Friday, October 2, 2009
I've been thinking about what to write ever since POD asked me to post her LIVESTRONG piece. I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1997. It's very strange to look back on the events with a decade-plus perspective. While it was a serious and scary time, my cancer diagnosis was integrally tied to my over-all recovery. In many ways, cancer helped create the life I have now.
The end of 1996 was probably my darkest hour. I was dealing with a marriage reconciliation after a two year break, I was gaining weight at an alarming clip, using food in inappropriate ways and I was miserable.
And then in 1997, the call came in that my pap results were abnormal. There was some retesting and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a gynecological oncologist's office. The recommendation was a hysterectomy. Surgery was scheduled.
I had some time to research cervical cancer. I was astounded by the percentage of false "good" results women receive. I'd been diligent about yearly exams and nothing had shown up before. All of a sudden, I had cancer. I was shocked to learn that this was caused by a virus, a sexually transmitted virus, HPV. Now I got to have some shame attached to everything else. But it was also at that point that I decided that something had to give. I needed to do something about my life and I needed my "edge" back. I felt like no one would understand that I was worn out - that I was emotionally exhausted and I needed a mental health break. I felt a lot of shame about my broken-ness, but I didn't feel I could ask for what I needed. But with this cancer diagnosis, I could take time off. It was expected. People would understand that.
It was during my recovery from surgery that I was able to take time out and rest. I took a physical and mental health break from work and pretty much everything else. And I was able to regain a little of my footing and slowly regain a little bit of hope. Hearing a diagnosis of cancer, even of the type that I had, made me know that I wanted more out of life.
It was towards the end of 1998 when a friend reported astounding results following a low-carb lifestyle. By that time, I weighed 257 pounds. Pebbles and my then husband were away on a ski trip and I went on the "diet".
My journey towards health and well-being didn't begin with a complete 180. Cancer wasn't THE thing that turned my life around. It was just one of the things that altered my life's trajectory just enough to let me see a different path. And for that, I am grateful.