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All The Things That Cancer Taught Me

By Rethink Contributor October 24 2019

Photo by Alicia Thurston Photography

I didn’t want or need cancer at 35. No one does at any age, but the reality is, it came into my life and taught me some things.

Cancer taught me how strong I am. It’s a hard thing to look at yourself and think that you are strong. But I can look at my body and think, “F*ck yes! It really did something.” My heart was given medications every two weeks, and then every three weeks for a year that could’ve caused damage but it keeps doing it’s job and hasn’t faltered. For a heart that already had some work done to it, I am proud.

Cancer showed me who my people are. There are the ones that say they’ll be there, and then there are the ones that ARE there. They are there in the beginning, in the messy bits and even now when things are calm (on the outside).

Cancer taught me what anxiety REALLY is. It’s the anxiety that bubbles under the surface, and wakes me at night.

Life Lessons

Cancer showed me how strong and amazing my kids are. How they can take this experience and tuck it away. I love that they can forget about breast cancer sometimes, even if it’s just for a couple of days. I am just their ‘normal’ mom now.

Cancer showed me that it doesn’t begin and end with treatment. That healing isn’t a linear thing but a f*cking roller coaster. They don’t often say “you are cured” but more like “we will see you in three months.”

Cancer showed me that I have a pretty nice bald head, but would prefer to never be bald again.

Cancer taught me patience, because NOTHING seems fast in the world of oncology.  You wait for results, wait for tests, wait for doctors. (I also think this is a weird way to help us process results.)

Cancer treatment does more than destroy the cancer cells.  It wreaks havoc on your body. You suffer side effects for years later. Thyroid issues, shoulder pain, chest pain, port scar problems, slow healing, exhaustion.. to name a few.

Cancer taught me that sweating the little things just doesn’t matter. That saying yes is more important than saying no. Do the scary things and live your life.

Cancer showed me what fatigue really is. Even more than six months out of treatment, I’m surprised that I still suffer from fatigue. It is nothing like what I felt before. I feel like I’m walking with bricks on my back trying to complete the simplest tasks.

Fuck CancerCancer is fear. Fear of every single ache, pain or cough. It is guilt. Guilt for drinking a beer or having a delicious sugary Starbuck’s coffee.

Cancer brought me new friends that I never would have found otherwise. They are the people that just get it. There is no explanation needed.

Cancer gave me chemo brain. I stumble with words. I don’t always say what I mean nor do I realize that I have messed up words. My memory is worse than it was before. If you have a conversation with me now, post-treatment, you know I sometimes don’t know the word I am looking for or forget things we’ve talked about. The reality of being 37 and struggling with words is really humbling and makes me really angry some days. Thank you to everyone who supplies whatever words I am missing without a blink of the eye.

Cancer has shown me that my husband is the strongest person in this relationship. He is everything that I needed and more. He can calm my anxiety almost always, find the words that I can’t seem to find myself, is really good at saying “yes”, made sure he did whatever he could during treatment and sometimes is just suffering with me because more often than not there was nothing anyone can do. He most importantly makes me laugh every single day.

Cancer is not a diagnosis I would ever, ever wish on anyone. I am thankful that treatment exists and that there are medications available that make chemotherapy and radiation more manageable. Since I didn’t get a choice whether I had cancer, I am going to take these life lessons and embrace them. I will move forward each day, and try to smile and laugh every single day. – Krystle Allen


Click here to read What Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer Really Feels Like.