Tag Archives: health

Am I Just Getting Older?

As I get further and further into this thing we call life, I am constantly finding people diagnosed with some kind of cancer. I wonder if this observation is simply a reflection of our peers around us, who similarly, are getting older and succumbing to our slowly ailing bodies.  Or is it something in our environment which over time unknowingly poisons us against a healthy lifestyle we strive for day-to-day. Alternatively, maybe it is our genetics that map out the road less travelled, thereby creating a destiny independent of where life might ordinarily take us.  When I was diagnosed almost three years ago, I don’t think I knew a single person under or around 40 who was diagnosed with cancer.  Since that time, I am faced with the realization that more and more young people are becoming diagnosed with cancer.

Regardless of age, there is a social brand associated with having cancer.  It generalizes us into something I call the “default cancer group”. A group where all newly diagnosed cancer patients inadvertently find themselves.  Perhaps I just stumbled on this younger group of cancer patients as a result of my diagnosis. Afterall, when you find yourself a part of a new group of people, you find a new system of information too.  As part of this group,  there is always someone who knows someone, a friend of a friend , well-meaning people that want to connect you with another person with similar circumstances, making it more apparent just how prevalent cancer really is in our community today.    But aside from these indirect connections, through my own personal relationships, I am also stumbling upon people afflicted with some type of cancer.  What is going on!

Getting older is an unpredictable thing.  In our youth, we often look ahead trying to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead for us as we age.  Without that handy crystal ball of ours, we are never really sure what our future health holds.  In retrospect, I sometimes feel sad for the elderly.  They are blessed with a long life but have to watch their loved ones pass on as they get older.  It never really occurred to me about how this initial void instigates itself into our lives.  Does it start out as sickness and then progress into something more over time?  Is this how it was for my grandparents too?  As for me, it just feels like a new wave of alarm as I earn my latest badge of courage, known as midlife.

Thankfully in this day and age, advances in science have allowed us to live longer and healthier lives. We can defy the odds that our ancestors before us were not so fortunate to overcome.   On the flip side, it has also opened the gates of discovery and allowed for more diagnosis of cancer.  Cancer that we didn’t know we had years ago before mammograms, MRI, and diagnostic blood tests were available. Today these tests enable us to more easily detect cancer at an earlier stage and more often too.    Is cancer really more prevalent now or are we just getting better at identifying it?

Whatever the case may be, it remains unsettling to me how much I hear the word “cancer” today and how it is affecting those people around me.  It pops up daily through phone conversations, local newspaper articles, and even Facebook, just to name a few.  Globally, it has become an epidemic of blogs depicting life stories through reenactments of everyday struggles in the life of cancer. Consequently, making it even more apparent that cancer is creeping into our society more and more every day.  Young or old, near or far, it affects us all.

Darwinism At Its Finest

 

We are all born with cancer cells but scientists say 2 out of 3 people will never develop the disease during the course of their lifetime.  Why do you ask?  Their body’s immune system has the ability to fight it off.  Consequently, some may never know that cancer was ever a part of them.  As an auto-immune diabetic,  I often wonder what impact this revelation has on those of us who do not “fight off disease” as well as others. What happens to those of us whose bodies literally turn on themselves and attack the very thing that is trying to protect us and keep us in balance?

As a breast cancer survivor, people often ask me if I have a fear of recurrence.  Most of the time, I can honestly say no.  But through the daily management of my diabetes, I sometimes contemplate the intrinsic role that this autoimmune disease plays with respect to my cancer.  I can’t help wonder if somewhere down the road my cancer will spring back to life , compliments of a weakened immune system.

For those of us who have cancer blaming genes ,  triggers can be the culprits of turning the gene on, guiding the key into the keyhole and unlocking an inevitable chain of events.  Sadly, we don’t always know what those triggers are in our bodies.  For me, I believe that one trigger created a domino effect, an autoimmune series of events that started with my miscarriage and ended with my cancer; my thyroiditis and diabetes floating somewhere in between the two.

When faced with my many different illnesses, it was imperative to dissect the different aspects of my health and manage each one individually with the hopes that somewhere in that management lays a little relief for something else, a reverse domino effect of sorts.  I did just that and employed it as a means of survival, finding my way to the other side and ultimately wellness.

“Survival mode” is a common phrase tossed around when discussing traumatic situations and life-threatening illness.  You live each day as a means to the next, never looking back at the day before, fiercely focused on the future while simultaneously struggling to make it to tomorrow.  It’s a must-have mindset in order to get through anything as fearful or intimidating as cancer.  Looking back at my time of illness, there are many things that are a complete blur to me.  I hardly remember significant milestones and events that should be in the forefront in my memory.  But I think that was just my body’s way of protecting me and empowering me to cope with the cancer instead of becoming overwhelmed by it.  Something’s gotta give.

Now years later, I may be fuzzy on the details at times, but am grateful for my inner strength and my wisdom to not always feel the need to prevail over those absent memories I long for in life.  It provided me with the coping mechanisms that I needed most to get through my illness and live life to its fullest with my family while tackling cancer at the same time.  I call that …Darwinism-survival of the fittest, fittest at its finest.