Rena

Cancer is a transformational experience, you never come out of it the way you went in. For me, if I’m going to get anything positive from the experience I have to grow… The devastating part is: who am I now? I don’t mean that I’m not the same person, but I’m not the same person entirely. And it’s not because of no hair, but that’s the symbolic level. Who is this rebirthed person, and what am I going to do, and how does my life have any meaning? And people don’t get it. People look at you, and you look okay, they think you’re okay. It’s not that I’m so depressed, it’s that I’m confused, I’m hurt, I’m scared, I’m angry, and I’m sad.

I’ve learned that I’m not invincible, that I’d better be prepared to die because you never know. I’ve learned how scary it can be, and I’ve learned how scary it can be and you still get out the other side of the fear… Well, I haven’t faced death completely head-on, but I guess my best advice about facing death is to face it, in other words not to deny that you’re going to die sometime. And to learn about death, to read about it, to talk to people, to come out of the closet and be willing to talk openly about it and talk about your fears. Find someone you can talk to. 

Trying to support someone who has cancer, it’s very important… to go with them to medical appointments and keep track of all the information that doctors or nurses give. And to go, even if the person says, “I don’t need you.” Go anyway… if it’s any kind of information at all. And that’s one thing, but the other thing is to be very, very patient, because I think mood swings come with this, depression comes with it. And try to understand that the person is very scared most likely, but they’re still a whole person. And don’t just treat them as a disease.

One of the worst things about this is I can’t do anything right now. Everybody keeps saying my job is to heal, and I keep saying, “It’s a boring job!”

All I can say is having cancer is like getting on a bus and you don’t know where you’re going to get off or if you’re going to get off or where it’s going to stop, so you have to hold on and keep riding. See what you get out of it.