The third option.

q-HCcyQBU4RXilCRZnngVfEkTlzek0gF23hAAJOW590,sny2Ni1woVsjP71J9WuIoAx3OgoFPJSfh4DpRIP217cA fellow cancer fighter, the badass Kaylin Andres, wrote recently in the Huffington Post about her ongoing battle with cancer. Her perspective really resonated with me, now more than ever. She said,

“… you start to let go of the prevailing popular opinion that cancer is a battle with only two outcomes — cure or death. There is a third, secret option, relatively unknown to the general healthy public: you learn to live with it.”

Now, if someone had told me when I was first diagnosed with cancer that I’d just “have to learn to live with it”, I would have said fuck that. No way. I want it out and gone. I would have said that anything else is simply unacceptable.

However, the truth is that sometimes we have no choice but to accept the unacceptable. Because sometimes what we once thought of as unacceptable is simply reality.

A few months ago, when I first got the news that there were some “worrisome” spots and nodules on my CT scans, my oncologist told me that some people would rather hear “concrete bad news with a plan” than ambiguous news. I told her I am not one of those people. Ambiguous news leaves room for hope, you see, whereas concrete bad news is just plain ‘ol bad news.

I’m always going to take the hope option.

When I was still in treatment and would hear people talk about how they still have questionable spots that are being watched, I thought, “How awful. I could never do that.” Well now, having had repeated scans showing questionable spots, I get it. We live with the unknown because sometimes — usually — we have no choice. It kind of goes back to the old Serenity Prayer, which, regardless of your beliefs, remains tried and true. We don’t sit on our hands. We change the things we can, but we learn to accept the things we can’t.

I have certainly done what I could to evict all traces of cancer from my body. I’ve followed the advice of an amazing, well-respected oncologist. I’ve subjected myself to surgeries and aggressive drug therapy. I’ve combined those traditional remedies with holistic remedies and lifestyle changes. And I’ll continue to run to ground every option available to me, until there are no more options. But if that doesn’t do the trick, I will have no choice but to accept that cancer and I are just going to have to cohabitate.

As with the previous set of tests, my last round of tests was inconclusive. My spots (if we’re going to continue to share a body, I may just have to name them) are still there but they haven’t grown. And my CA-125 levels are still slightly elevated, but they haven’t spiked. My doctor still puts at 50/50 the odds that these factors are representative of a recurrence of cancer. So we continue to wait, and go through the whole exercise again in about six weeks.

If these spots continue to behave and show no signs of growth, and my CA-125 levels remain stable, my oncologist will eventually tell me that these conditions are simply my new normal. And I’ll accept that. In fact, I’ll happily accept those conditions because they are so much better than the alternative.

It’s all about perspective.

And I guess that’s true of most any situation. Our perspectives change and our attitudes adjust when we realize there are circumstances we simply can’t control. And who are we kidding? We really aren’t in control of much of anything, are we?

So while we wait, I’ll still be visualizing fluffy pink disease-free insides. But I’ll also be working on letting go, and acceptance. My guess is that’s where I’ll find that elusive peace of mind.

Image via Brooke Kelly.

11 Comments on The third option.

  1. sharon Newman
    March 11, 2013 at 11:44 pm (2 years ago)

    You have amazing courage and strength of character. I truly believe your
    body is in the process of healing itself. Believe in the process of healing!

    Reply
  2. sharon Newman
    March 11, 2013 at 11:58 pm (2 years ago)

    Your courage is amazing for all you have been through! Send
    Lots of positives energy your way, as you await test results.
    Few people could have gone through all this with such courage!
    I admire you so much!

    Reply
  3. Beth Barton
    March 12, 2013 at 9:12 pm (2 years ago)

    Joanne:

    I get inspiration from you and your struggle. I’ve written before…I am 50 and have cancer of the astrocytoma cells (in my brain). I’m doing well, so far. I am doing my atheist version of praying for you.

    Love, Beth

    Reply
  4. Beth Barton
    March 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm (2 years ago)

    Joanne:

    I get inspiration from you and your struggle. I’ve written before…I am 50 and have cancer of the astrocytoma cells (in my brain). I’m doing well, so far. I am doing my atheist version of praying for you.

