Do you remember that childhood chant?
Sticks and stones
May break my bones …
But words will never hurt me.
Even when I said it as a child, I didn’t believe it.
They cut to the bone and lodge themselves deep within. They do permanent and lasting damage.
Is a terrifying word.
I will not forget the moment I realized that I had breast cancer. Sure, there was a slim chance that it wasn’t … but I knew it was. And now, for nine months, it has been the word I have spoken the most, along with CHEMO … its terrifying cure.
It has been spoken to my face.
It has been whispered behind my back.
It has stared back at me from a medical diagnosis.
I’ve written the word so often, it’s one of my most prominent words for 2017.
The earliest recorded diagnosis of cancer was breast cancer. Somewhere around 3,000BC – 2,500BC, Imhotep, an Egyptian physician and architect, documented breast cancer on papyrus. Around 2,000 years later in 400BC Hippocrates gave us the term karkinos – the greek term for crab. To him, a malignant tumour and the swollen blood vessels feeding it, looked like a crab buried under the sand.
That’s why the disease and the astrological sign share the same name.
Cancer will now follow me around like a second name. Filling out any medical form …
Have you ever had cancer? Yes.
Have you been treated for a medical condition in the last year? Yes. Breast Cancer.
Have you been hospitalized in the last year? Yes. Three times. Lumpectomy and sentinel node removal. Twice for febrile neutrophenia.
You’ve had cancer? Five years before I can donate blood or look for new health insurance. It’s like waiting for a pardon.
Over five months of chemotherapy.
Five days in Emerg.
Two hospitalizations in isolation.
Ten days admitted. Alone.
You have no idea how exhausted and nauseated you can feel until you have had chemo.
You have no idea how well I know Lakeridge Heath Oshawa Hospital. I know every hallway. Every corner. Where the cleanest bathrooms are. Which walls I sank to the floor against and cried. Where I threw up.
You have no idea how alone I have felt. These words cancer and chemo separate you and me.
I don’t ever lose my cancer identity. It’s not a one-time deal. Even if I make it to five years cancer free, I will still be counting fifteen years later. If I make it that far. The reoccurrance rate is pretty high. What if I have to go through all of this again? And again?
But, I can’t dwell on that. I have to look a the other words in my wordle …
What’s your top word for 2017?