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My Thoughts on Cancer…

Cancer isn’t something I avoid talking or writing about, because I’ve been surrounded by it.

Dad had it, the same kind I deal with – namely a decade-spanning case of extensive melanoma that sometimes goes wild and into other parts of the bod. I also have a sister who worked in oncology at Walter Reed (should I mention how damn proud of her I am, because that is UP THERE). She told me many stories, confidentially of course, in addition to those I hear so often when people find out what I’ve been doing to stay above ground.

Which certainly hasn’t always been pretty.

Right after I found out I was officially dealing with the Big C, I went a little crazy. The system teaches you to fear.

What I noticed first is that a diagnosis like this owns you. Kinda like something new that you buy that you’re extra careful with at first so you don’t scratch it, where you try like hell to maintain its pristine condition. But then, time passes and little dings start to appear, and you’re not quite as upset as before. That’s the point when you own it.

It was that way with me. At first: scared, freaked out, chicken shit, however you want to call it. Then – and thankfully – very angry. At the system, and that’s what had me up and swinging the bat in some new directions besides those marketed to me.

I’ve discovered the roots of cancer are many, and very different in different people. When asked why I had it, my answer has usually been this: not enough yeses. Emotionally, that’s the spot on answer. Physically, there are several threads weaving their way around at any given time, genetic predisposition and toxicity to name two.

Soon after, I started reaching out to people dealing with cancer outside the medical system. I was able to gain new perspectives. Namely that the medical system’s diagnosis, while accurate to a fault, wasn’t nearly the whole story.

And so began my thinking very differently about cancer than the medical establishment. I found myself becoming the researcher rather than a patient, because not all cancer needs the sledgehammer approach of surgery-chemo-radiation, or cut-poison-burn as it is referred to in some circles. Mine comes and goes, and articles I’ve read from rational and trusted sources have got me thinking that perhaps it is an infestation – a chronic condition more than than anything else – one that gets stronger when I’m weaker, and vice versa.

A strange sort of balance, that. One I’ve studied for years on end, and very carefully at that.

The accounts I’ve heard from others who opted out of the system are many and varied. I’ve come across people who’ve done things to deal with their cancer that some might call crazy (including yours truly), but from experience, what is crazy for one might just be the road to wellness for another. I also know a few who did absolutely nothing and are still walking around years later.

Even so, ignoring it may not make it go away. Denial may keep you sane, because this thing can push you into corners you never knew existed. But in the end, things can really catch up with you. Fast. As always, each and every case is different. Everybody is different, meaning every BODY is different. As soon as you get a cancer diagnosis, the trajectory – and the outcome – is as individual as DNA.

The judgmentalism I experienced when I told people I wasn’t going back for follow-up surgery or drugs was disappointing at best, even though I found other solutions that were just as effective and worked very well for me. Just because they hadn’t come in controlled messages from insurance-racketed doctors’ mouths didn’t mean they weren’t.

That I’ve largely figured out how to deal with the Big C outside the corporate medical system…tells me quite a bit about the corporate medical system.

Luckily, I had a heads-up from dad regarding cancer; his was the same form as mine. He survived extensive melanoma for 40-plus years, even to the point where his nose had to be removed and reconstructed, but perhaps he ignored other health problems too much in that his cause of death ended up being cardiac arrest. Which drives this point home: I won’t allow the Big C to blind me into oblivion. It is a deadly illness to deal with, yes. But all fear aside – and with early diagnosis – it very often comes with ample time to do so. And it can’t hurt to check on other stuff going on as well in the name of prevention.

Then, there’s what I call the isolation of illness. If you’ve been in these shoes, you know that of which I speak. This is where I felt as if I were living in the wrong alternate universe, outside looking in, life passing me by, all of it. Having felt the rejection of those not wanting to get involved with or hire “someone who has cancer,” it stung for sure, and badly. I found out that a serious illness can reduce you from a prolific overachiever to an underachiever in short order. It can set you back, not only timewise, but socially, professionally, financially and then some. I’ve been there.

There are positives, too.

I found out who was really there for me. I rediscovered my sense of humor (or I probably would already be done here). I learned how to take care of myself, and very well at that. The Big C is not an easy way to learn that lesson, but it was one that had me learning new tricks, including the need to question EVERYTHING, for my own good. Everything I was told. Everyone advising. And for damn sure, everyone trying to sell me a pack of pills.

In the end, it always comes down to this: doing what I feel is best for me at the time, for my own reasons, based on my own experiences, research and having gotten to know myself very well.

The story continues.

Have no regrets,

Alison