Seven years, ago almost to the day, I was diagnosed with not one, but two dangerous cancers –- in the same day! After being diagnosed with both melanoma and lung cancer, now seven years later I am finally cancer free. My doctor gave me the news at 3:48pm on September 17th of last week. Since learning I had cancer I have been to his office 19 times to await my fate, the results of my cat scan, the verdict on my life and that of my family’s lives. I know that many of you have gone through similar ordeals. They are all life changing, to say the least. I am very lucky to have survived. I will never take that for granted. But now, seven years have passed and I am finally no longer terrified. The emotional healing process alone took five years. For years, I felt as if a cloud was just hanging over my head, never knowing what might come of it. But I finally found it in myself to just let myself simply “be.” I had to. It was a good thing
One evening around 6pm on a Friday, seven years ago I called my internist to thank him for his assistance in making a quick appointment for me with the surgeon that would remove the melanoma on my leg. I already knew I had a melanoma and would need surgery immediately. I had no idea what was coming next.
I thanked him and mentioned that I had gone for my blood tests and chest X-ray. He looked up the results in the computer. Next he said something no one wants to hear: “I see a mass in your lung.” Terror and shock ran through my body.
My whole life changed.
Within a week I had surgery on my leg. My diagnosis: Stage 1 Melanoma. Treatment: No chemotherapy or radiation. Follow up for five years with a Melanoma specialist for body checks. “You are lucky,” my surgeon said. He’s right and I will be forever grateful to him for keeping me alive.
While still on crutches from the surgery on my leg, I started the tests for surgery on my lung. I was in total fear. Terrified of what else would they might find? I had a full body scan done to see if the cancer had spread. Lying in that machine for two hours with my mind racing -- I felt paralyzed.
Luckily, the melanoma had not spread. However, the results said the tumor seemed to be 40% benign, but there was a 60% chance it was lung cancer. Of all the tests I had to go through, the worst one was the emotional test of dealing with all of this. I failed miserably.
My upper right lobe of my lung was removed. It was indeed lung cancer. Again, thankfully, it was only Stage 1 Lung Cancer. Again, no chemotherapy or radiation. I was instructed to follow up for five years with cat scans and then a cat scan once a year for life.
Before cancer struck, I had never felt better. I was completely blindsided. I walked four miles a day on my treadmill, ate a healthy diet and took long daily walks with my dog, Orchid. I had a wonderful social life with family and friends and a loving marriage, life was really “a bowl full of cherries.”
But when cancer struck, I changed. My world collapsed.
My husband, my rock, repeatedly told me, “You are so lucky that they found ‘it’ early.” The “it” word I would think to myself. Terror raced through my mind and my body. That physical terror where your heart pounds and you feel sick to your stomach.
I was no longer Suzi to my family and friends. “Please call me Susan,” I asked. I no longer felt like myself. I had undergone two surgeries in a matter of weeks for two different cancers. However, I survived. I was very lucky and I survived.
For all of those who have been touched in any way by cancer, my heart goes out to you. I would never wish this upon anyone.