You can also hear me read this story on:
Episode #23 of The Word Count podcast. The theme for this podcast is “Beating the Odds.”
This is a special Word Count Podcast dedicated to Joshua Moore, son of friend and author Maxwell Cynn. Joshua is currently fighting leukemia, and the community of authors, filmmakers, and artists have rallied to raise at least $10,000 to help the family with medical expenses. Numerous people are on board helping with the fundraiser by donating their books, services, and time.
This podcast is an example of R.B. Wood’s generosity in using his excellent show to promote the cause.
Please donate what you can at IndieGoGo: Indies Unite for Joshua, and help us spread the word.
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Mine is but one of millions of stories about cancer. It is neither more nor less significant than any other story from a survivor or someone who’s been touched by the disease. I don’t usually share it publicly for a few reasons. Firstly, the word “survivor” carries an undertone of achievement. Metaphorically, it’s as if surviving cancer elevates one to a different status as a human being. I’m not comfortable with that, but it’s clearly my issue. I don’t downplay cancer as a formidable opponent, however, it was never an option for me not to survive. Secondly, cancer does not define me even though it was a large part of my life. Lastly, I am now cancer free and have been for almost twelve years. It’s in the past—and as with most things of my past, I’ve made my peace with it and moved on.
I share my story on a personal basis with those who are going through cancer treatment, and I do it because survivors shared their stories with me when I needed it most. I felt empowered by people who had endured so much—multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and countless other treatments and then went on to live their lives fearlessly. For this reason, for Joshua and his family, and in support of R.B. Wood’s special Word Count Podcast, here’s my story.
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The specialist ignored my request to do a core biopsy. Instead, he did a fine needle aspiration to test for malignancy of the lump I’d found on my breast. It was a test I knew carried a high percentage of inaccuracy. I’d done my homework before I went to see him.
“Look,” he said, annoyed with my questioning him. “I can tell you right now you don’t have cancer. You have no family history of it, you’re Asian, and you’re too young.” His voice was authoritative and dismissive, implying he was doing me a favor by even performing any test. It was obvious to me that I was nothing more to him than a body part to examine. After all, he was the specialist with letters behind his name, and I was just a scared woman who knew my body. Though I considered him a heartless bastard whose practice had long outlasted his compassion, I was relieved when my test results came back showing I didn’t have cancer.
When my lump continued to grow over the next few weeks, I returned to my general practitioner and asked for a referral to a different specialist. I wanted a second opinion.
I got a young female doctor this time. She confirmed that fine needle biopsies carried a high degree of error and recommended I have surgery to remove the lump. Given its aggressive growth, she didn’t want to waste time doing additional tests. I walked out of her office slightly nervous, but relieved that I’d made the decision to have surgery. The thought of a scar didn’t appeal to me, but hell, having a third boob wasn’t going to be any more attractive.
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On the day of my surgery, my best friend, Mae, drove me to the hospital early in the morning. Everything went off as scheduled, and after the anesthesia wore off, I was moved to a private waiting room where my girlfriend was waiting. We laughed and chatted about where to go for lunch. I was starving!
The nurse who had prepped me for surgery came in with the doctor carrying some pamphlets—post-surgical care instructions, I thought, but no … they contained information about breast cancer—which I had.
The only thing I remembered hearing was the word “cancer,” and then my girlfriend’s quick intake of breath before she started crying.
It was surreal as I watched the doctor mouthing words “Cancer … metastasis … more surgery … oncology …” and other medical terms I’d never heard of at the time.
Finally, at the end of it, the nurse handed me the pamphlets and asked if I had any questions. Sure I did, I had plenty. But my friend was sobbing, and I couldn’t think straight. The questions would have to wait.
Don’t ever underestimate a hungry woman who’s just been told she has cancer, or her best friend who’s quite reserved until she gets behind the wheel. That day, we hit a hundred in a sixty-kilometer zone, barreling down one of the city’s main arteries in search of comfort food.
“I dare a cop to stop me,” Mae yelled at the top of her lungs. “I’m going to tell him you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, and I don’t give a shit what he says!”
“No kidding,” I said, “as if he can possibly make my day any worse. I’ve got cancer for fuck’s sake!”
“Yeah, but if I get a ticket, you’re paying for it!” she screamed.
We laughed until we cried.
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From the day I was misdiagnosed until the end of my treatments, there were countless decisions to make. I can only compare it to climbing an old tree with numerous branches. Reaching the top meant I could grab my health back, but there were limitless, different ways to get there. At times, I was paralyzed for fear of making the wrong decision. In the end, I did what was right for me based on all the options I was aware of. As an active participant in my well being—knowledge gave me power.
My mother always said I hated to lose—she was right. There was no way I was losing my life to cancer.
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Some final words for Joshua
You may feel the weight of cancer on your shoulders right now, but you have hundreds of thousands, if not millions in your corner to help lighten the load.
Keep fighting, young man. I know you can do it. ♥
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