Cancer Doesn’t Have to Kill You to Be Cancer

Posted: December 2, 2014 in family, Health, Life, Medical
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
It's all in the attitude, baby.

It’s all in the attitude, baby.

Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer this spring, I was informed I wasn’t suffering enough.

What he said:

You’re not having surgery? Marjean had a double mastectomy.

You’re keeping your hair? Chuck went bald…twice.

You have insurance. Joan didn’t have any; we’re still doing benefits.

You don’t know what REAL cancer is.

What I could have said:

I get a kidney transplant if the chemo doesn’t work.

Hair grows back.

I’ve had cancer insurance since I was 19 because my mother, who died from cancer, was planning ahead.

You don’t know shit about my experience with REAL cancer. 

What I DID say:

Nothing. I walked away and quit telling people I had cancer.

I’m a third generation cancer patient; there has never been a time in my life when a family member wasn’t battling, beating or dying from cancer. I knew what chemo was before I knew where babies came from. I was so used to bald relatives I couldn’t recognize them with hair. Cancer was something people in my family GOT; this spring, it was just my turn.

Publicly I’ve helped with countless cancer benefits; logged miles in numerous cancer walks, including the 60-mile Breast Cancer 3-Day which I’ll do again next summer in memory of my mom if my doctor says I can; attended cancer awareness and memorial ceremonies; written articles and PSAs about cancer; and amassed an impressive collection of “Cancer Sucks” gear.

Privately I’ve shaved heads when the hair started to go; changed diapers on loved ones who changed mine when I was a baby; squeezed hands during chemo treatments; told doctors to go to hell when they announced there were only months left; whispered goodbye over the phone in the middle of the night because I couldn’t drive the hundreds of miles fast enough to do it in person; and been a pallbearer and a eulogist.

Don’t know what REAL cancer is? Screw you.

Many people live with cancer without ever having it. When you do get that diagnosis, no matter how well it’s delivered (and my doctor did a great job with the news), it scares the hell out of you. Because cancer kills people; everybody knows that.

Myeloma’s not killing me and it’s doubtful it will. It’s one of those cancers where the conditions it can cause – in my case, total kidney failure – is worse than the cancer itself. So I take chemo, do IV treatments, have bone marrow biopsies and wait to see what happens. Do I feel lucky that’s the kind of cancer I have? Every day. Do I feel guilty that I’m getting off easier than so many other people with cancer? Every day.

Unless you’re knocking on death’s door, there will always be someone whose burden is heavier, whose suffering is greater than yours. That can’t diminish the impact of a cancer diagnosis on you and the people who love you. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t have enough cancer to matter. It matters to you and that’s enough.

You may not have heard of myeloma, but you WILL know these people who have or had it: Tom Brokaw, Geraldine Ferraro, Peter Boyle, Roy Scheider, Ann Landers, and Sam Walton.   

  1. I can’t believe the nerve of some people who try to educate others on their own lives. They are too stupid to talk to, if you had said any of those rebuttals, it would have just confused them. You are a trooper and a gifted writer with a significant point of view.

  2. Cathy Adler says:

    Well said!

  3. Val Keller says:

    You go girl!!! Kelly you are a strong person and I know you will fight it hard. A tough disease and sucks for all the people I know that have to have dealt with it whether they have had it themselves or a family member or close friend.

    • Thanks for commenting, Val. It’s crazy how many people have been diagnosed with cancer in our area this year. I just attended a funeral yesterday for a friend’s father who had myeloma as well and started treatment about a month before I did. Tough disease, to be sure.

  4. Carroll Collins says:

    Very good, Kelly. Hope your condition improves.

  5. Denise says:

    Well said Kelly.

  6. kvallery says:

    I think you are one amazing person! I am proud to know you and I love you to pieces! I adore your tough edge, but I hate how you got it. I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes knowing you are suffering, but I will soon be past that and doing what Kay does–pray. I’m so glad you became part of my daughter’s life, and I hope you two can spend some time together again soon.

    • Thanks, Kay. You Vallery women are pretty tough yourselves, what with surviving cancer and everything else life has thrown at you over the years. I appreciate the prayers. Lynnette and I haven’t had many chances to get together lately but we are always there for each other. It’s been a challenging year for all of us but united, we can’t be defeated.

  7. Tara Steiner says:

    Well said Kelly. You are a brave soul, I admire you for that.

  8. Becca says:

    Rock on and kick cancer’s ass!!! From a fellow survivor.

  9. Joni Boub says:

    Love this Kelly! Too bad some people speak from limited experience and/or without much sensitivity. I don’t know how many times people have responded with, “oh well, he’s lived a long life” when I’ve told them about my dad’s cancer. He’s concentrating on living, not dying! I love your attitude and my prayers are with you and your family during your journey ❤

    • Thanks, Joni. I try to keep in mind that people can only relate to things based on their experience with them and to never assume that I know what those experiences are. Glad to hear your dad is still fighting the good fight. Prayers to you and your family as well.

  10. Beautifully spoken Kelly! All the best to you.

  11. Sharon says:

    Being a cancer survivor myself and watching members of my family suffer from the big “C”, you hit the nail right on the head! It does not matter what or where your cancer is, it is still cancer and it scares the hell out of you. Everyone suffers from cancer in different ways and may not be visible. Until you fight the fight, keep your comments to yourself! Congrats, Kel for walking away and keep fighting the fight! Kick some ASS!

    • You’ve been a great inspiration, Sharon. I still remember telling you in the cereal aisle at Walmart, of all places. Any cancer question I’ve asked you, you’ve answered honestly and your positive attitude is one I try to emulate. And you know no one can kick ass like a Harley-riding Jackrabbit.

  12. Ashley K. says:

    I am so proud of you and this article. I have known people with cancer that would agree with you 110%. I am so sorry you have had to deal with such negativity when all you need is support. I’m praying hard for you from miles and miles away!!

    • Thanks, Ashley. I’ve gotten some amazing support, too, and the prayers are appreciated. And I’m proud of you for all the runs you’ve been doing. Love your posts in the morning as you’re heading out and the pictures of sweet Zoe make my day!

  13. Jason Gerlach says:

    Kelly you are Profound thinker, inspirational speaker, and a true friend that has the incredible ability to put some of the most difficult topics and feelings into words. Keep it up! We’re all better for knowing you!

    • Wow, you’ve just done wonders for my self-esteem, Jason! Thanks for the kind words, my younger brother from another mother. I really wanted this post not to be a rant but to make people think and I hope it achieved that.

  14. Todd says:

    HI KELLY!!! This is Todd Axthelm used to be from Pierre, live in the hills now and i’m 5 years out from surgery & radiation, you keep that attitude girl!!! and tell that guy to kiss yer ass as he doesn’t know what he’s talking about!!! we all react differently to cancer and the treatments, it’s the way God made us!!! keep the faith and your sense of humor!!!

    • I remember you, Todd! Thanks for stopping by to read the post and for the words of support. Hope you’re doing and feeling well these days. The encouragement I’m getting from survivors like you is really helping me to stay positive and buddy, that sense of humor isn’t going anywhere. I couldn’t live without it!

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