So I'm stealing a frequently used Public Service Announcement from the New York City Metro Transit Authority (MTA) - it goes "If you see something, say something." They're alerting fellow metro riders about suspicious packages, events or situations which would likely create in a person a sense of potential danger ahead or a feeling that something is "off". If you see a bag under a seat with no apparent owner, the goal is to get you to tell an MTA officer about it. They'll go check it out, clear it and then move on with their day. Hey, guess what!?? I have a novel idea! Let's use this same alert mechanism with our OWN BODIES!
Although many of you had some inklings into what I've been dealing with over the last three years, I have done a TREMENDOUS job of covering this crap up. But one of the most rewarding/cathartic things about starting to write this shit out is that it's 1) helping me process these traumatic events and even better 2) It can help ALERT another fellow passenger on this ride called life that if they "see something, they should say something!"
One of the hardest things for me to process over the years was how other people would process my news themselves. Strangers, particularly, because it would shock the hell out of them after hearing I was in my mid-thirties. I don't blame them, it fucking shocked me too. But what was worse is that I would then witness a sense of fear rising behind their eyes. Could they have potentially overlooked some symptoms that could lead to a diagnosis like this? Or even worse, what if one of their own family members is ignoring some strange things when they should be saying something.
I'm going to keep this post pretty "PSA-centered" and not launch into why I actually think I manifested cancer because even though it's sounds crazy I'm pretty confident I know why. Let's save that for another entry because it will be another tangential ride into the mind/body/spirit world to do so. I'd like to keep this post in the body sphere so that some of you reading this can relieve some fears or if needed "say something, if you see something."
So, if you do one important thing in your life, do this and: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Love yourself enough to stop and listen to YOU. You are the most important thing in your own universe. When something isn't right, your body will tell you. It may start out by telling you with emotional/spiritual hints and when you keep ignoring those, it will manifest physically. Those physical manifestations may not be huge bolts of lighting. They may be little bouts of discomfort here or there, but don't ignore. Note it, then move on and see if it reappears later. Hell, use your damn notepad in your iphone.
My cancer manifested in my butt so I'm going to go ahead and talk about poop now. Sorry, for those of you that can't handle it but I don't think you should stop reading either because everyone f'ing shits. I'm fairly certain most people have seen a faint color of blood in the pot or on the paper and not gone to jump off a cliff thinking they have butt cancer. Most will chalk it up to a little tear or too much fiber or...(just kidding, let's keep this PG). Anyway, if this keeps happening let's jot a little note down and keep track of when it happens again.
Guess what I did!?? I IGNORED THAT SHIT (literally/figuratively) SO HARD. Enter, Standard Rachel Self-Defense Mechanism. If there is something in my life that may be potentially painful or fearful, I do my absolute best to ignore, or even better, pretend it didn't happen. Throughout school, law school and even the damn bar exam I was ALWAYS the LAST person to check the grades!! Even when I had a pretty good feeling I did well. Why am I so scared of myself? Well, a good number of you could probably answer this, but let's move on.
So eventually, I did start bringing up this blood situation to a couple practitioners in New York during exams. They explained it away with all the rhetoric I had already told myself...diet, tear, etc. PERFECT...I can continue my modus operandi of IGNORE IGNORE IGNORE. What else was there left to do then? I followed the PSA - I saw something and said something, and that's it, I've done my part. Not so fast, lady. I knew deep down, something intuitively wasn't right. Looking back I'm not entirely sure what I would have done differently, maybe other than flat out lie and tell the doc that colorectal cancer runs in my family, because it just so happens that IT DOES....STARTING WITH ME! No one expects this type of cancer to crop up in someone my age (more on that below) so I do not blame a single soul or think an early diagnosis was part of my journey.
Anyway, a biopsy was eventually performed and we know the events as they have now unfolded. Once the severity of the situation was revealed, this chica below ("our lady of the...") knew exactly what to do...
and finagled her connections at Memorial Sloan Kettering to get me an appointment in a matter of days. That's another big intuitive piece of advice I have for people. If your first doc doesn't "get you" then switch that shit up fast. Your doc has to be on your "mind/body/spirit" team and if any of those components don't align then trust your instincts (yet again...hearing a theme yet?). Well the first oncologist I saw outside of MSKCC instilled such a great sense of fear and dread in me that I knew I would not be speaking to him again. Do you want to know one of the first things he did when meeting me? He started combing through my hair to see how chemo would potentially affect it. WHAT DUDE!??? Get out of oncology and go into hairdressing if that is your primary concern here. He also somewhat belittled my bequests to start fertility preservation at Weill Cornell prior to the start of any kind of toxic therapy. He said something to the effect that he didn't know if I should be concerned with family planning at this time. Haha, that's when I said: BYE GUY.
Enter Doctor Andrea Cercek who has been my saving grace. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/doctors/andrea-cercek. We clicked immediately. She walked into the room, sat down next to me, looked genuinely in my eyes and asked so simply yet lovingly "how was I doing"? She understood me at such a deep level and does to this day. I feel like she knows the best way to deliver news to me and to keep things upbeat. She's got my survival at her stake and that is why she was more than happy to forego a couple weeks of treatment so that I could engage Weill Cornell with fertility preservation. She wants me to live and have babies someday, yay! It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend this program to anyone interested in IVF for whatever reason. https://ivf.org/fertility-preservation. I've got a loving little army of eggs in a fridge over there waiting for me should I ever need.
Dr. Cercek is also on the cutting edge of figuring out what the freak is happening with the stats on young adults developing advanced stages of this disease. https://www.mskcc.org/clinical-updates/msk-s-new-center-focus-alarming-increase-colorectal-cancer-young. These MSKCC angels, along with all of you are part of my dream team and I am honestly in the best hands I could ever ask for.
So there is the story folks. The last thing I want to do in this post is instill any kind of fear in any of you. Don't become a hypochondriac. But do listen to that little voice every now and then when it's trying to tell you something. We've all got it right there in our limbic system, the oldest part of our brain. Is this how the universe communicates with us? I'm not so sure, yet. But I've decided to listen to this voice a little closer or maybe just listen to Rachel a bit better in general. I should probably care about what she wants to do or what is making her happy, right? Is our intuition simply redirecting us to finding our true happiness?
As always, thank you for sending your love and support, it is so magical.
🐝💗 - Rach