simply “forget” cancer talks by oncologists.
My navigator mentioned something about BRCA1 to Dr. N and as we walked out whispered to him, “It’s bad.”
I was still dazed and felt like I was just a bystander on a stage with two other actors whispering to each other on a stage.
A few days later, received a port placement with Dr. B. I waited half the morning for the CT scan and during the wait, I secretly prayed that there would be no port placement and that somehow, I would not have the surgery or the scan. Afterwards, I could plot my escape to the island of Mauritius (an island country located off the eastern coast of Africa) and never return. I might die in Mauritius but at least I could say I had been there.
After the port was put in, I delayed chemotherapy for a week pleading with the medical team not to put the toxins in me. I wanted to make sure it was really cancer. Somewhere in this blur, I asked for a review of the first pathology result and another biopsy. It was cancer. It was triple-negative breast cancer. It was still there.
Chemotherapy started on Tuesday, November 12, 2019. At first, my hair was just weird and dry. But a few days before my second session, it started to fall out in the shower. Bewildered, I wondered who I would tell this to as I live alone.
I told nobody but God that day and said, “It’s happening. Please help me.”
I asked God to help me throughout my cancer journey. Through all six chemotherapy infusions, the surgery and the radiation, my prayer would be the same. Each time God would send angels to me in the form of doctors, nurses, both my sisters, my mom and my friends.
He pulled me through the ugly bits that nobody talks about such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, hair loss, hair regrowth, a pulling toenail, weaker teeth, joint pain, port exposure, scars, drains, weird looking nipples, bandage changes, redness from radiation, lymphoedema and finally healing.
Compare that to my early twenties, when rage would consume my soul as I screamed at God, “You murderer! You can heal him, but you just won’t. Why are you making him suffer like this?”
That was when my skeletal dad slowly succumbed to metastatic prostate cancer. The medical term is “cachexia” or wasting of the body due to severe illness. To watch someone waste away like that was horrific and worse than having cancer myself. Although, my mom and I have beaten cancer, cancer “won” that time.
Strike three. You’re out.
This Share Your Story submission was written and sent in by Lara Gravenor, a triple-negative breast cancer survivor from South Africa.
For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.