Seems to be easier for me to write a Novel, a Screenplay, or a Song—versus a blog post.
Love Me (again)
A bittersweet bluesy piece, that tells more with what's not being verbalized. SUBTEXT!!! I love that.
I never knew what to say or how to treat others who were
diagnosed with a serious illness. I tried to think about how I’d want to be
treated, but nothing prepared me for when my turn came—breast cancer, diagnosed
at stage IV.
Blew my mind about who came around, who said what ‘odd’
things to me, and who disappeared from my life.
The vanishing act began with my employer. Yikes! The career
I spent so many years building pushed out on disability. Able to work part-time
and keep clients happy, but no. “. . . Stay away and get well,” the CEO said.
Probably my fault anyway, when they told me to commit to the
number of hours each week, I couldn’t. “. . . I’m working from home. Can I log
hours on the phone and computer—send them afterwards? Make sure the clients are
“No, Roni, we want you to get well.” Code for: Wearen’t
going to pay you for part-time work over that disability insurance check that
you get each week. Didn’t have
to read between the lines on that comment, learned off the record the real
Better to disappear than say something stupid? For me, the
answer is No.
My sister called me once during the first twelve months
after my first round of chemo. “I’ve had suspicious lumps removed. You’ll be
“Tests show stage IV cancer. The doctor doesn’t know if I’ll
“You’ll be fine.”
Really? I agreed with her.
Didn’t hear from her again for well over a year.
I got home from round two of chemo and a dozen flowers were
on my porch. A client sent them. Made me happy.
After the next round of chemo, another client sent a box of
hats. Surprises were nice.
On one of my worst days ever, the women’s networking group sent
me a quilt they’d made. Gave me tears of joy.
Cards came from people I didn’t know real well, arrived
sporadically—I enjoyed each one. Any small token helped me on that unwanted
I tried to work out, stay healthy. I got a text message from
a close friend, something about chemo being no excuse to miss Boot Camp workouts.
Humor is always welcome in my life—this silly little text made me smile.
I understand each statement, no fault to the messenger (I’d
rather hear from you than not at all)—here are the lollapaloozas:
“Of all the people that should have cancer, you’re on the
bottom of my list.”
“If you’re going to get cancer, breast cancer is the best
one to have.”
“What is stage V?”
“My mom died from breast cancer.”
“Are you going to cut them off?”
“We can’t leave you alone. You left the burner on.” Oops,
that I did.
My mother sat through every round of chemo during the first
six sessions. Knitting, talking, sleeping, chatting with others, always lifted
my spirits. My stepdad went grocery shopping for me, insisted I give him a
My stepmother brought vitamins, showed up and took over my
kitchen—more than once. Pushy! Cooked greens, healthy things. She didn’t know
what else to do, so she raised money and did all the walks (still does, makes
me join her now). Dad brought me books about nutrition—keeping the cancer away.
My brother, the artist, finally gave up one of his paintings.
To be fair, I refused most help. I wanted to be alone. The
achy crappy way that chemo made me feel, like the worst flu you can ever
imagine—made me want to sleep. Solitude. But when people insisted, I let them.
My love of almost nine years couldn’t handle the pressure. I
drove myself to the follow-up across town the day after the surgery. Didn’t
want to ask anyone to drive me. That could have been a disaster from all the pain
meds! What the hell, I tell myself now.
Daily radiation—34 days—intense, forty-five minutes on the
table every day. My skin on my neck cracked. Then my world cracked. The
relationship fell apart. Gone. Shocked me. I still wouldn’t let anybody help
me. With some people, you must insist.
Looking at this now, I appreciated the thoughtful gestures. When
I went into hiding, people found a way. For that, I’m grateful. I read my
journal and applaud the brave souls in my life who dared to reach out. Good,
bad, or indifferent—I enjoyed any form of communication.
About the lollapaloozas: I know that I’m on the bottom of
that person’s list because she thinks highly of me, my life style, my health.
Also, if you’re going to get cancer, breast cancer is where the research money
goes. Herceptin put me in remission. Stage V? Well let’s say that puts the
urgency in life—I made the decision to get the most out of my time left—over
that comment (thank you). And the
list goes on. . .
When your intentions are good, I believe you can say
anything you want—even good-bye.
writing is like life and finding inspiration in life can be as easy as opening
your eyes. I'm sitting at the window looking at the sunset over the Pacific
Ocean. Orange, yellow, and peach—all colors that are dancing in the reflection
on top of the sea and blowing up my window in the best possible way. People
spread out across the sand every night at the same time. They seem to come from
everywhere and pay homage to the sunset. Even when it’s not so beautiful, I
always see folks up and down the coast looking out at the sunset, being
inspired. Life is great.
