Simple sentences sometimes tell complex stories. One such sentence says so much about the life I have lived for the past two years and the life I will most likely have to live for as long as I’m around. My story goes like this: I am living with cancer.
I was born with a genetic disorder called Multiple Endorcine Neoplasia 2A, but I wasn’t properly diagnosed until I was 28 years old. This disorder consists of tumors of the endocrine system, particularly on the thyroid and adrenal glands. On a cold February day I received results that would not only change my life completely, but would take the living breath out of my soul in that very moment. I tested positive for Medullary Thyroid Cancer, the main component of my genetic disorder. Two words from the oncologist’s mouth spun around in my head: cancer and incurable. With no medicinal cure to date we took advantage of my only option and I underwent a nine hour neck surgery to remove my thyroid and forty seven lymph nodes. The doctors removed as much of the cancer as they possibly could, but they were unable to remove all of it.
That was two years ago and today we play what is called the watch and wait game. I have been knowingly living with cancer since then. I was unknowingly living with cancer before then. I didn’t look sick five years ago, I certainly don’t look sick now and for the most part I’m really not that sick. Scientifically, though, I guess you could say I’m sick. Technically, I suppose. I try my best not to label myself as sick, but I am reminded of my disease with every scan, needle poke and doctor visit. This is my new life: Living with cancer.
Not all things that have stemmed from my cancer have been completely horrible. As a matter of fact, some things have turned out very well. I take my time more often, I watch the sun set every night, I think sunrises are amazing, I am more aware of life around me, I take better care of myself than I ever have before and I try to have fun, lots and lots of fun. I am involved in the cancer community, physically active, motivated and confident. I truly don’t “sweat the small stuff” and there isn’t a whole lot that gets me down. These are all wonderful things. They are simple things, like sand between my toes, but they are wonderful things.
The best thing that has happened to me is running. Yes. Running. It’s invigorating, empowering, meditative and so full of flaws that it’s perfect. There is nothing more revealing about yourself than a good run that leaves you with only your very own thoughts. Believe me: when I run, I sort out problems that I never knew I had. There is nothing more captivating than the very world that we live in as I explore it on my own two feet. It’s like watching life happen all around you, but it happens at your own pace.
There is nothing more satisfying to me than tearing out of the house at dusk and pushing myself beyond any limits I ever thought I had. Cancer does that. It can make you want to run around the world and see what you can do with yourself. And, in a way, running helps me put the sentence, “I am living with cancer” to work. To me, the words running and living are interchangeable. While the cancer may try to put some limits on my life, running helps to make some of those limits disappear. I plan to keep on running. After all, running is living and living is running.