Why I’m Not Fighting Cancer – Again.

I’m told I have breast cancer – invasive lobular carcinoma. Stage 2.

The initial test results came through 7 days before the Celebration of Life I had planned for Ray – my husband for 37 years – who died on the fast track of a cancer found too late.

I chose to put the news of my party crasher quietly on the backburner and go on with my plans to celebrate the LIFE I shared with this man.

Maybe I am just too raw, with this overlapping Ray’s passing, but I’m not accepting the invitation to play war here. I’m not fighting cancer – again. I am LIVING while I navigate this next chapter in my LIFE as I learn to live it without his presence.

What you say? Isn’t the battle with cancer about fighting for your life?

No. Not when you STOP LIFE to fight it.

Anyone who’s gone through this knows what I am talking about. A lot of stuff goes through your head when faced with your mortality – or that of one you love. You say “Yes” where you might normally say, “Stop” or “Wait” or “No, let me try another way.”

Ray and I barely had time to digest the news that his was Stage 4 metastatic before we found ourselves caught in the revolving door of tests, doctors, hospital beds, pharmaceutical cocktails, heart monitors, iv drips – and blood drawings that turned his arms black and blue.

Of course he would fight it and I would support his wishes. Given the circumstances, fighting was probably a better option for him than devastation and grief – as he lived only 50 days beyond diagnosis and most of that in a hospital. (And now, I am left to digest that it was a slow-growing cancer, missed by a medical system of specialists and primary care that only looked at their piece of the elephant. A blog for another day.)

I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me. – Mother Teresa

I am not fighting cancer. I am embracing life and that embrace is my basis for recovery and healing. So many precious moments were lost in Ray’s fight. Moments that we did not know were to be our very last because we were too busy fighting “it” to check-in with the rapidly changing terrain.

I do not wish to lose my focus or balance. Family and friends have been put on notice to rouse me if they see this happening.

They know cancer is not part of the equation when it comes to creating what matters most in how I love to move through my life and how I move to love through my life.

This does not mean I will not be diligent in my research and careful in my decisions. That I will not be attentive to those offering me alternative approaches to balance, strengthen and heal my body. That I will not be respectful of and grateful for the medical professionals as they share with me what they know, as well as their assessments and treatments for this party crasher in my breast.

This does mean I am not going to operate from panic.

Last week I got a call from the oncologist’s office. They scheduled an MRI for me. Efficient, I suppose, except they forgot to ask me before they booked it. They forgot I have a life.

A simple thing, I know. No big deal. Why not change my schedule and keep the appointment? After all, it’s CANCER.

Cancer is a noun, not a verb. I do not wish to start CANCERING. Call me crazy, but I sense the point where that noun-verb transition occurs. And I teeter there some days. Not in fear, but in the scramble for insurance coverage, in the assumptions made by doctors and their staff, in the measured urgency of loved ones not wanting to lose me – the way I lost Ray. I choose, daily, to be conscious of where that CANCERING point is so I don’t cast aside LIVING. Another verb.

The medical machine whisks us through the door after the word cancer is spoken. (And how willingly we go because, YES, it is a scary frickin’ word.) Once we get through that door we start to lose our perspective. We forget we have choices that may be outside the realm of discussion among our providers. We forget we are the patients, the most important part of the recovery equation. Fear and urgency rule as we cast present moments aside while we aim for better days.

I’m not a fighter, folks. And I am not fighting cancer – again. I am living – still.

LIFE is my point. When I remember, I invite those who forget, to remember. When you remember, you invite those who forget, to remember. And when WE remember, we remember together – and it doesn’t get any better than that. That’s the point where miracles happen.

Our journey continues …

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason. – Thomas Paine

PS: Treat yourself and read the comments. There is some great experience and wisdom being shared! XO

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24 thoughts on “Why I’m Not Fighting Cancer – Again.

  • July 11, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    Lifting you up so you have more strength to meet life in any way that feels good for you ??

    • July 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Thank you, Jamie. Gratefully received. Hope you are doing well. XO

  • July 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Your message speaks loud and clear, after suffering (emotionally) alongside my husband as he fought valiantly treading the hospital “hamster wheel” I made a decision if I am ever faced with making tough health choices I will handle it the way you are proposing.

    Sending you a virtual hug and praying for strength combined with fortitude of conviction as you navigate your path.

    • July 11, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      Sending you a virtual hug back, Arabella. My heart goes out to you for what you endured with your beloved and I pray that you will not find yourself facing such decisions for yourself. But if you do, call on that strength within you and you will walk with grace… as you are doing now. Thank you for sharing. XO

  • July 11, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    You are so awesome!!! As usual, you inspire me! “Life’s a Dance we learn as we go…” Living not fighting… beautiful!

    • July 11, 2017 at 9:15 pm

      As long as the music is playing, I am living. And so are you. XO

  • July 11, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Bernadette and friends, I am an Australian and have volunteered in palliative care for about 15yrs. I love the work. But I am different, I know. People get their faces of sympathy on and give lots of good advice, but stop partying and having fun with my patients (and boy! do they have to be patient!). The team moves in. GP, specialists, nurses, social workers, pastoral care, community workers, and more and more and more. Every patient is meant to stop and fit in with the medical and other appointments whether that suits the patient or not.

