This fight, I didn't register for


Wu Song Beats a Tiger (武松打虎)

I realize it has been a really long time since I last blogged. Really reading my older posts makes me long for the days when my biggest worries involved the size of my waistline and the length of my drive to get to kung fu class.

I never expected to be diagnosed at 39 with cervical cancer. Cancer in my mind was reserved for two camps, those poor unfortunate children in the commercials for St Judes (which are heartbreaking) and old people. Like my mom who got breast cancer at 72. Not middle aged women with careers, husbands and mortgages. Not me.

I was told about my cancer Just over a month ago. I was on my way to pick up my step-daughter from daycare. It was a Friday. My doctor had called me in the car but I didn't pick up because I was driving. However I pulled over into a parking lot to call her back. I thought maybe it would be some good news about a cyst I had removed. It wasn't.

So now I'm sitting here, hooked up to the chemo (which I refer as "being plugged into the Borg Collective" fellow Star Trek fans will get that). My first week went rather swimmingly, but I'm too much of a realist to think the remaining 6 weeks of treatment will be that easy.

However this detour in the road has made me more aware of some truths in life:

1. Sickness can affect anyone and everyone should listen to their bodies. If you have a nagging pain or anything else that seems odd, don't ignore it, hoping it will go away. Tell a doctor. Have it checked out. If I hadn't saw the doctor and insisted upon a physical exam because of suspicious bleeding, I wouldn't have been diagnosed at stage I2B and treatments would have been worse and the prognosis more grim. So listen up because your body will tell you when something is amiss if you let it.

2. Explaining unpleasant things in life to children is hard, but do it anyways. Recently my step-daughter, Rhianna, came out and asked my husband, "what exactly IS wrong with Rachel?"  This conversation was prompted by a locket that my sister sent her to wear as a sign of support for me in my battle. Mark explained as best as possible and with the least amount of trauma, that I have cervical cancer and because it was caught in time that I will survive.  The last thing we wanted was to mention the word cancer and have one of her school friends, whom perhaps had a grandparent or other relative not win their battle tell Rhianna "Oh your step-mom is going to die" In fact we don't even entertain the thought that I won't make a full recovery in our household.

3. Being optimistic doesn't make you a Pollyanna or in denial. It may even save your life. I'm not deluding myself. My cancer at the stage it was caught at has a 70-80% cure rate, depending on who you ask. Some might interpret that as 20-30% chance of death. I choose to see that as greater than 50/50 chance that I'll recover fully. If someone told you that you had a 70-80% chance of winning the Powerball Lottery, you'd be pretty psyched right? I also have some things in my favor, not the least thing being my age. Statistics are averages and statistically cancer tends to strike older folks, and my relative youth and vigor means I can take a tougher course of therapy. But studies have shown having a positive outlook helps with prognosis. Besides it's more fun to laugh than cry.

4. Being optimistic can be learned. I'm not a born optimist. I spent most of the early 1990's like many people my age, listening to "grunge" and being an "angsty" young person. I didn't really start being more optimistic until I met Mark. His optimism was contagious and after spending so many years being "glass half-empty" I decided I'd simply "practice" being more optimistic. Funny thing is the more I practiced, the more good things started happening which made me more optimistic. So just today, even if just for practice, try to find one good thing about the day and focus on that. Today it rained and I won't need to water my plants, yay!

5. I miss Kung fu badly, but focusing on one thing at a time is ok. Our culture idolizes multitasking, but how many things do you really want to juggle at once? I haven't been to class in over a month. I miss it, but for now, my battle with cancer needs my full attention. Kung fu will be there waiting for my return when I've slayed this dragon. I'm already planning for the next goal I want to tackle after I kick Cancer's butt: I'm thinking Senior Instructor Rachel Chapman would sound good.... So I'm a lousy multi-tasker. That's cool. One thing at a time.

I wonder what other lessons I'll have to learn (or in some cases re-learn) in future weeks.

Last modified on Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:47

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