I Guess I Really Did Have Cancer

Yesterday marked exactly one year since I found out that I had pancreatic cancer. The date was November 22, 2013. I will never forget the date, in part because it is also my father’s birthday. I still feel badly about delivering that news to my family on my dad’s birthday.

A couple of weeks ago, I sought out a second opinion from another oncologist. This has nothing to do with the care I have received. It has everything to do with my own peace of mind. I really should have sought this opinion last November or December, but my insurance company fought me and denied me so many times that I just gave up. For some reason, I could never shake the feeling that I should have gotten that second opinion. This may sound silly, but there was even a little voice in my head that wondered if the original pathologists had been wrong. Perhaps I never had Pancreatic Cancer after all!

On November 21, 2014, one day shy of the anniversary of my original diagnosis, I heard back from the doctor’s office where I had sought out a second opinion. Not surprisingly, my original diagnosis was confirmed. I honestly felt only relief at hearing the news a second time. I was happy to hear that I could now put to rest any lingering questions I had. Yes, I had Pancreatic Cancer. Yes, I am glad I went through surgery and 18 rounds of chemotherapy. I have no regrets about the path I took, and though I am sorry my family had to experience so much pain, I know it was with a purpose.

Denial is a powerful thing, but I think my continued sense of denial helped me through this last year. I rarely thought of myself as a Cancer patient. I thought of myself as a really healthy runner who had a touch of cancer. I think that is part of why I was able to do the things I did all through my chemotherapy. I was not “sick”. I was a healthy person in a temporarily unfortunate set of circumstances.

I have written previously about seeking peace of mind. Even though I got my second opinion much later than I would have liked, and I had to pay for it out of pocket, it has helped me achieve some of the peace of mind that I have been seeking. It was truly worth every penny simply to hear, “Yes, your original diagnosis stands.” To anyone facing a major medical condition, I highly encourage seeking out that second opinion. There is no price tag that can be placed on knowing that you are on the correct path.

One of my goals going forward is to eliminate from my life things that take away from my own sense of mental peace and calmness. During treatment, I was pretty good at establishing my boundaries, and most people respected them. As I have gotten healthier, I am allowing obligations to creep into my life that in no way contribute to my own sense of emotional well being. I take ownership of this. It is my own fault when I find myself agreeing to responsibilities that do not add to my own quality of life. On the one hand, I am pleased that I am now getting healthy enough that some of the lessons Cancer taught me are not always in the forefront of my mind. On the other hand, those lessons were so valuable to me as a person, and to my family as a whole, that I will do everything in my power not to forget what I have learned. As a mother of daughters, I try to live my values and lead by example. I know I personally struggle with attempting to please others while honoring my own needs. As I work towards my second year as a Pancreatic Cancer survivor, I owe it to myself and my family to continue to evaluate the choices I make. What adds to our lives and what detracts from the time we have together? I sure hope I have another 45 years of healthy living, but I cannot afford to take one day for granted.

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6 thoughts on “I Guess I Really Did Have Cancer

  1. Tonia when I read this I sobbed and sobbed. So much of me and how I felt and still feel – although not being a writer with way more eloquence! You being a year out are further evolved than me ( diagnosed end January last year ) and sound far more “together”. I too really struggled to see myself as a “cancer victim” as I have always been so fit and healthy. Sounds like we had almost exactly the same treatment regime – whipples followed by 18 rounds of gem?
    This year has been a roller coaster for me and my family ( I am a mother of 3 boys and have a fantastic husband) One of the things I have done is to learn how to meditate and try to keep more calm in my life. But as I have been becoming stronger my new “awareness” often slips and I revert to bad habbits! Thank you for writing this amazing piece. It`s like you almost wrote it for me about me! Please keep in contact.

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    • Cayley, I thought our cases sounded so familiar. I hope you read back through my older posts because I think you will identify with it. One of the greatest gifts of the Cancer odyssey for me has been to help along those who were diagnosed after me. I agree about meditation being helpful. I know when I was doing yoga more routinely, that helped tremendously also.

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