    I arrive and make very sure to have NO medical knowledge at all. I ask how my patient, now friend, is and we talk about that for as long as is wanted. Then as I would normally do with a friend we talk about this that and t’other, what I have been doing, seeing…. whatever comes up. I don’t think that I have to hold back. We are interested in each other. I am taking one of my patients up to the local mall and I will see to it that we have fun. Lindt café and chocolate ice cream. I have told her about a book shop and given her permission to slap me if I buy another book… and we both laughed and she told me if it looks good she will encourage me to buy. I have taken chandeliers and party cakes and a truly ridiculous necklace that we both knew would not be worn, just for the fun of it to two of my terminally ill pals. I teach people how to relax. No one seems to do that, because every one around them gets up tight.

    I am with Bernadette with this. NOT that I think she is in a palliative care state, but live life first and have fun with our lives. We will all die and have been doing that in a way, from the moment we were born. Cancer has a fear about it that doesn’t seem to be the same for other challenges that we face. It is to me a challenge like any/every other. Do I miss my friends? Yes I do, but I feel them with me very often and love them still.
    Love you dear Bernadette. Jan

    • July 12, 2017 at 8:16 am

      Jan, You shine! Would have loved to have you on this side of the ocean when Ray was going through this. He was constantly carted in and out for tests upon tests … and missing the meals and physical therapy and quality time that might have helped slow the slide, at least enough to get him home so WE could assess where WE were with this. Sigh. It felt like a jail break when I got them to let him go to a rehab facility near the house … sadly only to lose him less than 48 hours later. What YOU do is priceless in helping folks to remember the good stuff. My Mom, a retired nurse who also does volunteer work through her church, (heck, she heads it up AND goes out “on call”) never asks her people how they are feeling. She talks about life and prays and all that. And she tells volunteers that she is “breaking in” not to ask either. You both share a wisdom.

      I am so grateful that Spirit crossed our paths on this worldwide web, hon. I support you and the light you shine! Love you! XO

    • July 12, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Hello Jan,
      Your words, especially after you said that you had no medical knowledge (it seems to me that you “Know” more than most) inspired me to research the word “nurse”.
      So here it is, straight from Webster’s:

      Nurse: “one that looks after, fosters, or advises.
      Time is the nurse and breeder of all good. Shakespeare
      3: a person who cares for the sick or infirm”

      “Cancer” is probably the most frightening of all profanities. Shock, fear, denial, anger, more fear, more shock, more projections to fear and over again. When does it stop being a verb that causes us to scramble not only on the medical train, but on the very engines of our minds. Asking the train of fear to “stop”, let us off at the station, let us smell the roses, taste the cappuccino, call a friend to say “hello”, “how are you doing”, “what are you doing”, “may I join you for a while”, doesn’t, sometimes – most of the time – fit in to the “advanced” care medical model.

      You and Bernadette “inspire” (in spiritatus : (the past participle of inspirare, to breathe into, inspireâ, intransitive verb: to INHALE). You remind us to breathe… to re-member and join the spirit with the body as we choose to walk, not race on an endless trail of roller-coaster “medicines”.

      Healing is a choice. (as is “cancering”). I know that with you by their sides, your patients re-member this. They remember to breathe, slow down the train, to take the time (Shakespeare’s nurse and breeder of all good) to smell the roses, the cappuccino, and LIVE.
      I salute you.
      And of course, I salute Bernadette.
      I am “inspired”.

  • July 12, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Bernadette, Thank you. After reading what you’ve written and personally being there for all the pain of having a husband turned into a “patient” with symptoms, suffering greatly, being BOMBARDED with pills, reduced to a shell of a big healthy man but with growing a spirit bigger than ever, In that state we said goodbye and he died in my arms 4 months ago after 2.5 years of sickness and pain. Bernadette, I honor your devotion, your explanations and your decision. I would make the same. We’re here to live in this day fully, to help each other, and as Ram Dass (and probaby others too,) has said “We’re all just walking each other back home” Thank your Bernadette for your strength, beauty and courage.

    • July 13, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Arm in arm, Kathie. I don’t know how you did it for 2.5 years, except to say I know your strength as one who walks the talk. I like to think that Bob was part of the friends of Bill W. gang that greeted Ray on the other side. They both got to live a life they could not have, had it not been for those friends. And we both got to share that life with them – and in that may we find peace and the grace that abides. XO

  • July 12, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I have had an unbelievable number of family and wonderful friends (including your very talented husband) deal with this roller coaster noun/verb. I also read about all the pros and cons of optional treatments…..so check your in box. I still believe in the super natural and the power of prayer. I also believe attitude is a power that even the “pros” agree is the most powerful asset. Life is about living “one day at a time”.

