For me and so many of my comrades, cancer is life altering. As blessed, warm weather approaches, I find myself trying on my summer tops with hesitation. Will people be able to identify the PowerPort on my lower right shoulder? Will old acquaintances notice that my hair is much shorter and thinner these days? Will I attract a lot of attention when I rise from my seat and take a moment to steady myself because of the neuropathy in my feet resulting from chemotherapy? I have been forthright from the first day of the diagnosis, so I am primarily undaunted by the lingering physical effects of chemotherapy and radiation but perhaps it is time to speak more candidly of the emotional impact of this dreaded disease.
I have been told that I handled the diagnosis of cancer and the necessary treatment afterwards surprisingly well, considering I have always been a quivering bundle of high emotion when it comes to all things surrounding my health. I have always been astute when it comes to annual health screenings, cringing at the thought of the next mammogram, optometric or physical examination. I always managed to avoid that much dreaded colonoscopy, however, and that reckless avoidance could have cost me my life. I am now considered to be cancer free and I am so, so thankful but I also acknowledge the fact that any sort of neoplasm can reoccur. There are times I awaken in the middle of the night, wondering if the monster that is cancer is just biding time. I have vowed that I will not let these thoughts overwhelm me and though I have moments of weakness, I am anticipating a long, healthy and happy life ahead.
I no longer spend hours poring over my bank statement to find that elusive 90 cents. I have more important things to do with my time; like writing this column! I now acknowledge the fact that not everyone likes me and I no longer make it my mission to find out why. I own my mistakes and I apologize; as I have always done. If the apology is not well received or the error is not forgiven, I move on. My career is a vital part of my life but my family is my priority. I will never be a runway model but I would be honored to be featured on a poster to promote colonoscopies! I don’t have to vacuum or dust or clean every single weekend. Why pass up a spur-of-the-moment trip to Bangor that includes the Olive Garden, Lane Bryant and Target? Every second is a gift. Every smile is a dusting of gold. Every belly-laugh is priceless.
As a cancer survivor, I want to thank caregivers, medical professionals and those wondrous people who donate their time, money and prayers to finding a cure for cancer as well as the purchase of those special items that provide comfort to the brave warriors who fight for their lives each day. And, as a cancer survivor, I urge everyone to schedule a mammogram, colonoscopy or general medical exam today. Please do not give cancer, or any disease, the chance to devour you without a good fight! You are loved. Your life is precious.
The Relay for Life event takes place at the Caribou High School on June 1 and June 2. What a beautiful way to celebrate life, survival and the eternal hope for a cure!
Editor’s Note: Belinda Wilcox Ouellette has lived in the Caribou area for all of her 56 years. She presently lives in Connor TWP. with her husband Dale and their Goldendoodle Barney. They are currently working on building a home in Caribou. You may contact Belinda online at: firstname.lastname@example.org.