Posts Tagged ‘cancer-survivor’


Before my Physician Specialist came in to see me, I sat perched upright in a straight-back padded chair surrounded by all the fixtures in your typical sterile doctor’s office environment. Fluorescent lighting poured down on me from above, like an interrogation room, making me slightly uncomfortable and anxious. A serious, young female African-American nurse in her early thirties worked quickly in front of me on the computer to complete her electronic questionnaire, entering the necessary information she needed to gather about my medical history. You know the same routine questions: Have you ever had surgery? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Are you allergic to any medications? Have you ever been diagnosed with a serious illness? As I patiently answered the familiar questions, I could see the expression on her face changing based on my matter-of-fact responses — auto-immune disease, Scleroderma, from ages 4 to 11. When I was 26, I had surgery for a detached retina in my right eye and ended up blinded. At age 33, I was suddenly diagnosed with cancer. And at age 42, the vestibular nerve in my left ear was damaged overnight by a virus. Never truly recovered.

This was not the first time my resume as a medical patient raised some eyebrows, so I anticipated her possible comment but had no idea what it would be. Finally, her fingers on the keyboard stopped. She paused, lifted her head and looked me directly in the eye — with a slight and almost perplexed smile she asked me one final and candid question that would have a lasting effect – “Do you know just how lucky you are?” The simplest questions can be the hardest to answer.

I was not quite sure how to respond other than muttering a simple “Ahh, I do know how lucky I am” but that really did not give how I felt the justice it truly deserved.

Dealing with both common and perplexing health issues has run through a large majority of my life. Working through the physical, mental and emotional after-effects has been a daily challenge for as long as I can remember. But it was stunning to hear a stranger so bluntly point the obvious at me. In all my years of doctor office visits, tests, diagnoses, surgeries, treatments and rehabilitation therapies, no one had ever directly questioned, and at the same time communicated it so powerfully simple before. I absolutely realize how fortunate I am, given the alternatives. But what I wanted to scream though was the question that has haunted me for many, many years: What the fuck can I do with everything I’ve gone through so that it might help someone else? Well, here we go . . .