Change your perspective and make cancer a thriving experience to become your best self.
In October 2006, I was sitting on a bench in Paris, crying my eyes out while it was pouring rain on me, as if the sky was feeling my pain and sobbing with me. Earlier that day, a man in a white blouse articulated a two-syllable word that every sensible person fears: “Cancer”, he said, “Death”, I thought.
That year was a turning point in my life. I had just found out that my mother was going to start dialysis; she was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease and her kidneys were failing. My instinctive decision was to donate my kidney so that I could save her from the burden of dialysis. Despite the fact that my mother who lived in Beirut, where I am originally from had rejected the idea of taking my kidney, I made an appointment at Parisian hospital to see if I could donate this non-vital organ.
I would have never imagined that at age 26, a doctor would tell me that I couldn’t donate my kidney because there was a tumor in it. I went home, devastated, knowing that I would have to wait one month for my biopsy appointment in order to find out if the 7 cm tumor was benign or not. Imagine waiting 30 days, not knowing if you have cancer, if there are metastases, if you are going to live or die or if you are going to die slowly while living. Sure, there had been symptoms such as being always exhausted with chronic back pain but I was told it was due to a slipped disc so I never imagined it was a more serious issue.
Once the results came as Renal Cell Carcinoma fuhrman grade 2, there was no turning back. I thought to myself, “Chris you have survived a war, you survived so many hard situations, you can deal with this”. But the fact was I was terrified and alone, my only pillars were my best friend Julie and my boyfriend Francisco. I decided not to tell my parents; what was the use of dropping such a bomb on them while they were far away and mom was going to start dialysis? I did share the info with my siblings; my brother rushed to support me as the urologist’s decision was to remove my right kidney and clean the surrounding area. He was very caring and took really good care of me but ten days later, he had to go back to Lebanon and Julie and Francisco stepped in for help.
A month later, my scar got infected and needed an intervention; the surgery which was minor compared to the first one triggered major depression. I resented every needle, white blouse, pill, doctor talks; I just wanted to vanish. Francisco who was supportive and kind all the way became a scapegoat through unfair silence treatment that could last days. I would go for days without spilling a word but inside me there was an ocean of sadness and anger. My depression lasted a year and I never spoke about it to anyone. I could not turn to God as I had abandoned him during my 10 years in Paris. I felt completely alone; inside me there was a huge void that I started to fill with comfort food. That year, I gained 25 kilos. The more I ate, the more I hated myself; the more I drifted away from Francisco, the more I felt sad and lonely. Francisco and I broke up. It was a dark, very dark year.
Today, 12 years later, I now realize that cancer was never a death sentence for me but rather a wake-up call. I had become my own worst enemy; I finally came to forgive and make peace with myself. I work out and take care of both my body and mental health. I eventually came to realize who I was. That meant letting go of the past and the ego, to find happiness in small things and to eventually stop running away and to come back home. I came back home to Lebanon. After living 17 years abroad, I made peace with my land, my surroundings, and everything that was keeping me stuck in my own prison.
So many things happened during those 12 years after surgery; I lived in many countries and had so many experiences but the ones that mattered shaped the woman I am today. I realized my own value; I think at a certain point, we all should acknowledge our weaknesses and humble our souls in order to forgive ourselves. I think all the philosophers have disagreed on everything except one thing; they all called us to realize our authenticity. Don’t be vulgar copies to impress others. Find out who you are and live in peace with your identity.
For me today, all I want to do is to walk steady towards God with a heart full of love and nothing but love. I cannot tell you how God entered again in my life, but I am so grateful that he did. It restored my dignity and healed every wound.
If you have kidney cancer, let this be an experience that strengthens instead of destroys you. Please, I beg you, don’t fall into depression and don’t shut people that matter out of your lives. These people are the ones who matters the most.
You can encounter a brilliant mind but if his/her heart is empty from love, this person is not as impressive as you thought. Francisco who was a street smart guy and a little bit of a thug who was completely different from any fancy intellectual or artist man I have dated, offered me the lesson of my life. I would trade all the books and arts in this world for an ounce of true pure love and integrity that only Francisco was able to offer me.
I don’t know where Francisco is now and if he is married or not or if he will ever read this but I hope that deep down in his heart, he knows that I will always be grateful for the solid man that he was. I never thanked him properly for taking care of me, so allow me through this article to say:” Thank you Francisco, you will forever be my long lost angel”.
Finally, and as my friend Semaan always says:” It is not important who loves you but rather how you love”.
Let us offer a high quality of love, let your heart be pure, don’t expect anything in return, just walk steady towards God with a heart full of love. Remember life doesn’t owe you a thing but you owe life everything, treat your surroundings good, treat yourself good and make every second count.
Christiane Waked, political analyst, arts and culture contributor, dog person, music freak, kidney cancer survivor and one hell of a tough cookie.