I am standing in front of my kitchen sink. It is early in the morning and I have already cooked breakfast and am ready to clean some dishes before leaving the house. The dirty dishes are piled up, ready to be cleaned and put away. But there’s one word that keeps coming back to me. It’s been a few weeks already, but the word doesn’t leave my mind. It comes back and I slowly repeat it. Sarcoma. Sarcoma. Sarcoma…
It is frightening to think that your life is about to end. Up until now, I knew that I would not live forever. In fact, I’ve had a few close encounters with death already. The first one was just as I was being born. The amniotic fluid invaded my lungs and I had to be resuscitated. My mom didn’t get to hold me in her arms until a few days after my birth. There was another time in elementary school when a car almost hit me. I remember clearly that one experience. I was enjoying a lollipop when I heard my mom’s screams, and I found myself almost touching the red car’s hood. I don’t recall how I got there, but the feeling of having been closed to death is not something that goes away easy. Many years ago, I still remember laying in a hospital bed with an infection and being unable to breath. The last image I remember is that of the doctors screaming something like “he’s back, he’s back!” They had resuscitated me once more. But this time, for whatever reason, it felt different.
Just a few weeks before standing in front of the sink and uttering the word “sarcoma”, I had received the call from the doctor. The biopsy I had a week and a half prior to the call had revealed that I had soft tissue sarcoma. It was impossible for the biopsy to determine how spread the cancer was, or in what stage, or whether the tumors were only located on those visible marks I had gone to the doctor for. All the doctor could tell me was: the biopsy revealed sarcoma and more tests were needed in order to find out other answers. The oncologist’s office will give me a call to set up the next appointment.
The days I spent waiting for the oncologist’s call felt like years. I thought this waiting was going to be the worst. But it wasn’t. After that one call and the setting up of the appointment, came the other period of waiting. Now I had to wait for the actual date of the appointment. Until then, nothing was clear; nothing was finalized. I just had a date for the appointment and a wealth of information – both good and bad – through the magic of the internet. Of course, this is not something that I recommend to anyone! That was, perhaps, the worst of the decisions I made. It brought even more stress to my already stressful waiting period.
Sarcoma. Sarcoma. Sarcoma… Every day since the diagnosis, I repeat those words. Sometimes it is in front of the kitchen sink. Other times it is in front of the mirror. Other times, while I drive to work. I feel like if I keep mentioning it, it will either go away or make me more in charge of it.
It has not been easy since the diagnosis. Even after having met with the oncologist and knowing more about what lays ahead, I have a hard time wrapping my head around the reality that my body has been invaded by this illness. I continue repeating the words, hoping that the repetition will take away the diagnosis. But I also know that this is not going to happen. Right now, I just need to learn how to clean the dishes with sarcoma. I just need to learn how to put the dishes away with sarcoma. I just need to learn how to look myself at the mirror and see both what I like and the marks of sarcoma. I just need to learn how to live with cancer. But that’ll be it: I will learn how to LIVE.
*I wrote this reflection after a few days of being diagnosed with sarcoma. Since the, I have seen the oncologist, gone over the possible treatments, confirmed that the cancer is not spread, and scheduled my first round of radiation. Not super great news, but way better than thinking that my life is over. 🙂