The following is a post written by a stage 4 cancer survivor. I got her permission to share her story here. Her name is Dawn Eicher and she is a cancer warrior:
Q: How do you get you through a terrible situation, survive tragedy, overwhelming odds and unbearable pain?
A: You dream big and aim for the sky!
During my years of treatment for stage IV colon cancer, I hit many lows. As you can imagine, much of it has been quite unpleasant. Cancer treatment includes party favors such as high doses of radiation, second degree burns, chemo pumps I wore delivering poison 24/7 directly into my heart. I developed a fatty liver from chemo, mouth/throat sores, stomach cramps, permanent loss of bodily function, UTIs. I experienced extreme nausea (like “worst hangover of your life” mixed with “the worst flu you’ve ever experienced” nausea), major fatigue (like “can’t get out of bed except to pee” tired), 14 new holes in my body due to laparoscopic surgery, loss of internal organs followed by post surgical pain @ an 11 (the scale is 1-10, so this qualifies as “off-the-charts-didn’t-care-if-I-lived-or-died extreme levels of pain”). I had drains coming out of my body, so many scans and pin pricks I’ve lost count, ileostomy bags, chemo sensitivity (when you swallow water if feels like shards of glass in your throat), and I was on powerful narcotics for months at a time. All of these “gifts” were wrapped up in a neat cancer package and accompanied by the constant fear of losing my life. It was and still is very overwhelming at times. Can you say PTSD??!!
Sometimes I wonder how I made it through. Many times during treatment I couldn’t even distract myself by watching TV or reading because I was so sick I couldn’t open my eyes. However, in the far recesses of my mind I found a way to “escape” my bedridden hell by frequently dreaming of tropical isles, pristine beaches and overwater bungalows. I promised myself and Mike that IF I beat those stupid, grim 8% odds of survival and made it to 3 years of remission, we would celebrate as a family and take the trip of a lifetime. I dreamt of taking our family to paradise and making memories that last forever. These daydreams got me through the darkest of days.
Well, this month marks three years in remission! This month I reach the far end of the survival “bell curve” and today we head out on the trip of a lifetime. I will no longer dream of overwater bungalows, we will stay IN ONE! Orana Bora Bora and Aloha Aulani. We will Carpe that Diem and #CannonballLife Here’s to fulfilling wildest dreams and living life like everyday day is your last. So grateful for this second chance at life. I will keep dreaming big and reaching for the sky.
Now this is an awesome story!
If you have a cancer journey story you would like to share, please leave me a comment.
The other day I read a post from someone I follow on Face Book. She just finished chemo and her scans look good. Her recent post was about how her friends and family responded when she was diagnosed and then when she was going through treatment. Many of them offered advice and tried to comfort her with positive words. For this woman, it wasn’t helpful. She wanted someone to listen and not speak. She went on to write that cancer patients don’t need or want encouragement or advice, it makes them feel like they are to blame for getting sick in the first place.
While this is obviously true for her, it was not true for me. I’m one of those people who want to figure out what happened and if there is something I can do to make sure I stay healthy as possible. I like advice. I like encouragement. I don’t like someone sitting there looking at me with sad eyes. Only positive attitudes were allowed in my presence. Any crying (Including coming from my hubby or son) was to be done away from me.
I admit, I’m not the person you call if you just want to be sad. I’m not good at “holding space.” (and I won’t apologize for it). I’m the one you call to distract yourself, even for a little while. I’m the one who will make you laugh or smile. I’m the one who will encourage you because that’s what i want someone to do for me… and I was lucky to have people like that in my corner.
There is nothing wrong with how this person felt, who wanted someone to hold space for her but she doesn’t speak for all of us. I know because when I volunteered at the cancer center, I met other patients like me.
We all get through our life journey (including facing a life threatening illness) the best way we can. And anything we say is only our point of view, not everyone’s.
After my ass was cauterized, the tumor stopped bleeding and I was happy about that but I was not allowed anything to eat except ice chips because my colon was a mess (My words, not my docs). My rectum had to heal and that would take time. The last thing I needed was to start bleeding again. On day three of no solid food, I offered my nurse twenty bucks if she would give me a Saltine cracker. To my delight she handed me a menu and said I could eat whatever I wanted. Yay! Hospital food never tasted so good!
Now that I was eating I figured I could go home but ..no. Now I had to wait until I pooped…and then I could go home. Pooping took another day and a half and I won’t lie to you…it hurt like hell!
But I got to go home.
My son picked me up and our first stop before heading home was to Sprout’s grocery store. I wanted to stock my frig with healthy food and my son wanted a sandwich from the deli.
Everything was fine until “It” happened, that silent but deadly fart. I’ve had some stinky gas before, but ever since my rectum was cauterized, my gas was lethal and all I could do was hope none of the poor, unsuspecting people standing in the deli line in front of us noticed.
A few seconds later my son turned to me and asked, “Mom is that you?” and I burst out laughing. By now a few of the customers looked around (probably for an exit door). It was really awful but what could I do? So, I did what I always do when I’m in an embarrassing situation… I laugh!
Luckily the line moved quickly and before I knew it my son got his sandwich and we were on our way home where I could (and did) fart as much as I wanted and this time I could blame it on the dog.