BadASS Letter -“Dear Cancer”
Happy Monday New & Old Friends!
I wrote the following “Dear Cancer” Letter for a cancer organization that recently solicited submissions. I have yet to hear whether my submission was selected and even if it isn’t, that’s ok! Sometimes I write for my own mental health and to remind myself of how grateful I am to be “Alive to Thrive.” I share it because I want to help others going through similar circumstances.
This was the first submission of its kind that I have done since I was diagnosed. It was cathartic in many ways and it was one of the catalysts for this blog, recognizing that I need to write about my experiences, and share them with others. If there is one person who can benefit from my writing or if just one more person is willing to get a colonoscopy because of me, I will consider this work a success!
It only seems fitting to start at the end when “Rectal Cancer” is your name…
Today I am thankful. I am grateful. It might sound cliche, but it has been a hell of a year of learning and growing and finding strength that I never knew I had within me. A year of re-discovering positivity and a strong will to live. No, not live, THRIVE! An attitude I didn’t realize would quite literally save my ass.
Yes, thanks Cancer for the spiritual awakening! For helping me discover meditation, healing, love, self-compassion, inner peace (still learning) and grace under fire. But not so much for the chemo, radiation, side effects, surgeries, the ileostomy (now reversed), my new short and sassy semicolon or all of these extra trips to the bathroom; nor for the intense Ph.D.-level cancer education I never asked for. I’ve learned from it all!
Butt, seriously. ( ㅅ ) Even though I never asked for this, I know that there was a purpose and a reason for it. I’m meant to do something because of it. And Cancer, when I figure out what that looks like, you’ll be the LAST to know, because you are GONE! Finished! Dead! Obliterated! I will always be a work in progress, but you, are meant to be an afterthought; solely there to remind me of what I could have lost, but gained instead.
You certainly took us all by surprise! No one (not even my doctors) ever imagined that you would be, YOU. I was 53, no close family history of colorectal cancer, exercised an hour a day, ate well-balanced and healthy most of the time, limited sugar and salt intake, NO diabetes, LOWcholesterol, rarely if ever got colds or flu, and even managed to avoid Covid! I had NO major health issues! Yet, BOOM! There you were. So, was it happy hour red wine? That steak? Grilling? Those extra pounds? Living in a poor air quality state? That coal train we lived next to for a decade? I felt FINE, GREAT, FANTASTIC! I had no clue (well, a small clue, a little mucus and blood in my stool but we all thought it was hemorrhoids from a recent house move)… Was it curable? Was it real? WTF?
You came in the night and snuck in under the radar of my defenses undetected. A clean colonoscopy two years before did not keep you away! Or were you already there, lurking and making yourself invisible to the naked eye? It really doesn’t matter because one day you weren’t there and then, you were. A four-and-a-half-inch “spontaneous occurrence” (I named Arnold) just lying in wait, taking up residence in my sigmoid colon, partying it up with my rectum and at least one lymph node while sending out invitations to more! Were you a product of my environment? My Food? My stress? My anger at times? My empathy? My inability to neutralize and keep the world and its problems out of my being? I will probably never know… But, I showed you!
At first I hated you. I wanted with all my heart to kill you! I wanted you to die so that I could live! Then I came to understand that when you started out, your twisted intent might likely have been to somehow protect me from something — My mind and body were not in alignment, perhaps. Eventually, I realized that there was a purpose for your visit and I understood it was less about how you came to be and more about who I was, and what I wanted/needed to become But that didn’t mean you were welcome. No sir! I absolutely could NOT allow you to stay in my body. You had to GO!!! NOW!
So I used every available means at my disposal: Modern medicine, spirituality, meditation, affirmations, reiki, a therapist, healing music and solfeggio tones (528 hz), regular exercise (the therapy pool was a Godsend), a spiritual healing medium, podcasts, books, food and supplements, art, and I kept a gratitude journal (especially on the tough days). Plus I did regular (honest) check-ins with myself and my spouse (Amy) — who was an angel without wings — blessed be the care partners! I asked for prayers and good juju from everyone I knew and some I didn’t know. From these folks, I soaked up prayers and good wishes. I listened to every suggestion and graciously accepted every word meant in kindness as kindness — even when a few of those comments were tone-deaf (you know the ones). Because not everyone knows what to say or how to deal with someone who has cancer, and I wanted all the love and support I could get. My miracle was also theirs.
I went public with my story to remove the stigma so that my story can help someone else; or convince others to get screened and to listen to their bodies. It was hard. It was intense. It was, effective!
Cancer, you made me re-examine my entire life from the inside out. While it is the worst club ever to belong to, it also ended up being this crazy gift that no one wants or expects but once it’s opened can’t be returned, so I did my best to make the best of it. I made so many connections with people that I wouldn’t have known before this. Many who continue to fight their own “Arnolds.” I am awed by the power and strength of this belonging, these people, my people.
Now that you’re gone. I think of you sometimes. Probably more often than I should. I certainly don’t miss you! I’d prefer not to think of you at all. You are at the top of the worst exes ever list! Like bad relationships, you left physical and emotional scars. Triggers: Scans, doctor visits, blood draws, the smell-taste of saline, hearing a friend has cancer… The remaining side effects: My constellation of fading belly scars from the “knife fight” with the robot (my surgeon did an awesome job), CIPN (chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy), the lingering LARS (lower anterior resection syndrome) — lots of trips to the bathroom, scar evidence of my port; all of these things remind me of where I’ve been and where I must continue to go in order to stay healthy and happy; to be alive to thrive! I AM safe, I am strong, I am well. I do not have to go back (again) to move forward. This badass is looking forward to an awesome future!
Cindy “CC” Coe
Stage 3b Rectal Cancer Survivor & CRC BadASS
What’s Up Your Butt? Time to find out!
I am not a doctor. I am married to one, but she’s the other kind thus all opinions herein are my own and should not be considered medical advice. Please, do your own homework, make your own choices and consult your own experts!
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