It’s March, my dendrobiums are in bloom.
One of these beautiful Australian rock orchids, speciosum, is extra special because seeing this bloom is one of the items on my bucket list. I lived to see it and two years ago when I became a warrior, I was uncertain that I would.
Before my diagnosis, warrior seemed such a strange word to apply to people fighting cancer, but here I am using it to refer to me with a deeper understanding than I ever wanted to have. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney cancer which quickly morphed to stage four when metastasis appeared in my lungs. Since that time, I have realized that like a soldier on a battlefield I am at war.
For some the war starts with an explosive sneak attack in the form of an incidental finding. My war started with the stealthy animosity frequently seen in the political arena between nations. I was sick for several months with a lingering debilitating cough, night sweats, relentless fatigue, and felt as if I was knocking on death’s door. As a warrior I have a staff of highly trained health care professionals at my side to help me. Dr. Monty Pal is my oncologist who is the admiral guiding the ship; there are “Colonels”, “Majors”, and “Captains” who take care of endocrine function, scans, prescriptions, kidney function, surgeries, and emotional well-being. Instead of battlefield lingo like IED, EOD, tango, and foxtrot I use terms like CT, PET, MET, SBRT, and scanxiety.
Every ache, pain, fever becomes a fear that my time is growing short and that I have developed an additional tumor or that “it” has returned. I have sought help from others going through the same experience for emotional support as I struggle with the PTSD in my battle. Wars are expensive and cancer is no exception. My monthly treatments cost upwards of $25,000 each. I am currently NED (no evidence of disease) and while personally elated I find it a bittersweet victory. I remember those that have been lost and the sacrifices that have been made.
I ache for those who don’t have the insurance resources or access to care that I have. My heart breaks for the 2/5 people who will have some form of cancer in their lifetime.
March is a wonder filled month. Spring is in the air, St Patrick’s Day is one of the best holidays, the rock orchids are in bloom, and its kidney cancer awareness month.
Please take a moment to reflect about those fighting in this battle.