From a Survivor

I considered writing a comment on Christopher’s entry on John and Elizabeth Edward’s decision to stay in the Presidential race; however, since I have some “expertise” in this arena, I decided to post something from a Survivor’s Point of View.

Those of you who know me may recall my bout with “the Big C” in 2004. You also know that I was still active throughout the 2004 election cycle. Chemo put me out for about 5 days every three weeks, but I kept comin’ back; not because I was crazy (OK I am) but because I wanted to keep up with my routine as much as I possibly could. The last thing you want to do is crawl up into a ball and hide in the corner. There are those who think you should just slink away and hide; I do not see how anyone can live, let alone survive with that attitude.

A good example of this was at my last check-up while the tech stabbed my arm to get some blood, there was a woman in the room with the BEST tee shirt that said it all: FUCK CANCER!!!! In my opinion, anyone who has lived with cancer knows that the best way to survive is to have heaps of attitude. One woman wore lipstick to her masectomy; I opted for crazy hats and stilettos when I went in for my chemo. If Elizabeth wants to campaign for her husband she should go for it, I have no doubt that this was her decision.

When I learned that I had cancer, after the initial freak out, my gallows humor kicked into gear; actually, it is a reality check on life, for example: Average life expectancy is about 76 years now. What that means is when you turn 76 years old, half of the people born in the same year you were born in are dead. That means your chances of making it to age 76 is 50/50. I never found those to be particularly good odds; then again, unless you are an astronaut, you do not leave this planet alive. Once that little thought manifested itself, why not go for what you want in life? My friends know what this attitude has done to my sense of boundries.

The wonderful thing that came out of my adventures with cancer is the level of love and support that came out on my behalf. I was never without friends/family on chemo day; I treated it as a party ala Samantha from Sex and the City (my only disappointment was we never did Mr. Grape). I had a freind join me a day or two following with a little anti nausea medication and the lesbians across the courtyard from me would make baby back ribs and tri tip for me when I needed my protein about 3 days after the infusion. I found a male compadre going through prosatae cancer and our chemo ‘cocktails’ were very similar. We had a great time talking about how dopey Taxotere made you. No matter what you were ‘on’ jokes about the benefits of baldness (hats fit better) or the effects of ‘chemo brain’ were things to laugh about. It sure beat crying.

There are those who said that the DPOC did nothing in 2004 – you can kiss my ass. First and foremost, a number of volunteers came forward in support to keep the ball rolling. I can’t take very much of the credit, people were very motivated to get rid of Bush; but all of us kept our eyes on the prize and I feel very proud of how we advanced in response from 2002. The 2004 election was something that kept me going; through 6 rounds of chemo, bilateral masectomy, 6 more rounds of chemo and about 36 days of radiation.

My remaining goal is to lose the weight I gained during chemo… YES, GAINED – breast cancer survivors and I believe prosatate cancer survivors gain weight; go figure. For both of genders, the whole thing can be hormonal. (Note: I have some other naughty habits to break as well…)

As a survivor, it was quite a blow to learn that Elizabeth’s cancer had returned. I was diagnosed a stage 3B in April of 2004. It is a reminder of the tightrope that I and others walk; life can change on a dime. I can say for myself, right now, so far, so good…

What I have to say to the Limbaughs and other scourges who want to say that the Edwards’ have politicized Elizabeth’s diagnosis is BITE ME! That anyone could say such a thing obviously does not know what it is like to live with cancer. Bear in mind, that the Edwards’ did not announce Elizabeth’s initial diagnosis (a few days before the 2004 election) until after the November 2004 election. Sharing Elizabeth’s condition at this point in the 2008 election cycle makes alot of sense to me. It is about time that everyone learned that cancer is not something to keep hidden away, it is not secret you keep because it is such a bummer for people to hear about. The Edwards’ made their decision to go public with this information and voting for Edwards is not the issue, it is about supporting their decision as a couple and family to move forward and damn the torpedos.

John Edwards said in his 60 minutes interview that he did not anyone’s vote if it was cast because Elizabeth had cancer and I was pretty offended at all of the questions about Elizabeth’s condidtion. My message to Elizabeth is simply: YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!! Her courage is right there with Melissa, Sheryl, Lance and the tens of thousands of people who have been diagnosed, are being treated, or are surviving cancer.

  16 comments for “From a Survivor

  1. Publius
    March 26, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Thanks for sharing your unique perspective, Susan!

  2. Susan Freeze
    March 26, 2007 at 8:38 pm

    Not so unique when you look at the stats.

    Thank you though :-)

  3. March 26, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    Susan,

    This is one of the best posts that’s been written on this page. Thank you for revealing this personal story.

    I think that your “keep up with the routine” philosophy worked well for you. I met you right around the time that you found out that you were completely cancer free, and I would have never guessed that you had just slayed this ugly dragon.

    I’m lucky to know you.

  4. March 27, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Mike, you’re right: This post might just be one of THE BEST STORIES that I’ve seen on this blog.

    Susan: Way to go! You have real courage…
    And I’m sure you’ll lose those pesky few extra pounds. : )

  5. March 27, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Great post Susan.

  6. Heartless
    March 27, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Okay – What exactly does Edwards bring to the table that makes him so much different from the other Dem candidates. What exact position does he advocate that America just can’t govern without?

    Cancer bad. People who face it are brave Yep, no doubt about it – Lost relatives to it.

    First – the comment from Susan “…of my adventures with cancer is..” could the First Lady’s unfortunate “adventure” be not as fortunate as yours i.e.. a lingering painful death. Could her excruciatingly painful death be a distraction to the most powerful man on the planet and prevent him from focusing 100% during a time of crisis – maybe?

