I was once a normal thirty something gal with a hectic life and full of dreams. But then I heard the word “cancer” and just like that, my life as I knew it was over. I was a cancer patient faced with an uncertain future.
From the day I had found a lump in my left breast to the 5 nerve-racking days spent waiting for the results of the biopsy, I had been in limbo, unable to think about anything else.
But then, with just a few words, delivered in a calm and confident tone, my radiologist helped me feel as though I could handle whatever it was that came my way. He said, “What you have is very serious and the upcoming months are going to be pretty hard, but you are in very good hands, don’t you worry.”
All of a sudden, I literally felt as if I had tumbled into an abyss. Those few words were exactly what I needed to hear at that moment to prevent me from falling apart. I finally knew where to stand and I was ready to fight, because I realized I had a team behind me.
The following few weeks were spent going from one doctor appointment to the next, and I barely had time to digest the news, let alone come to grips with all the consequences of this new reality. But somehow, all along I felt I had an entire army fighting with and for me. Why? Simply because each professional I came across always managed to find just the right word or adopted the perfect attitude that would alleviate my fears.
The kind radiologist who gave me the results was just the first link of this human chain. The surgeon who was to remove my tumour looked like my grandfather, so I trusted him immediately, even though I was terrified. He talked in a very soft voice, using very simple words to make sure I understood him. Even though he pronounced the dreadful word “chemotherapy”, I somehow knew that I would be okay.
After the operation, he entered the room with a huge smile, pinched my cheek in a sign of affection and whispered in my ear that the surgery was a success and the tumor had not spread.
A few weeks later when I told him that I was disgusted by my scars and did not want to even look at them, he gently took my hand and made me gently touch them so that I would start to accept them.
Then there was my psychologist. Every three weeks, a young woman with a Bulgarian accent checked on me and made sure I was holding up. Little by little she became my confidant, the only person in whom I could confide in. She was very sweet but also knew to be tough when I started to feel sorry for myself.
However, all this was nothing compared to the devotion of the nurses. No matter how tough their job could sometimes be or their own personal problems, they always kept a smile on their faces without uttering a single complaint. From 7 am to 7 pm, with only a half hour break for lunch, they ran from bed to bed to attend to their patients’ needs. I used to love chatting with them during chemo sessions. They were impressed that I had worked as a lawyer in California, but for me, they were the real heroes. They went home at night totally exhausted, but at least they had a sense of fulfilment and purpose; a feeling I had never felt with my job, even though my initial goal when I went to law school was to help those less fortunate. That was a big revelation!
Sometimes all it takes in difficult times is finding the right people who will support you during the hardships. Even though having cancer was a painful experience, I got blessed with the most amazing medical team I could have hoped for. Life is all about chance meetings and I strongly believe I would never have been half as strong as I had been, without the support of an amazing support team with great bedside manner.
I could never thank all those people enough for the support they gave me. They may think they simply did what they were paid to do, but four years later, I still carry with me their kind words and strength.