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Are You a Fighter?

Posted Dec 21 2009 3:21pm

©Survivorship Media Network, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Hearing the words “you have breast cancer” is like sticking a wet finger in a light socket. A bolt of fear and a rush of adrenaline pulsates through your body. You get lighted-headed, like you are about to faint. Your heart races out of control and then nearly stops from fear. At least that is how I reacted.

I spent the first few days after my diagnosis in shock and terror. I did not wonder why this had happened to me, but how this had happened to me? I had done everything right: I exercised five, sometimes six days a week, ate a disgustingly healthy diet, got regular mammograms, watched my weight and drank in moderation. Up until then, everyone I knew with cancer had died. Knowing what I know now, many of these deaths should not have come as a shock. Many of them were not fighters.

During the first few days after a cancer diagnosis, the fighters begin to recover from shock and move into a questioning, fact-finding mode. What kind of cancer do I have? What does that mean? What can we do about it? How do I increase my chances of survival? The defeated, for lack of a better term, never ask questions and, even more importantly, do not want to know the answers. You would be surprised how many cancer patients, who could have beaten their cancer, succumb to related problems and adopt a “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mode.

Today my husband and I visited legendary sports photographer, Neil Leifer’s, gallery at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. As I looked at the countless iconic images of sports heroes he has captured over the years, it occurred to me they all have one thing in common: They are fighters. They did not sit on the sidelines, watching while someone else told them what to do. They were smack in the middle of the showdown, determined, willing themselves to win, and often, dragging themselves across the finish line.

Many people I knew, who died of cancer, were passive. They stood on the sidelines as though their fate was a foregone conclusion. While that was not the case with some, many surrendered their will to fight before the fight had even begun.

Muhammad Ali would say my right cross leaves a lot to be desired, but I am a great fighter. My doctors and nurses are my coaches. We are a team. Never have I thrown in the towel or surrendered my emotional and spiritual control to sit on the sidelines. When chemo battered me with hard punches, I went into Muhammad Ali’s infamous “rope a dope” mode, laying low until the chemo had no more punches left, then I got back up and started jabbing.

Cancer fights dirty.  Are you someone who fights back, or do you sit on the sidelines and watch? The answer may be an important key to winning or losing your fight.

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