What Cancer Taught Me About Life
Updated: Feb 21
Twice upon a time, I had cancer. The first time we discovered it, my ankle had been painfully swollen for months and misdiagnosed as tendinitis. I was going to brush it off as something to "deal with" in my "old age" (I was turning 30. I know that's not old. I know!) A nurse and parent of one of my students urged me to seek answers - x-ray, MRIs. So. I listened. After asking for further investigation, the results showed that not only were tumors present in my right ankle but also in the bone marrow of my right hip. A rare bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma was metastatic (widespread, NOT good, kind of like stage 4 in other cancers).
1.) When something seems off, DON’T BE AFRAID TO GET MORE HELP. Ask for a second opinion. It’s your life! Don’t risk it on the fear of offending someone or on the lie that you just gotta deal with it. [Above photos: slide to see "Before treatment started"]
Intense chemotherapy treatment and radiation followed for 10 months, plus 7 months of maintenance chemotherapy. Aggressive cancer calls for aggressive treatment. In those difficult times, these lessons are what got me through.
2.) LIFE IS PRECIOUS. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. So be grateful for what you have, celebrate your milestones, and cherish your loved ones. I'm reminded of the Bryant family and other families who suddenly lost their loved ones last week. And I'm safely at home with my husband and daughter. I knew two friends who were being treated for cancer at the same time I was. One was about 6 years younger than I was; the other was about 15 years older. I remember thinking, "I wish I had it as easy as them" because they seemed to be doing so well. But they both passed away. Why are they gone and not me? How did I survive?? Why am I still here??? I may never know until I see my Creator, but I'm learning to not take my time here for granted. [Above Photo: my brother, sister-in-law, mom, me, and my husband playing Clue at a hospital where I was treated for an infection. Photo cred: Christian Bendo]
3) Learn to LAUGH AT YOURSELF. Most times, when I can either laugh or cry, I choose laugh. Laughter is one of the best medicines out there, and it's free! My favorite joke right now is one my husband Justin told me:
J: Knock. Knock.
D: Who's there?
J: Baby yoda...
D: Baby yoda who??
J: Baby, yoda one for me!
Yes, we're a Star Wars family. [Above photos L to R: goofing off with my daughter; my daughter "decorated" my face after my 1st round of chemo because I underestimated the effects and didn't get a babysitter]
4.) NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP HOPE! The treatment worked! No more cancer! Every 3 months afterwards the test results were good. Until they weren’t, almost 10 months later. The cancer returned in the same spot on my right ankle. Thankfully it spread nowhere else; which meant the next best step was amputation of the right foot. My Hope has remained in the unwavering truth that God is faithful and His love for me never changes (Psalm 115:1). So now I’m learning to walk again in a totally new way and learning every day not to give up but to rise up.