When I understood the challenge ahead in my personal battle with a cancer still to find a cure, and a projected two year longevity prediction, it was time to dig in for answers—all while avoiding the world of quackery and misinformation.
There’s often news of such patients overcoming the incurable and substantially extending projected survival times. Admittedly, those patients hold infinite amounts of discipline that I’ve yet to achieve.
A week ago, the chemo curls were long enough to where I pulled out my hair product and accessories. I felt like a girl again. Less than a week ago, knowing the nightmare of watching my hair fall out and me too vain to have it shaved, I went in for the hip-grandma look of what is essential a female’s butch cut. This halted some of my joy. It halted some of my fantasy that I was a normal person again—like one who doesn’t live her life around cancer every day.
When just 5% of gynecological cancers are uterine carcinosarcoma the money isn’t there for research. Furthermore, it’s not a well known form of cancer. Case in point, during a recent hospitalization I told one of the nurses about this cancer I’m fighting and she said that she had never heard of it. And when I spoke to a group of women about this cancer, they too, had never heard of it.
Photographers like this hillside. It’s juxtaposition. It’s unique. It’s a challenge to photograph because one must be mindful of traffic, mud, holes and lord knows what else to get that perfect photo.
For me this moment paralleled how I feel these days: Like a poppy seeking the sun and holding my delicate bloom together against a hard and rocky environment.
This was a call to war. And the war ignited into full regalia when my guardian angels pulled the plug on my body on Halloween 2018 while I was in a second-opinion consult with a Mayo Clinic gynecologic oncologist. As pale as white paper, and barely able to breath, and worse — unable to control myself, I hurled and splattered volumes of gastrointestinal debris all over her office. Rushed to the ER, the final report read: severe anemia, hemorrhage gostrointestinal upper, malignant neoplasm of endocervix (HCC), and dyspnea — NOS (labored breathing).
“What island am I on?” I asked myself. Outside is a leader belittling countries of dark-skinned humans. Outside is a legion of angry white men at war with themselves and a changing world. Outside is a living contradiction of faith. Outside we’re told that it is us versus them. But I was on an island where ethnicity and social station did not matter. This island’s mission was human kindness.
Through these 12 months, a medical cancer did strike my friends and colleagues. It was as if a deluge of rogue cells from what I call cancer-world rained on many people I know. And at the same time it never dawned on me that, I, a breast cancer survivor, should have kept my umbrella at hand.