I was diagnosed with signet ring cell appendiceal cancer on March 29, 2001. I had my cytoreduction surgery on May 16th, 2001. I finished chemotherapy on January 22, 2002. After I left the oncology office on my final day of chemo, I took myself out to lunch at a nice restaurant to celebrate the end of cancer treatment.
People congratulated me when I crossed the finish line of cancer treatment. They, and myself, thought finishing chemo meant that my cancer journey was over. We all naively thought I would go back to my “normal” life. I truly wanted to leave cancer and the cancer world behind me, to move on.
Then I discovered, as we all do after a cancer diagnosis, that it is never really over. We can’t go back to normal as we used to know it. We are forever changed. Our lives, our futures, our perspectives and our relationships are not the same as before cancer.
When I realized that, I decided to re-enter the cancer community as a survivor in what I hoped would be a helpful way. I didn’t want my life-altering cancer experience to be for nothing. I needed it to serve a purpose, I needed to give it meaning. Since it would never really be over, I wanted to put it to good use.
The great lesson I learned was that when I communicate with or am in the presence of other cancer survivors, I truly feel at home. I am with other people who share my profound experience, people who look at the world the way I do now. Sometimes it’s hard to fit into our old “normal” world, but we are truly at home when we are with other cancer patients and survivors. We share a lot, we understand each other, we belong. My staying in the cancer community in the end was the best thing I could have done for myself and my own recovery. I’ve met over 300 appendiceal cancer survivors and have even been able to “matchmake” and connect a few appendix cancer survivors with newly diagnosed patients in their area, it’s been great.
I had a great conversation tonight with a man I hope meet, Jonny Imerman, a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in his mid 20s. He understands the magic of the cancer community connection and has founded an organization, Imerman’s Angels. His organization exists to introduce survivors of a particular cancer to those newly diagnosed with the same cancer, to facilitate one-one-one cancer support within the cancer community. This is a link to Jonny’s web site:
If any of you would like to become a part of his group of patients needing support or survivors willing to give support to someone else, please think about contacting him. We need each other!
I’ve also just added links to other survivor’s web sites to my blog. If you have a site and would like to be listed here, email me and I’ll add you to my survivor list…and welcome Graham and Rosie!