Everyone who witnessed the tragic events of September 11, 2001 remembers where they were, who they were with and how they reacted. It was a day you don’t forget. A surreal day in American history. Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City killing thousands of people in a matter of minutes. How could something like this happen in the United States of America? Aren’t we a safe country? Don’t we have armed forces to protect us? Yes, we are and yes we do but it happened anyway. Fast forward to September 11, 2009, the day I now call my “Personal 9/11”. I was sitting in a surgeon’s office like so many of you have done just waiting on the news from my biopsy. He walked into the room, looked at me and said, “You have cancer and it’s not good”. Yes, I remember being in that office sitting on the exam table. Yes, I remember the look on my husband’s face when the doctor gave us the news. Yes, I remember my matter of fact reaction. It is a day I will never forget.
Then the questions began, didn’t I do everything right? I ate right; I exercised; I prayed. I went to church and loved and served the Lord but it happened anyway. So now what? What am I supposed to do now that I have cancer? How do I move forward from this day?
Moving forward means acknowledging the event. It’s easy to say, “I have cancer” but not so easy to actually experience it. Experiencing it meant losing my hair. It meant learning to wear a wig and scarves to cover my bald head. That was reality just like traveling to New York to see the 9/11 Memorial and seeing all those names. Saying it happened was one thing but actually seeing and experiencing where it happened was reality.
So many other experiences come with this cancer journey. Feeling like your body can’t move another inch because the chemo is doing its work killing off all your cells, good and bad. Feeling the love of your family and friends who bring you dinner, beautiful hats and words of encouragement to get you through some of the tough days. Understanding that you will never be the same again. Reality is knowing cancer could one day take your life.
Cancer has changed me. It has brought fear. I am afraid it will grow in my body again and cause more pain. I am afraid this disease might one day kill me. Cancer is a frightening word. It is like a terrorist; always out there, poised and ready to strike. The question is, will I allow this disease to positively or negatively impact my life? In the aftermath of 9/11, people supported each other and worked together. They had pride in our country and wanted to fight against the people responsible for this devastation. I want to do the same with my life. I want to help people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer navigate the ins and outs of this disease that care providers don’t understand or tell you about. I want them to understand they don’t have to go it alone and there is support available. I will continue to fight for services to improve the quality of life for cancer patients undergoing treatments. I can make this bad experience a good thing by serving others.
So, where do we go from here? We can’t forget what has happened to us but we can become more vigilant about our health. We can do the things we always wanted to do but have put off until we have the time. We can spend more time with the people we love. We cannot forget what brought us to this point but we CAN keep on living our lives to the fullest EVERY day. So, we press on with life.
Blessings, Cindy J.