    Andrew’s comment: “and I would have never guessed that you had just slayed this ugly dragon.” What makes you think Mrs. Edwards will slay this “dragon?”

    Unless you produce something extraordinary about John Edward’s as a candidate (not Mrs. Edwards or his compassion towards her) maybe this is a “dragon” we chose to have our president avoid for four years while he is in the White House.

    Before you blast me as being heartless – please answer my first question.

  7. anothercancerpatient
    March 27, 2007 at 10:52 am

    Great post! As one who is fighting the big C right now, I understand exactly what you’re talking about. The absolute worst thing is having nothing to do beside sitting and obsessing about your cancer all day and night. Chemo is a bitch, and so is radiation, but if you have a reason to get up every morning, you do…and you get things done!

    I thank God every day for the support I have and the things I have to keep me busy. Without both of those, I’d have been dead months ago! The best thing any cancer patient can do is have a reason to get up and live…every single day! Good for Elizabeth Edwards and good for you telling it like it is!

  8. Susan Freeze
    March 27, 2007 at 11:02 am

    Heartless,

    You did not really read the post. I was not pushing Edwards as a Presidential Candidate. Neither John nor Elizabeth want a sympathy vote.
    I support their decision to go public with their situation, period.

    Am I fortunate? Today I am, I may not be tomorrow. Neither of us are involved in Mrs. Edwards’ medical treatment. She may be dancing at her youngest child’s wedding.

  9. Heartless
    March 27, 2007 at 11:26 am

    “Neither John nor Elizabeth want a sympathy vote.” How do you know that? Just becasue he said it?

    EVERYTHING in politics is calculated – what if, and how long did they keep it private or hidden is another consideration they and their campaign staff made.

    Since this is a political blog. I am asking three questions about his campiagn / candidacy that directly relate to his wife’s stage 4 cancer. Would you care to take a stab at answering them?

    Somebody??? Any Edward’s supporter or sympathizer?

    Susan, glad you are doing well and happy that you shared your experiance BUT… the Edwards are in a different league than you or me.

  10. Dan Chmielewski
    March 27, 2007 at 11:34 am

    http://johnedwards.com/about/issues/

    knock yourself out Heartless.

  11. Dan Chmielewski
    March 27, 2007 at 11:42 am

    CBS is reporting that Tony Snow’s cancer has returned and ha perhaps spread to his liver. I offer prayers to him and his family as I do the for Edwards family and all persons fighting cancer today.

  12. Heartless
    March 27, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Dan:

    Thanks for the link to Edward’s campign site with his positions. I knocked myself out reviewing them AND… they look pretty much like all the other Dem candidates less Kucinich.

    He offers NOTHING unique to the debate – he is just the candidate with puffy metrosexual hair. Prove me worng. PLEASE!

    So maybe John Edwards should chose to spend quality time with his wife – I would. Maybe we should only elect a candiate who can devote 100% of his time to the most important job on the planet. If my wife died, I would want time off and I wouldn’t want the demanding pressure of my job. I would want to spend it with family – not co-workers or subordinates or Generals.

    And yes, I hope she gets better, a loving husband who can spend time with her could be the best medicine.

  13. March 28, 2007 at 7:57 am

    This was a great post Susan. As someone who just had his sister diagnosed with non Hodgkins Lymphoma and an uncle pass away last year from colon cancer, I know firsthand how destructive cancer can be. I hope they find a cure for it soon.

  14. Dan Chmielewski
    March 28, 2007 at 8:35 am

    Heartless, like the Republican candidates are offering anything new? Edwards is probably the only candidate truly focused on efforts to help move people off the poverty rolls; you know, the rolls that grew dramatically during the reign of King George the W. And yes, Edwards is a rich guy with a big house but he is trying to improve the lives of people not as fortunate as him unlike the Bushies who work to improve the lives of their ultrarich donors and business associates.

    BTW, you not might agree, but the majority of the country identifies more strongly with Democratic positions on government and the issues facing our nation according to the latest Pew Research poll.

    The side that has lots of explaining to do are the Republicans who have major flip flops from their record to their crrent positions. Good luck with that.

    Metrosexual hair? Interesting comment. Is that Mitt Romney’s problem too?

    And back to the point of the post. Cancer sucks. People with it need our support and understanding. Allan Bartlett and I agree on little, but I send my prayers to his sister (and him) for going through it.

    My neighbor is a cancer doctor at Kaiser and gives a grim prognosis for Tony Snow (lots of “ifs” that we both don’t know but liver cancer is particularly awful). Tony has small kids, ages 10, 12, and 14 (I think) and I pray for them.

    Liberals do pray you know.

  15. Susan Freeze
    March 28, 2007 at 11:52 am

    Allan,

    My Very Best to your sister. May she kick major Cancer Ass!!!!
    The same to Tony Snow.

  16. anothersurvivor
    March 28, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    As a breast cancer survivor I find it so amazing that people are questioning whether the Edwards should continue their campaign–when sports figures like Coach Kay Yow of NC State are praised for their dedication and effort to keep working through cancer treatment. To me it shows how cynical people are about politics, how people believe that all candidates are only in it for personal gain. When I needed my oncologist to certify me for disability during chemo, he made me promise I would not stay home and get depressed. I applaud Elizabeth and John for showing that life goes on during cancer treatment, and that you have to keep doing what you love, as long as you are able, because that is what makes living worthwhile. I hope you both are able to use this difficult hand you’ve been dealt to focus the country’s attention on the need to provide health care for all of us in this country.

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