Life After Cancer
Actualizado: 8 jul 2020
November 19th. The limbo between the "official days" of pancreatic cancer. Some say November 16 or 17, some others November 21, but since I like coincidences, I decided to celebrate it on the 17th. Just like my birthday.
I turned 27 on Sunday. I've been on this planet for 9,855 days (approximately and not counting leap years because I've never been good at math) and the last 3 years, 1,095 days (approoox again), have been the most significant.
In 2017, when I was 24, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and liver metastases. The day they told me and after asking if I would lose my hair, a countdown clock appeared in my life and in 2018, when Frantz, my ex-cancer, came back I saw its clockwise speed up. Today, it is a clock that I see out the corner of the eye, although I always feel its presence. The good thing is that I'm not known for having a good memory and many times I forget that it's there.
April 5, 2017. On the way to my first surgery where 80% of the pancreas, spleen, gallbladder would be removed and the portal vein closed so that my liver would grow.
For me, the hardest part of life after cancer has been dealing with my mind. There are days I can talk about Frantz as if I told you that in the morning I ate a chocolate donut, I feel proud and I say to myself: "Wow, Majo. You're amazing"; but there are others in which I don't want to know anything about cancer, that I am saddened suddenly if I feel too happy or I reproach to life that all this has been very unfair. And although days like these are not so usual, I always thank my body for the simple fact of waking up and function, because when you've been about to die or even survived a recurrence, you value it even more.
If something I have learned is that no matter what happens to us in life, we cannot victimize ourselves, because we are all stronger than any obstacle and it is our obligation to overcome them in the best way we can. You are allowed to have bad days, but enjoying the good ones is worth more.
My mom has always been like an older sister and hardly gets angry when Paola, my sister, and I tease her. We all share cloths from time to time (even now that I'm married) and she loves to tell us: "I hope you look as good as I do at age 50..." (yes, she is a very pretty and snooty mom, hahaha). But the last time she told me that, I couldn't help thinking: "I wish I turn 50 years old" and immediately identified that there spoke the fear (the clock) that Frantz left behind.
I know. Nobody has insured time, but experiencing cancer at 24 and then again at 25, makes you realize that you are not invincible as you thought. I still haven't completely overcome the fear of dying, and I like my life so much that it makes me anxious to have to leave because of Frantz. I think (almost) none of you understand this fear -and I'm glad- because you have to go through cancer to understand it. Three years ago there was no such fear, and as time goes by I begin to accept that maybe it will never leave.
Most of you know that I almost never investigate pancreatic cancer statistics. Is it useful to know that only 5% survive, that the average survival rate after diagnosis is 5 years and that the probability of surviving those 5 years after being diagnosed in stage IV (when the cancer has spread to distant parts of the body such as lungs, liver or bones) is 3%? Definitely my aunt Pachy, who is a thyroid cancer survivor and wife of my uncle Lalo, who was the greatest pisces warrior (colon cancer with liver metastases), would say yes. But the truth is that these numbers scare me and prevent me from ignoring Frantz's clock.
My psychologist has recommended me to let catastrophic thoughts pass, because thinking them does not mean that they will come true. So when I feel overwhelmed, I try to get into the tub or stay for a while under the stream of hot water, because there is sooomething with showers that make us sing better, think more creative ideas and cope with your mind when it doesn't want to collaborate. Interestingly, soon after we forget everything we think during the bath, but you definitely end up feeling better, don't you?
Of course, this technique does not apply post-op... the last thing we want is to bathe! LOL.
July 2017. Several days after my liver operation where I had several complications and was at risk of death twice.
In spite of everything, I know that I am extremely lucky and that has helped me heal Frantz's wounds. I've taken very seriously the "enjoy your day as if it were the last", I'm even happier than before and exploiting the good days to the fullest; because although the clock scares me and makes me want to live very fast, I know that I still have time because they've told me... I just need to believe it.
Taking advantage of the fact that it is #pancreaticcancerawarenessday, consult your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
*Jaundice: yellowish skin and eyes
*Pain in the abdomen or back (I only had "gastritis" and "colitis", now I think it was pancreatitis)
*Unintentional weight loss
*Lack of appetite
*Nausea and/or vomiting
*Enlargement of the gallbladder or liver
You can see more information at www.cancerdepancreas.mx of Va por Ti, the first foundation in Mexico that supports pancreatic cancer.
Majo ---> @goodbyefrantz