Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)
By Barbara Bjorge
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I never thought much about death until it introduced itself one day and came and took away many of the people I loved in a very short period of time. It was shocking to me! I also never thought of it much until it reached out for my hand, and I wasn’t sure if I was going with it or not. I didn’t accept the invitation at that time.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 Breast cancer in 2001. The Doctor said I had a 27% chance of survival. Not a huge amount, in my mind. It is a crushing feeling to get that news. It’s like someone kicking you in the stomach, real hard, when you least expect it. It’s surreal and frightening beyond words and you can’t grasp that the “other person this stuff happens to” is suddenly …you. The feelings are truly indescribable!
I went through the whole regimen of chemotherapy, radiation and adjunctive therapy, which means taking cancer drugs for 5 years following treatments. Chemotherapy had numerous painful and ugly side effects that make you wonder if it might be easier to just give up and die. Radiation burns but was much easier to endure. The adjunctive therapy drugs also carry side effects but they seem a small price to pay at that point.
After the initial five years of survival, you think it’s over, but it isn’t. As my Dr. keeps reminding me…”there is no cure for cancer yet and those who are still surviving are in remission; not cured.” This means that every time something is not as it should be, you endure a battery of tests to make sure that the cancer has not returned, in some form, in some place in your body.
The gift in all this is that you are grateful for every day and every experience and nothing is taken “for granted”.
I have had many accomplishments since the day I was introduced to death and still lived. I wrote a book and had it published. I learned to paint and was surprisingly good at it. I learned to love and give and be blessed and be joyful and I learned to ride a motorcycle. I learned to have fun. That was a big one for me. I learned to remember that every day I am here; I choose what legacy I will leave behind for those I love. I choose to leave one of faith and honor.
My biggest achievement in surviving cancer is that in facing death I truly learned how to be alive!
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