Wake up calls. They come to us periodically throughout our live, some as small and simply as the beeping alarm clock telling us it’s time to start our day. Others are more subtle and build up over time, like the slow separation of two loving parents, and still others occur as a huge jolt, unexpectedly and without cause. In my life I am lucky enough to say that the only wake up calls I’ve received arrived in the first two forms. It is almost impossible to stretch the imagination far enough to slightly conceive what it would be like to receive one of the jolting, unexpected, life changing wake up calls, but the mind does think about it on occasion. You hear a story, a tragic story of suffering and you wonder what would happen if that would have been me. Could I act as courageously as they had, or would I have fallen under the pressure giving in to weakness and despair. When someone is told that they have cancer…I cannot imagine the deep sinking sensation they must be feeling, as if the world around them blurs away and they become more attuned to the sound of their rapidly beating heart, it becomes an internal clocking counting down the hours before it no longer beats again. You’re confused, it doesn’t seem possible that this has happened to you and you feel the tears forming in the corner of your eyes. You can’t look at the loved ones in the room with you, because you’re too afraid that if you see the desperate looks on their faces you’ll break down completely. The doctor is talking and you try hard to refocus your attention on what they are saying, so that you can ask the one question that must be answered, “How long do I have??” You trust your doctors to know best so when they say less than a year, your mind rapidly goes back to that dark place. You think of all the things you still have to do, big things that weren’t even on your mind the day before because you were too busy worrying about getting the groceries or paying that parking ticket. You wonder if you’ll ever get to Paris, or see your kids grow old. It doesn’t seem fair and for awhile, a long while you feel as though there is no hope.
This is how I imagine I’d react upon first hearing the diagnosis, but after awhile I’d think more and more about the things I still want to do, and I’d focus on those things, write a book, go sky diving, enjoy a lovely picnic on the beach. The truth is the first doctor you will see will not be a specialist, therefore it is unlikely that they’ll know what is best for you. It’s my body, I know it better than anyone, and I know that I can live longer than the time they’ve given me. The internet is researchers best friend, especially when you can’t leave your hospital room for a university library. Google would be my first stop, although not always accurate it often links to a number of accredited sites. After perusing through the different sites, adding some to my favorites list for safe keeping I’d do a little research on my specific cancer, because not all cancers are the same. People hear the word cancer and its automatically associated with death but so many people have survived this killer disease by knowing the facts and fighting. “Know your enemy” I do not know who first uttered these words but they hold true, for it is with these facts that lead us to making the right decisions when it comes to our health. Most often when one hears cancer the immediately think about chemotherapy, however this is not the only option. Throughout the entire process you’ll be surrounded by people, doctors, family and friends but still you’ll feel alone, because they don’t fully understand what you are going through. For this reason I’d join a support group comprised of other people with cancer, people I can confide in about all my fears and weakness, things that I wouldn’t want to worry my family with. I’d talk to as many specialist as I possible but in the end the decision lies with me. As a college student, I don’t have the money to get some of the most obvious treatments, and at times I’m sure I’d feel lost and limited because of my lack of a financial foundation, but there are ways to find support elsewhere. Family, and foundations devoted to helping cover the costs of cancer treatments. There are even some experimental treatments that could be tried, that although they are not guaranteed to work they still help further research so that it comes one step closer to finding a cure.
What I would decide I cannot say, for as I stated earlier it is almost impossible to imagine these wake up calls. What I do know is this. When the doctor tells you that you have less than a year to live, and you’re in that surreal moment when all else fades away and your alone with your thoughts, if you give up, if accept this as true and that there is nothing that can be done then you’ve already lost. You cannot let yourself forget all the things in life that are worth fighting to have, never let the fear of what will be keep you from doing everything in your power to stop it from happening. You will suffer beyond anything you could imagine, and there will be tears and sleepless nights but in the end, if you can look up at the sky and see all the beauty there is the behold on this earth, then you have won, because that extra hour, day, or year of sunrises is worth it.