Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Denial's a Bitch...Or a Vacation...

Aaaaand I’m skipping town...

I’m on the next plane out of here and heading South – South America to be exact.

I’m not ignoring my problems, but I had a life before lymphoma and I’ll continue to have a life during and after. And there’s no way I’m letting cancer ruin my plans. Is it wise to head off to a foreign country when you have a tumor displacing your trachea making it difficult to breath? Maybe not. Is it wise to run off with your husband on a relaxing vacation before chemo tries to control the next 6-9 months of our lives? Absolutely. (Although my mom may disagree).

Am I running away from Cancer? No. In fact, it’s coming with me! Grab a beach towel, Cancer, we’re going on vacation!

Now, am I avoiding Cancer? Absolutely. At least for the next week.

On Monday I met with the oncologist at the Karmanos Cancer Institute where I’ll receive my treatment. If this didn’t feel real before, it definitely feels real now. I’ve been telling everyone that I don’t feel like a cancer patient. Well, after that visit, I feel like a cancer patient.

I’d imagine that cancer patients go through similar stages of grief as anyone who’s experienced the loss of a loved one. In a way, we’ve experienced loss too: loss of control over our bodies, loss of freedom, loss of time. Stage one in dealing – Denial.

It’s easy to experience denial when cancer has to compete with the holidays, your job, family visits, supportive friends, etc. There’s not a lot of time to think about cancer when the Thanksgiving parade is marching down your street. Because who wants to think about cancer when you can think about the holidays? Not this girl.

But denial can’t last forever. Eventually the parade ends; your family goes home and your friends go back to their lives. Eventually the distractions stop long enough for the revelation to sink back in: I have cancer.

And even if you’re great at living in denial and pushing those thoughts out of your head, a meeting with the oncologist will rip those thoughts from that dark forgotten place in your mind and throw reality back in your face.

The reality is, the stage of my cancer is still unknown. Next week, I go in for a battery of tests including a bone marrow biopsyto see if the cancer has spread from my lymph nodes to my blood. Right now, I know I have at least stage 2 lymphoma since the cancer is in my neck and chest. The reality is, further tests could determine if the cancer is below my chest, raising my stage to 3 and/or in my blood, bringing it to the highest stage, stage 4. Hello Reality, Goodbye Denial.

You know what else you can’t deny? Losing your fucking hair. Because then not only will I feel like a cancer patient, but look like one too. And there’s a chance I may become infertile. Talk about reality. If I haven’t thought about having kids in the future, I better start thinking about it now. Actually, I should have started thinking about it yesterday. Because once chemo starts, it’s too late to start thinking about freezing your eggs. Not to mention the nausea, vomiting, and fatigue that inevitably comes from chemotherapy.

The reality is, you can’t deny the risks that cancer brings with it.

Denial, my friend, where did you go?

But I have one week before these tests. I have one week before this cancer is officially diagnosed and staged. I have one week to jet off to Cartagena, Colombia to watch two friends get married. One week to celebrate love and warmth. To enjoy the sand, sun, and rum. I have one week to spend with my husband pretending I don’t have cancer.

In one week, I’ll come back to reality. Until then, Hello Denial.

Cancer, I hope you enjoy your vacation. I know I will.


  1. Dana, you are a complete inspiration, an amazing writer, and let's not forget -- totally kickass. We hope you and Brad have an awesome time in Colombia!!

  2. I vote for TWO WEEKS! (And ditto above, you are an excellent writer.)

    p.s. One of my favorite quotes on denial is from Garrison Keillor: "Sometimes you have to look reality in the eye, and deny it."

    (I say this to myself a lot when I get frustrated with the glacial pace of change in Detroit. Shhh, don't tell anyone I said that. ;-))

  3. I am so very proud of you and hope you are really really enjoying the warmth and sunshine!

  4. Dana, continue to answer well. This is an inspiration to all of us. Much love.

  5. Dana, you are teaching and leading us, again, as you take this time to enjoy life's beauty. While you re-group, let us re-group as well. Through your gift of writing, we will be witness to your stages of grief and your physical trials, and we will be here for you through prayer. But, what does it mean, exactly, to say, "Dana, you are in my prayers?" Let us be specific in our efforts, so these are not merely empty platitudes. We would not be here, at this blog, if we did not love Dana. We have all been inspired by the wisdom of her 'old soul'. SO, when we pray let us hold a clear vision of Dana as a glowing image of radiant health, infinite life, smiling, and laughing, and bathed in boundless love. Let us take many moments out of the day to FEEL the power of divine love filling Dana, empowering her, blessing her, surrounding her in healing light, and restructuring her body to perfection on a cellular level. Let us not feel the darkness or the fear in these moments. Darkness has no ability to shed darkness. It is simply an absence of light and it always disappears when light is shed upon it. So let us stand together to shed light into that dark corner for Dana. Let us agree to make this our specific prayer of healing for her.
    (I am Dana's friend, David's mom-in-law, and by vote; Lisa's sister-in-law)

  6. you are an absolute inspiration, a hell of a writer, and upon your return - you will be a hell of a soldier!!!! you are in my thoughts every day.

    Lisa McSherry

  7. Hmmm so this is why you did not respond to my text, bring me back a monkey for Christmas!!