I grew up with cancer. I didn’t have cancer myself, but it was always there, always lurking. I didn’t have monsters under my bed, I had pill bottles and a vaporizer on the nightstand in the bedroom I shared with my mother. I didn’t have playdates or family vacations, I had trips to the doctors and overnights at the hospital. But I always knew I was lucky – every ‘one more year’ was a victory, we spent so much time together, and I was happy for that.
My mother attempted to give me a normal childhood, but she was limited by her medications, the proximity to her doctor and the gage on her oxygen tank. It was the 1980’s, and cancer treatment was limited to high-dose chemo, medications that did as much harm as good, and a lack of the cancer-specific treatment centers that they have today. When I was nine, her body had given all it could give. Cancer didn’t care that she had been a nurse, a mother, a devout Christian. It took everything, and left nothing.
For a while, I thought my life with cancer was at an end.
At age nineteen, cancer knocked on my door again. And like last time, the deliveryman wasn’t for me. My father had kept it hidden for a few years, but it quickly snowballed into a debilitating decline. It wasn’t the 1980’s, though, so there were all kinds of new treatments and possibilities, and he tried all he could – including something to do with bee stings. Unfortunately, access and cost is still a major issue for those with cancer. He went through every penny had, but in the end only gained a few extra months. Cancer didn’t care that he had been a race car driver, a man of fire and passion, who had plans to die on a speedboat named Beyond Reason. It took everything, and left nothing.
He would have been sixty-five this October.
I’ve talked to my doctor. I know my odds. Genetically speaking, I’m a time-bomb waiting to go off. Cancer will knock again, and one day it will be for me. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when it does.
What I can do is hope. I have hope that organizations and events like Scream for the Cure will help to raise awareness. I have hope that advancements in medical science will continue to offer new treatment and chances for cures. I have hope that insurance companies and drug companies will work together so that a person’s life is not dependent on how deep their bank accounts are. I have hope for the future, because when you live with the shadow of cancer in your life for so long, you learn that hope is what will one day defeat it.
Thank you to everyone who has donated to Scream for the Cure or other cancer causes. And thank you to all the wonderful authors who are supporting this!