I’ll never forget the moment the doctor told me I had cancer. Fortunately I was with my husband and after we left the office we just went to the car and cried. Those tears and bewilderment stayed with us for a couple of weeks. We couldn’t fathom how this could be true and it started a whirlwind of movement amongst my closest friends and family on how we were going to tackle this.
And then everything settled down. I wasn’t dying today or tomorrow and I realized I was going to be in this for the long haul. The marathon I’d always avoided running had now signed me up via a terrible diagnosis.
I was, and still am, a fit and mostly healthy 40-year-old. The previous year, almost a year to the day of my diagnosis, I had spinal surgery to remove a non-cancerous angiolipoma from my thoracic spine. I still marvel at whether this cancer in my colon, liver, and lungs could have been there and gone undetected. But from that surgery I recovered fast and was actively skiing four months later.
Today I’m 13 months into my new normal as a cancer survivor. Following a routine colonoscopy I requested due to multiple bowel movements every day, I was diagnosed with stage IV inoperable colorectal cancer with metastases to the liver and lungs. Now I’ve stopped counting how many chemotherapy sessions I’ve had, but I know I’m onto my fifth treatment regime. They’ve all managed to stabilize the disease (some had minor growth), but the illusive shrinkage is still my goal. Chemo for life is the plan…for now.
Throughout the last year, despite treatment, I’ve been happy. I exercise a lot, I ski throughout the winter and I surf throughout the summer. I started taking a lot more vacations, and I just say yes to a lot more things. Having cancer has given me the opportunity to look at my life and make sure it’s being lived fully. We all talk about creating memories, but knowing your time will be cut shorter than you want makes it so much more important and actionable. I wouldn’t give this hindsight up, and I hope my living this way encourages others to take the plunge and do more with what they’re given.
To look at me you wouldn’t know I’m sick. I’m fitter than many, I haven’t really lost much weight and I generally look “well.” It’s a gift, and a curse, to know that I have cancer yet I don’t look at all like I do. But it’s why I tell my story to many people: to raise awareness, to give hope, and to squash preconceptions. There is also a blog I started to keep friends and family updated, as well as to educate people about the disease and what it’s like to live with it. Weirdly it’s not the treatments that are toughest on me, it’s the side effects.
My doctor says I’m inoperable; that I “statistically” have five years to live, but that’s not my plan. I have a husband and 4-year-old daughter to enjoy life and create memories with. So right now I’m going with what feels right to fuel my body and my mind. I examine and take complementary treatments to help my immune system and help me fight my disease.
So here is where I’m at: I have a long-term goal of getting to a point where surgery is possible, to where I am cancer free, or at least continuing to be active and happily enjoying life with a terminal illness. I will be here to see my 4-year-old become a teenager and a woman. I am positive, energetic and happy, and that my friends is where we all need to be.
Some days it will be harder than others but our real test is to conquer from within.
A wonderful friend reminded me recently that we always wonder who would we be and how we would act when faced with life’s greatest adversaries…to cower in a corner or stand at the top of the mountain and scream into the wind that I am unstoppable. I now know that I am badass… every day. I fight for me and I fight for my family and friends. I am the epitome of strength.LEARN MORE ABOUT COLON CANCER RETURN TO FACES OF BLUE ALI'S BLOG - TOUGHER THAN THIS