It was the announcement by Elizabeth Edwards, the lawyer married to presidential candidate John Edwards (D-SC), that her breast cancer had returned as Stage IV, and had invaded her bones and possibly her lungs. The announcement itself saddened me, as do all discoveries of recurring cancers. But my breaking point came with Ms. Edwards comment that “having that pain occur in your side or other new symptom triggers panic mode in every cancer survivor, not just [her].” So true, and not just for cancer survivors – anyone with a progressive disease faces that fear every day.
I’m one of those rare “lucky” few who have learned to really live with multiple incurable diseases, including several conditions that are progressive and degenerative. Every single day begins with me doing an inventory of what functionality I still have and what pain I do (or better yet, don’t) have to deal with. And any teeny tiny little change begins a twofold drama: fearing what might be coming, and replaying bitter and vivid memories of how so much has already been lost.
The sound heard around the nation after Elizabeth Edwards spoke was the millions of heads of survivors nodding in understanding. I was one of them.
(Written on March 21, 2007)