Grace Ison



The Big “C” Word

I went to a Lunch & Learn presentation, offered through my place of employment, and the subject was the top six forms of cancer. It was very well done. It also inspired me to get that mammogram done, and a journey I had never imagined began. A week after the mammograms, ultra-sounds, and an MRI, I got a phone call at work. My Generalist wanted me to make an appointment for a consultation. Do I have cancer? I never spoke to her; she was not available to see when I set up the appointment that evening. Instead, I saw the Physician’s Assistant, who sat down in the empty chair beside me in the exam room, looking harried, with my test results in her hands. She scanned through the papers quickly, flashed a faint smile, and said, “Now, how long has it been since you were diagnosed with cancer?” My mind blanked out and all I heard was white noise for about 5 seconds. I drove home in a daze, hooked my dogs up to their leashes, and took a long walk. I called my sister, who was so stunned, she said very little until two hours later in a text message, apologizing. “I love you so much. I can’t imagine life without you in it.” Although she meant to be supportive, this did not help. I am not dead yet, and I did want my family and friends to think of me like this. Five mammograms, five ultra-sounds, two biopsies, two MRI’s happened within a month. It was a whirlwind of questions, appointments, arranging time off work, lots of phone calls from friends and family—and to my surprise, giving comfort and hope for my outcome. Some comfort that I received turned to horror stories from other cancer survivors. Cancer is a huge mind and time-consuming word. It was all I did for a month, learning medical terms–learning everything I could about the forms of breast cancer that I had. I thought, “these doctors attend college, and do internships for years, and I have to get up to speed with all this in just a few weeks in order to make an informed decision on what to do next. It is nearly two months later, and I’ve had a bi-lateral mastectomy, with the best outcome possible. No radiation, no chemo, but hormone therapy, and reconstruction in progress, and still feeling a bit tired from it all. I have learned that the best, most comforting support came from the cancer survivors who struggled hard to keep their lives. I have learned that cancer brings many blessings. I discovered that cancer made me rethink life, see myself differently now. I understand what is truly important to me, what really matters in a life, and I have friends that I never knew I had influenced. I have cancer, and I am still here, wiser for it, more understanding and appreciative, I listen better, care more deeply.