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You Are Not Alone

Dear Cancer,

This letter is long overdue. I think I need to spell some things out. There are some truths that I need to state out loud – just to set the record straight between us.

For starters, you’re the reason I’ve had a job the past few years. The anger and resentment I feel towards you is what fuels my passion every day. I want to do my very best to adjust course for the cancer community. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that you were also the reason why I have met so many wonderful, loving, and strong people that inspire me on a daily basis. Those same people who remind me to keep going, because the fight against cancer isn’t over until you don’t exist anymore.

The next few points are well, a bit awkward… You’re the reason why I never got to know my grandfather past the age of ten. Why my dad died five days before his granddaughter was born. The reason my mom is going to also miss the birth of her second granddaughter because chemo is going to make her too sick to hop on a plane. My husband’s grandfather, the kindest man in the world, who the meanest thing I’d ever seen him do was demand his quarter back from the newspaper whose machine gypped him, was whittled down to nothing. All because of you.

Not to mention how you stole my confidence, my sense of humor, and my dream career of going into medicine or at least what I thought was my dream career.

You also continuously make my heart stop like no other. Anytime I hear your five-letter name, I can feel my palms getting sweaty, the walls closing in on me, and almost instantly start gasping for air.

You’re like an obnoxious, endless detour sign in a life full of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  I just don’t have time for you. Yet, the thing is, I’m living a fuller life because of the many times you’ve come into mine.

Let me be clear about my gratitude. I’ll never be one of those people that is grateful for your mere existence. Give me the naive life I lived before my tenth birthday, that very first time I saw you suck the life out of a loved one.

With that said, I am grateful for the impact you had. I can see the world a bit more clearly because of the many times you’ve knocked me down. You give me perspective, albeit makes me more judgmental, especially of my peers whose current biggest issue is how many Instagram followers they have. You help define my life and what is important to me.

There’s something you should know. You should be scared. The word is getting out. With more tools, resources, and communities to join, you no longer have the same power or control you did before.

Resources exist now like Cactus Cancer Society (formerly Lacuna Loft), where you can join programs from literally anywhere, which help alleviate the once endless isolation you cause. Medicine is ever evolving and the ability to get second opinions, ask others for treatment advice, and find someone who knows exactly what you’re going through is becoming less of an effort.

You’re not winning anymore. You can’t snuff the hope that burns brighter every day from this community. Until you aren’t here anymore, I will be. I’ll be here to help hold out the hand for the next cancer newbie and say to them “you aren’t alone”.

This piece was originally published by Elephants and Tea, and was written by our very own Aerial Donovan.  All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers, and loved ones dealing with cancer.