    Love, Beth

    Reply
  5. Wendy
    March 13, 2013 at 4:47 pm (2 years ago)

    Love it Joanna! You have no idea how truly inspiring you are to me and I’m sure many others. You have an amazing gift and an amazing gift to share that gift of inspiration with others… Looking forward to MORE and MORE

    Reply
  6. Maria
    March 15, 2013 at 8:51 pm (2 years ago)

    Your acceptance is such a beautiful thing. I love it. Have you heard of Johanna Budwig? She has a cancer diet. I thought you might like her name. And maybe her diet too.

    Reply
  7. Sandra Baker
    August 31, 2013 at 3:13 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi, accidentally found your site. Your writing is so lovely I kept reading. I had to then jump over it quickly, as I am busy writing a series of papers about cancer. This is not your basic type if writing, but about how I (like you) was blindsided by my diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Me, who ate natural organic since 1970, took cold showers every day in the snow etc, I am 73 now. Never researched cancer. If so, I would have made a different decision. I would have had the operation, but never had cancer.
    My experience was very similar to yours. In the arm, in the abdomen. Then realized that if it came back, they just try more chemo. They can’t cure at that point, and their percentage of cures before that is pitiful also.
    I decided I needed to find options separate from traditional medicine.
    Your body can kill its own cancer. Traditional studies will never study a “diet.” But people are having positive results doing just that.
    I dont just believe what folks say-”-try this diet it works,” “you can heal by doing this.” I base my decisions on the human metabolism and how it works.
    I didnt see, during my quick scan of your blog, anything about diet.
    What I decided to do after I finished chemo, was the Gerson Therapy. It is not a “diet,” as such, but is an extremely strict protocol designed by Dr Gerson in the nineteen twenties. I have a practitioner , and I do regular labs. He watches carefully and fine-tunes.
    Medical people make fun of it, because it includes coffee enemas to massively detox the liver, as the 7 to 13 leafy green and carrot and green apple juices a day will start a tumor breakdown that needs to be flushed out continually. This is an alkaline diet (cancer cant live in an alkaline environment, and your chemo especially has made you very acidic, and if you are a meat eater, you were probably pretty acidic already.
    Anyway, the digestive system is let to rest, so no meat, dairy, rice, grains, seeds, nuts, fats, except for oatmeal, potatoes, vegies, a little fruit—–mostly. For two to three years. Very intense. Need to stick totally to protocol, including liver and pancreas extract and more—thyroid, iodine etc
    I have done a lot of research on why this works for more people than chemo does, and you feel better and better, not worse and worse.
    This was a bit verbose, but your story touched me. Sandra

    Reply
  8. Sandra Baker
    August 31, 2013 at 3:13 pm (1 year ago)

    Hi, accidentally found your site. Your writing is so lovely I kept reading. I had to then jump over it quickly, as I am busy writing a series of papers about cancer. This is not your basic type if writing, but about how I (like you) was blindsided by my diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Me, who ate natural organic since 1970, took cold showers every day in the snow etc, I am 73 now. Never researched cancer. If so, I would have made a different decision. I would have had the operation, but never had cancer.
    My experience was very similar to yours. In the arm, in the abdomen. Then realized that if it came back, they just try more chemo. They can’t cure at that point, and their percentage of cures before that is pitiful also.
    I decided I needed to find options separate from traditional medicine.
    Your body can kill its own cancer. Traditional studies will never study a “diet.” But people are having positive results doing just that.
    I dont just believe what folks say-”-try this diet it works,” “you can heal by doing this.” I base my decisions on the human metabolism and how it works.
    I didnt see, during my quick scan of your blog, anything about diet.
    What I decided to do after I finished chemo, was the Gerson Therapy. It is not a “diet,” as such, but is an extremely strict protocol designed by Dr Gerson in the nineteen twenties. I have a practitioner , and I do regular labs. He watches carefully and fine-tunes.
    Medical people make fun of it, because it includes coffee enemas to massively detox the liver, as the 7 to 13 leafy green and carrot and green apple juices a day will start a tumor breakdown that needs to be flushed out continually. This is an alkaline diet (cancer cant live in an alkaline environment, and your chemo especially has made you very acidic, and if you are a meat eater, you were probably pretty acidic already.
    Anyway, the digestive system is let to rest, so no meat, dairy, rice, grains, seeds, nuts, fats, except for oatmeal, potatoes, vegies, a little fruit—–mostly. For two to three years. Very intense. Need to stick totally to protocol, including liver and pancreas extract and more—thyroid, iodine etc
    I have done a lot of research on why this works for more people than chemo does, and you feel better and better, not worse and worse.
    This was a bit verbose, but your story touched me. Sandra

    Reply
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