“You have cancer.” Nothing prepares you for those 3 awful words.
I’ve seen plenty of shows, read countless books, and unfortunately have heard through the grapevine a few “older” folks battling the dreaded C. However, to hear those three words at 32 years young and being the person on the receiving end is an absolutely surreal moment. In fact, I’m pretty sure I blacked out. Nothing prepares you.
I tried to listen to what the doctor was telling me, desperately trying to keep calm when all I wanted to do was scream, cry and run as far away from that sterile room as possible. I walked around in a daze that awful day and for the coming weeks. Trying to keep it together at work and not to break down in front of clients or colleagues. I didn’t want to tell yet because I didn’t have any details to share except for the awful diagnosis. At that point, I couldn’t bear the questions or even saying it out loud. I have cancer. Nothing prepares you.
Back to that particularly awful day. I remember walking around the city on that beautiful day, getting home and sitting in my apartment just utterly stunned. I was unable to speak and in disbelief of the news. For the weeks that followed, it was like an endless abyss of stress. There was so much, too much to absorb and take action on. The endless exams, consults, appointments, poking, prodding, and choices. From the type of treatment, to ways to receive the chemo (port or IV?), to fertilization preservation, to deciding sequences of treatment- surgery first or later, the list went on and I was all of a suddenly on the biggest deadline of my life.They were all truly life – changing choices I was forced to make in no time at all. Nothing prepares you.
I felt helpless, knowing the cancer was there but I couldn’t do anything but wait. I googled endlessly even though everyone told me not to and I can’t remember how many nights I laid awake just shaking with fear and anxiety, not knowing what was to come. That was the worst. When the reality finally caught up to me, the floodgates opened and I felt like the tears would never stop. I just couldn’t stop crying. I cried for the loss of a certain innocence and outlook on life. I cried for the loss of normalcy and independence this disease will surely cost me. I cried for the always “positive” girl being brought down to her knees. I cried for the pity looks I would surely get and that I’d have to learn how to ask for help. I cried for the unavoidable horrors chemo will evoke on my body, both inside and out. I cried for fears of being set back at work and in life. I cried for it all until I literally did not have tears left. Nothing prepares you.
As I slowly came to terms with this new reality, I had to learn how to tell my loved ones. For someone who has been used to being private, only sharing positive tidbits of my world for so long- this part was one of the hardest for me. But what frightened me at the beginning has slowly turned into my saving grace. When I started looping people in, loved ones came by my side – consoling or crying along with me. Others put their game faces on for me, sharing articles, information or funny stories to help my mind adrift (even for a split second). They opened up their networks, connecting me to friends in the medical field, oncologists, or friends of friends that have or are going through it. The kindness and depth that human relationships can take on still astonishes me. And even in times like these, when it’s happening to you, nothing prepares you.
As people started to reach out, it became weird for me to be called “strong” and “brave” – words I didn’t feel deserving of. Reality is, I have no choice. This is a full-time job that I never wanted to take and I mourn every single day for the life I loved so much that I’m now forced to leave behind- although let’s call it a temporary leave of absence, if I’m lucky. As the days went by – options turned into plans and decisions were made, I felt a strange acceptance of my new reality. Yes, I’m still scared shitless. I’m still sad for all the things and opportunities I will surely miss out on while I give everything I have to fight for my life. Through all these clouds, one silver lining emerged. I realized that while it’s awful, scary and treatment is unavoidable for the next year, this is a curable cancer and one I have a good shot at beating. If all goes well, I will still get a chance to live out all the things I dreamt of and come out of this the best version of myself yet. That’s certainly something worth fighting for.
Still, when I think back to November 9th, 2016- the day that my life was changed by 3 awful little words- nothing in the world prepares you.
This is my journey to survivorship. Follow along here ( and on instagram: thepinkribboneffect) and kindly, send some prayers (and maybe funny stories.)
With love, Lianne