    • July 13, 2017 at 12:07 pm

      I am with you on that, Ron! Living and loving… together. And you KNOW I do my homework. 😉 XO

  • July 12, 2017 at 11:17 am

    *One day at a time* Living life fully our way. I jumped off the roller coaster several times, just to shake the medical staff up. Cancer shakes us to the core, then tosses us around, bombarded shell shocked. We need a breather…to take it in.
    I remember a fall day twenty years ago, being told I was dying. I took the stance…You know my disease but you don’t know me! I was angry and rightly so. Those doctors who missed my disease in the first place. I had plenty of words for them. I am very blessed to be in the land of the living. Now and even with cancer…it’s our choice…to sit on the fence and enjoy life…. I am a fence sitter. Life happen even with cancer in it. My choice is living.
    Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities. *It has been Best of times and it has been worst of times.* I have seen it my gifts of peace came in understanding, in those around me, and in prayers from many, Gods grace perhaps to. Was cancer easy nope. I promise Living and having the courage to be real brings peace. It has for me.
    I will leave you with this. I had a primary care doctor. He had an aggressive cancer. He was a total jerk to me several times. I went to see him, he asked me, how in the hell I did it. Meaning as sick as I was for that long. I remember his face. I said * Life happens…and I wasn’t missing it!* He was use to being a doctor not a patient. In the end he made the choice medically to do nothing. He lived out the rest of his life doing things he loved. I respected his wish. His wife told me when he passed. It was hell, but he was at peace to live his life fully. Seeing him at peace and being with him was her gift for both of them.
    So living on our own terms, one day at a time. Breathe it. Live it fully.
    Love you!

    • July 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      I SO see you jumping off the roller coaster to “shake” them up, Kerry! You share your journey beautifully as you speak to your wisdom born of experience. And WHAT A GIFT you gave that doctor and his wife in being exactly who you are! I do believe “miracle” is your natural state of being. I believe this is true for all of us … but YOU show us what that looks like. Love you, honey! XO

  • July 12, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    You are amazing, Bernadette!!! Your strength and grace are unparalleled. No other words suffice. Sending you tons of LOVE!!! I will be standing in your shadow, adding as much light to the background as I can. 🙂

  • July 14, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    Ah, Bernadette. I’ve only just met you and the light you shine in my life is astounding. I have few friends like you and wish I had more. My father just passed away from Cancering in April (yeah, my namesake month). I tried to convey to him these things you and others are saying, but he was always caught up in the fight and the “betrayal” of his amazing body. So I had to let him go, let myself be at peace with his decision, and give some very close scrutiny to the message he might have for me about living my life. Am I walking my talk? Am I doing things that bring me joy? I’m certainly working on all that. And I’ll leave you with something from a course I’m taking. It’s all just weather obscuring the light of who we are. It comes and goes but the light remains. It’s just weather.

    • July 15, 2017 at 12:10 pm

      April, I am sorry for the loss of your father. I send you love, peace and understanding. I know at least one of the angels you are wrestling with to find a blessing in this. To fight it was your father’s choice, as it was my beloved’s, for reasons that may not have rested well with our understanding or beliefs but may have been precisely what they needed to do to clean house and “clear the slate” for themselves as they embarked on the next piece of their journey. Not a lot of comfort found in that some days … but maybe a little grace to carry us on our way. Sounds like you are using the “gift” he left you with well in your self-inquiry … Here’s to passing weather. So glad you found the “messy room.” XO

  • July 15, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Supporting you all the way, dear soul! We each need to continue to live while we are still breathing on this current incarnation, no matter what we are currently challenged with. My sister battled a very aggressive form of breast cancer a couple years ago, and still did her best to live. She continues to be given good check-ups. She did modern treatments and alternative ones, all to keep living for her husband, her children and her family. Sending you love, light and positive vibes. Namaste!!

    • July 15, 2017 at 12:18 pm

      How wonderful to see you here, Heather. I am happy to hear that your sister is LIVING her life and getting good check-ups! I have not been able to get near treatment options due to a mix up with insurance coverage that bumped everything back 3 weeks. Am back on track and will be meeting with MORE doctors next week to find out if this is contained in the breast or is anywhere else. In the meantime, I am 30 days into a gentle cleanse to build up my immune system after all the dreadful running and eating/sleep patterns in my walk with my beloved’s cancer. Thank you for your good mojo always, hon! XO

      • July 16, 2017 at 9:25 am

        Sorry to hear about the insurance issues…it is such a shame that we are ruled by these institutions which are supposed to protect us. Very good on your gentle cleanse! Are you doing any essential oils? I love them, and my sister found them helpful too. Just ensure you are using 100% therapeutic grade. Take care of you and you are most welcome, beautiful! Love, light & hugs!

  • July 14, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    It has been years! My memory is awful…I do not recall hearing about Ray…
    God Bless him and God Bless you. You are as beautiful and ‘sharp’ as ever’!
    I will be thinking of you and wishing you the best!!! I rarely do FB. But, I
    believe I was just fortunate today…
    ‘Loved you then, Love you still, Always have, Always will ….?
    Take care,
    Denise ?

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