Editor’s Note: As National Cancer Survivors Day® is recognized on June 4, MTC contributor Christine Pudel reflects on the day she was diagnosed and the impact that diagnosis has had on her life.
On May 31, 2016, my phone rang unexpectedly in the morning while I was getting ready for the day. That phone call changed my life forever. It really didn’t tell me anything besides the fact I was missing an appointment, however, the moment I hung up the phone, I knew. I knew the test results I was waiting on had come back, and the news wasn’t good. I knew the life I lived up to this day was over. I knew I was going to be given a cancer diagnosis.
Up until this year, May 31 felt like a celebration. It felt like an “in your face, cancer” kind of day. “I’m still here, and you didn’t win.” Today it feels different. Today, it feels like my medullary thyroid carcinoma (MTC) won in so many ways. It took away so much. Sure, I’m still here, and I’m grateful for that, but I can’t celebrate May 31 as before. Today, I grieve.
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Maybe it’s because the circumstances this year are so similar to what they were 7 years ago. My grandpa is leaving to go back home to Germany, exactly like he was 7 years ago. We had breakfast at my mom’s place, exactly how we were supposed to 7 years ago. I am feeling defeated and uncertain of the future, exactly how I felt 7 years ago. The tears are coming easily and without warning, exactly like they did 7 years ago.
Cancer took so much. It has changed me in so many ways. Most of the time, I am able to look toward the positives, the things I’ve learned. I am able to count my blessings and be grateful.
But this May 31, I just feel robbed.
Having a chronic cancer feels like a double-edged sword. It’s not just the fact that someone has cancer and has had to endure treatments that are sometimes nothing short of inhumane. But it’s also the constant reminder that it’s not over. That it will never be over.
MTC is a cruel disease. I will never be able to get rid of it completely. Barring a miracle, never in my life will I hear the words, “You are cancer free.” I will never be able to point to my scars and say that’s when I had cancer.
When meeting new people and the conversation inevitably leads to my cancer, I will always have to explain that it’s a “forever cancer.” No, I am not in remission. There will always be that awkward moment when the person who hears it for the first time doesn’t know what to say. That’s when the look of pity crosses their face, even if just for a split second.
MTC is a thief. Although I’m able to be grateful for a slow-growing cancer that will most likely allow me to live for quite some time, today, I am just sitting in the grief that I even have to think that way.
Today, cancer simply sucks.