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That pretty much sums up what I’ve learned.

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer in Fall, 2013.  It is said that no one ever sees cancer coming. I was a healthy half marathoner, at my target weight and without any family heredity of cancer. I possess not one of the indicators for not just colorectal cancer, but any kind of cancer. My diagnosis launched an odyssey unlike anything I could have ever imagined.

And throughout my journey, I continued to learn things I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I read once that when a person gets such a serious diagnosis, friends slot into two categories: First, those with whom you are very close may virtually vanish when they learn of your diagnosis. The second group comprises those to whom you aren’t the closest, but who, unexpectedly, come through for you in spades. This is absolutely true. One cannot expect others to carry such baggage, when a person may not even be able to carry their own.

It is also said that you don’t choose cancer, cancer chooses you.

Within a week of my diagnosis, it was a Saturday morning and my husband said he needed to go run errands. He came home two hours later with his head completely shaved. “What on earth did you do?” I pleaded.  He responded, “I made a vow that I would shave off my hair so you wouldn’t lose yours.”

I did not lose my hair.

I started to get cards, letters, e-mails and notes from friends and family.  As I started to collect them, I realized I wanted to put them up where I would see them often and be reminded of those who were thinking of me in prayer or with good energy. I have a broad wall in our entry hallway and that’s initially where I thought I would start to post these greetings and well wishes. But it occurred to me that a wall is something one comes against, but a door is something we go through. So I posted these on my downstairs doors to remember this is something I must go through. I’ve outgrown three doors now.

My cancer treatment wasn’t simple. It was complicated and I seemed to manifest every possible side effect. As such, I’ve had numerous complications from the radiation. It took much longer than I imagined for my systems to work together again. And, I’ve struggled with intense pain. With the cancer, then the after-effects of treatment, I just never figured I could call myself a survivor.

My sweet little neighbor, 93-year-old Norma, showed at up my doorstep one day when I was at my lowest during treatment, I was weak and sick. She said she felt she had to tell me something. She shared her first battle, with ovarian cancer some 50 years earlier. In her 70s, she then battled breast cancer. She came out as the victor twice and she wanted me to know it could be done. She walked one of the first Portland-area Komen Race for the Cure events, and kept her pink hat that said “I’m A Survivor.” Decades later, she’d kept it, but didn’t know why. And then she did. She felt she was to bestow that hat to me, so in her mind, I’d kick that cancer beyotch just as she had.

Since, I’ve had three major surgeries, 7 hospitalizations, 57 chemo infusions, 28 radiation treatments, 4 day surgeries, 7 procedures, 5 ER visits, 21 prescriptions, 4 specialists, 2 jars of holy water, 4 vials of anointing oil, 39 floral bouquets, 20 bottles of wine, six pots of soup and hundreds of prayers, well wishes, e-mails, texts, visits, meals, yard work, cookie deliveries and 1 hashtag - #ktb. From that day to this, It was clear I had a lot to learn, and be and do. I did, and I have, and I do.

And I’m fixin’ to be a survivor. # # # 

Dianne, Stage 3 Survivor and Founder, Answer2Cancer

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