A Shout-out to Co-Survivors

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I received an email from the Susan G. Komen Organization a few weeks ago. They had come a cross my story and expressed that they were in tears after diving deeper to my blog, which gave me chills all over, but in a good way. First I cannot express how honored I am that the Komen foundation was touched by my story, but I am also so honored to hear that my words are helping others. I really never thought that my posts would be reaching as many people as they are reaching and I never thought I would be getting the response that I am getting. But having such a key player in the Breast Cancer awareness, research and funding community share my story has taken that to a whole new level and again reminded me that stepping our of my comfort zone to document and share some of the hardest and scariest yet amazing moments of my life; was indeed what I was meant to do. To my surprise the Komen Organization asked if they could feature my “I love Mom” photo on social media, and said they would be honored to share my story as part of a campaign they have wrapped around National Survivor day, as well.

A few days ago, a photo of Jordan, Corryn, and I was added to the homepage feature on the official Susan G. Komen website, and this morning I received an email from my contact at the Komen Organization, with a social post featuring co-survivors and mentioning all that my sweet husband has done to help me through the hardest year of my life. My body went tingly all over. The post is touching and beautiful at the same time, and I too feel it is important to honor all of the co-survivors out there as National Survivor day nears. In most cases, it is these co-survivors or those closest to us during our war with cancer, who really give us the strength to keep going every single day and to most of all, to keep getting up everyday and fighting.

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During a cancer journey its hard not to focus on the actual cancer patient. In those beginning days as the patient, our lives are turned upside down and inside-out, our mortality is thrown in to question, without ever being asked permission, our once active healthy lifestyle is given up for a life filled with the craziness of cancer which includes: the never-ending appointment schedule and sometimes daily infusions like my case, the countless procedures and surgeries that always involve long and painful recoveries, and of course the grueling treatments that bring even the strongest of us, to own knees. Our pain, our fear, our struggle, and of course our sickness is hard to deny because the cancer is literally written all over all of our bodies for everyone to see, however we as patients are not the only ones facing a battle with cancer. The people we love, and those who love us the most, are also in the trenches fighting cancer right along with us; every step along the way. They are the ones that have sat through countless appointments, treatments, and surgeries, and they are the ones who have remained by our side even as we as patients begin to look better on the outside because they know the real struggle that cancer has placed upon us even when we put our strong face and smile on for others to see.

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The truth is, when we were faced with our devastating cancer news and our life literally flashed before our eyes, we feared that there would be a life without us in it, but they, as loved ones, and co-survivors also faced a fear of a life without us in it. They may not have gone through the physical anguish, but they did have to cope through a lot of the emotional and mental struggles, just as we did. The only difference that in most cases, our co-survivors have to keep a strong and brave face on and be supportive for us and almost in a sense, suffer in silence because it is most important that we have a strong support system as we start and continue our fight. Despite the emotional, mental, and physical struggle that has been fueling since our “d-day”, our co-survivor has remained by our sides through it all, and has continued to wear that strong face for us, just in case we tumble into an emotional struggling and need someone to be the strong one for us, yet they rarely get the credit they deserve.

It may seem odd, but in many ways I think some aspects of a cancer journey are just as hard or even harder on the care-taker, spouse, or co-survivor then they are on the actually cancer patient. Nothing about my journey with cancer has been easy to this point, but I have gotten used to not feeling well, I have learned that I will have hard or emotional days, I have accepted that my life will never really be as it was, and I stay optimistic that there will come a day where I feel at least somewhat whole again. I feel every bit of this cancer journey with my whole body and that gives me the ability to take a step back and in a sense, just go trough the motions one day at a time. Good and bad. I knew I had people I could turn to when the fear and emotion of all of this was taking over, and most importantly I knew I was not alone. Although the struggle is different, the struggle is still very real for a co-survivor as well. The hardest part is that I don’t think most care-takers or co-survivors feel like they have the right to complain because they are not the ones actually going through the treatment and the pain. That in itself is worth acknowledging. I am sure my husband and my mom would have had that type of support  from other family members and loved ones if they had reached out, but I don’t think either of them ever felt they could. They both had to helplessly and in some ways silently watch someone they love  face the hardest days of her life and not only could neither of them do anything to take away the pain, the sickness, and the fear, they also had to put aside the emotion that was filling their minds and do their very best to be there for me when I needed them the most. Like me neither of them asked for cancer to be a part of their lives but there it was, grueling it’s ugly head. All of our lives were tipped upside down on the day of my diagnoses.

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My husband Jordan, also went from the carefree planning of bringing a second child into the world with his wife, to knowing that he would never have another child the natural way, and he too was faced with the reality that cancer could leave him without a wife and his baby without a mother.  He was a bystander as his wife was and is used as a “human pin cushion” as he has references it, he tearfully said goodbye as I was wheeled off to countless surgeries, he became a caretaker very early on in our marriage and graciously accepted the task of helping me to dress, to bath, and even to do all the little things that you take for granted after each of my surgeries. He sat with me during every grueling treatment and as many infusions as he could, he cared for me when the sickness set in, he held and still holds my hand when the emotion takes over and the doubt fills my mind and he made and still makes as many of my almost daily appointments. He rushed me to the Emergency room more times then we can count because of complications and infections, or because he found me unconscious on the floor, he ran through the halls of the hospital with a group of infusion nurses as they rushed me from the infusion center and under the street to the Emergency room on the day of my very first infusion, and he even stood silently in the corner fearing that he was going to lose me as the nurses yelled CODE RED, while they were ripping the clothes and shoes from my body and the technicians got the crash cart ready outside the door… All things that I am luckily enough to have very little memory of. My husband watched my body deteriorate this past year as I said good bye to my breasts, my hair, all of the parts that gave me the ability to bare children, and everything that made me look normal and healthy on the outside. With each cancer bridge that we cross, he has stood by my side and continued to do everything in his power to help me, including knowing the struggle that really lies behind my smile, being there even when things seem to be going well, supporting me through each little scare, and holding my hand through all the anxiety that comes from each oncology visit, and of course helping me to recover from 14 months of treatments and surgeries. Yes I am a survivor or as I more often like to say; I am a cancer warrior. I am still standing after 14 months of grueling treatments and surgeries and I am technically considered to be cancer free, but my husband and my mom are also in a sense cancer survivors because they too survived the struggles that cancer has laid before them and they helped me to fight in the process.

I am thankful for all of the people I have had in my corner this past year, but I am most grateful for my husband and my mom, as they are the co-survivors who have helped me successfully fight this awful disease. So this Cancer Survivor’s Day, honor those who have lost their fight, but also hug a survivor and congratulate them on staying strong and getting up everyday and looking cancer in the eye, but also hug a co-survivor for jumping into the cancer trenches without a second thought, and for putting their own personal cancer fears and struggles aside to help, care for, and support someone they love while they fight cancer.

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#Figtingcancertogether #neveraloneinthefight #nationalcancersurvivorday #mypersonalpinktime

 

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