Right now, the
first thing that pops into my head about inspiration are the moments that I
used to miss when everything else got in the way—before I battled stage IV cancer.
Today, I'm inspired
by the flower that bloomed outside my door and shines so bright, the man that helped
his son on the sidewalk until the kid is riding upright on his bicycle for the
first time, my neighbor that saved the dog with three legs, my dad who had
brain surgery and walked away a day later, my niece who managed to get her
masters degree while raising two young kids, the stranger that helped the
elderly woman stand up when she fell down, the every day heroics that take
place right in front of me.
Who is my greatest
inspiration? The best part of humanity that still exists and can be seen when
we open our eyes and really look at what's going on around us. You are my
greatest inspiration might be someone or something else, but I promise you I'll
Use this link for morphing video of bald pictures transitioning through recovery:
Teson is the author of Twist and Heaven or Hell. She is also a survivor. www.roniteson.com
My best advice to anyone dealing
with cancer: Get to know your doctors. I threatened mine. He warned me about my
vocal cords. Said he has to cut into them sometimes when he removes the
thyroid. “Your voice could sound like this… “ He made a raspy sound.
“No,” I said.
vocal cords to save people’s lives.”
“No. I’m not
living without a voice. Ever.”
“If the cancer
“Sew me back up.
I’ll find an alternative treatment. Do not go near my voice box.”
“I’m not f--king
kidding. I don’t care how bad it looks, sew me back up.”
A week later, on
the morning after the surgery, my eyes popped open at 5:30 a.m. The doctor
stood near the door, staring at me, waiting. He grinned. “I didn’t go near your
carcinoma—gone. Found by mistake, during my second Pet/CT scan to monitor the
effect of chemotherapy on the breast cancer. The creepy crud had moved from my
breast outward, to my sternum and my lymph nodes, but the cancer in my breast
had nothing to do with the thyroid cancer that showed up a year later.
I told the thyroid
doctor, “I’d be healthy if it weren’t for all of this cancer.”
He laughed. “Did
you hear yourself? Ha, ha . . . ”
My breast surgeon
started me on the path to make sure your
doctor cares even if he thinks you’re crazy. She and I got along really
well. I told her about my vision, all my parts intact. I knew my breast would
remain on my body—first a dream, then a real strong intuition when I showered
Later, after the
surgery, she said, “I got in there and . . . oh my. That was the largest tumor
I ever removed.” Her eyes got real big. “I would have taken the whole breast,
but I said, Roni wants to keep it. I have to try.”
I wanted all the
doctors to cut as little as possible, don’t stir things up—allow my body time
to heal. Don’t entice those ugly cancer cells to run amuck. But never
did I go against my medical team. I made informed decisions and pushed back
when the doctors wanted to go too far.
We knew the cancer
went into my lymph nodes because they did a biopsy, a deep, painful one. We
knew my sternum lit up like a Christmas tree on the PET/CT scan, but the first
doctor wanted to do another biopsy, this one on my bone.
“Why? Is the
treatment the same?” I said.
“Yes, but we want
to make sure.”
“Sure of what?
Will the treatment be any different?”
I refused to let
them cut into my bone to find out what they already knew and what took them
three weeks to discover—the cancer had spread. Most people catch breast cancer
long before it progresses. Not me. Stage IV is the place I began my battle.
A cancer diagnosis
of any kind is difficult. I’ve lost friends and family to the disease. I’ve
seen patients not ask questions, blindly follow doctors’ orders, and not share
everything with their medical team. Some of them are gone now.
How did I get to
be the chosen one? In remission from stage IV cancer, feeling better than ever.
I resisted the
temptation to look away and let the doctors do what they wanted—difficult
because it felt like confronting death. I questioned and re-questioned. I
understood what I needed and pushed back at times—active every step of the way,
either through my family or on my own.
Six rounds of
aggressive chemotherapy, surgery, two years of Herceptin infusions, a month of
daily radiation, active involvement in my treatment . . . and my entire life
rebuilt because it went to crap during my victory. That’s how I beat stage IV
cancer. Not easy, but darn, I think I’m pretty lucky. Now I’m working on
turning my journal into a book, RUN—expected release date, early 2015.
Roni Teson is the author of Twist, March 2014, and Heaven or Hell, August 2012. RUN, her book about the cancer battle
will be released in 2015.
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