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Life Is Never the Same

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Life Is Never the Same

Life Is Never the Same

Life Is Never the Same

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The following essay is from the NPR My Cancer weekly podcast:

At the very top of the My Cancer Web site, there's a short paragraph, an introduction to the blog. I wrote it about a year ago, and quite honestly, I sort of forgot it was there. It starts this way:

"After that day, your life is never the same. That day is the day the doctor tells you, you have cancer."

I wrote that about six months after "that day" for me, and I got that part right. Your life never is the same. Mine certainly hasn't been. That moment of that day is still crystal clear for me. I can see the room in the hospital, see myself lying in the hospital bed wearing a gown that was too small. I can see my doctor sitting down and saying those words. His exact words were, "We found a mass in your brain." The conversation sort of went downhill from there.

But that sentence — "Your life is never the same" — only tells a fraction of the story. As a cancer patient, there are so many days that change the course of your life. Those changes usually aren't very smooth. They're more like those sharp turns on a roller coaster, the ones that whip your neck around. The first day of chemo? That's a huge change. I don't think your body ever quite recovers from those toxic drugs that are meant to save you.

It's the scan days that really determine the course of your life. There are several different types of scans: MRIs, CTs, PET scans. They all see things a little differently. But they all do the same thing. They search, they hunt. They try to peer into the dark corners of our bodies, looking for a threat.

All scan days are difficult. Waiting for the results is excruciating. A good scan day is like your birthday and Christmas rolled into one. A bad scan day sends your life careening off in another direction. And each time that happens, things seem to get worse. More tumors, more treatments. Last-ditch treatments. Untried treatments. More danger. Each time your life changes course like that, the world seems to close in on you a little more.

So yes, my life has not been the same since the day the doctor told me I have cancer. Last Wednesday, my doctor told me the scans had found new tumors. My life hasn't been the same since that day, either. I don't know how many of these changes are in my future. I keep thinking of that quote from Hunter Thompson. "Buy the ticket, take the ride." I have to admit, after being on this ride for a while, my stomach is a little queasy and my neck is getting sore. But I'm not ready to get off just yet.

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