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Cancer warrior

Cancer warrior


As I battle breast cancer, I see the grim reaper off in the distance trying to entice me into crossing over. But I laugh in the face of death. Anger may have contributed to my illness; humor is contributing to my survival

I've always hated tests. I've never done well on a test until now. Metastatic breast cancer is a great test of one's will to live and to thrive.

The medical profession refers to me as incurable. I prefer to think of myself as incurably alive. I am not a survivor. I am a cancer warrior. Breast cancer may kill me, but it will never kill my spirit. I am now the proud owner of a pair of cosmetic mounds and something called projectiles. My body may look like a road map of the United States, but I'm on a mission and have no time for death. I see the grim reaper off in the distance trying to entice me into crossing over, but I laugh in the face of death. I am not ready to be another obituary in the morning paper.

I've become acutely aware of how hate affects me physically and emotionally. Hate is a cancer, its only purpose is to destroy. I've battled non-Hodgkin's in the past and won, but not for long. They now tell me that it was a warning of a bigger illness to come for me.

For years I had suppressed my anger at my dysfunctional family. For years I punished myself because I could never be as "perfect" as they thought they were. I am an oddball. I am someone your parents might not approve of. I am a nonconformist. I am weird. But more than anything else I am truly my own person.

I believe that although my cancer is genetic, it's the hate I carried around all those years that contributed to the aggressiveness of my cancer. Instead of allowing my hate to consume me I have now found a creative outlet for my feelings. I'm angry about my illness, but I am more upset over the way I've been treated by some physicians. No one wants to be treated like cattle. No one wants to be filled with noxious, carcinogenic chemicals that are potentially lethal, while in a room with other bald-headed, suffering people.

"Head 'em up and move them out," is often what the chemo experience has been like. It is hard to look another person in the eye and wonder if they will be in the chair next week. There have been times that I would see another patient leave the room, and I knew that I had just seen them for the last time.

And what do chemo patients talk about? We talk about our illnesses, compare notes and treatment plans; we talk about our surgeries, and sometimes we share our scars. Sometimes we talk about the future, unless we are told we won't have one. I am supposed to be dead now. I should have been dead and buried three years ago. No one knows why I am still here, some profess it must be a miracle; some say I have the right attitude. I say it's because I am a bitch (Babe In Total Control of Herself). I've stopped hating myself and started to love myself, and I've also learned to let go of all those bad feelings that festered inside me.

When you are facing death, it helps to have a sense of humor. Through all my painful treatments and surgeries I've found that laughing at myself is the most loving thing I can do for myself. Laughter heals the spirit; it also puts those that care about you at ease. I certainly don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, but I do want people to enjoy life with me. Who wants to hang out with someone who is having a pity party?

Sometimes the only thing you can do is laugh and hope that you will be around to make someone else laugh. I would rather people say upon my death, "Damn, she was funny" rather than, "She lost her battle with cancer." Who wants to leave the planet being remembered as a loser? The reality of any serious illness is that you may very well end up dead, but it's because the body gave out; the human spirit never gives up the fight.

Dying carries with it responsibilities that most people would rather not worry about. I've already planned my funeral: I want to be cremated, and then I want all of you to send me off with a New Orleans-style funeral. I want a float and nude dancers, a Mardi Gras theme and lots of beads. I want a celebration of my life before I die. Tell me how much I mean to you so I can hear it, let us reminisce about my quirks, my uniqueness, and my purpose.

Don't tell me how much I mattered to you once I am gone. I want to know today that I made a difference. I think sometimes we forget to tell each other what we like about one another, and then in death we remember. Funerals should be fun. I believe most of us want to be remembered as we were and not in some uncomfortable, expensive casket, cosmeticized and embalmed so that we look like a rock.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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Tony Riss