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Why Wait? Live Your Life Now!

by Dawn Sesto

Inspiration image

Dawn (r) and her sister-in-law, Tracie, enjoy a day at Laguna Beach.

The radioactive tracer substance was injected into my veins. Now I had three hours to wait until the bone scan to see if breast cancer had spread to my bones. As I sat waiting, thinking about the “what ifs,” I was both numb and restless. I’ve been here before; I’m a two and a half year breast cancer survivor.

I’m 39 years old, and I have so much to live for. There are so many people who need me – my husband; our daughters, who are eight and four; our extended family; and my wonderful circle of friends. I think of each of these loved ones, and the tears start welling up. No, I’m not going to get ahead of myself and think the worst. In my 18 months of active cancer treatments, I did not allow myself to think about the possibility of my daughters growing up without their mother. It did cross my mind sometimes, as it does today, but I can’t go there, I won’t go there, at least not today.

Was it the “I’m dying” list? But shouldn’t it be the “I’m living” list?

I pick up a magazine, but I can’t concentrate on that either. The latest fad diet or newest winter fashion seems so inconsequential. I have a long “To Do” list, but I couldn’t care less. So I return to my “what ifs” train of thought, yet keep it light so I don’t become a bawling idiot in the radiology waiting room. If I were given bad news (let’s keep it vague), what would I do? I started a list:

  • take the kids to Disney World
  • go on a Mediterranean Cruise
  • go to California – sit at Laguna Beach listening to the waves
  • enjoy my family every moment I can
  • write a book
  • visit relatives in other parts of the country
  • go to New York City

I really got into my list. I almost forgot about the radioactive tracer substance flowing through my body, finding its way into my bones. Eventually, the three hours passed, and it was time for the bone scan. Then the waiting game continued. Waiting for results is always the hardest part.

I would see my oncologist the next day to get the results. Oh, I was so relieved to hear the bone scan showed no sign of metastatic cancer. Thank God! I started calling my loved ones, and I know they were as relieved as I was. I hadn’t told them my worst fears; I didn’t need everyone in a panic. The reality is that I will live the rest of my life with periodic “scares” like this. When you’re a cancer survivor, the first step is always to rule out cancer. Most people with a new case of persistent lower back pain would probably go to their chiropractor first. As a cancer survivor, my first step was to have a bone scan.

But today’s not the day to dwell on that. I feel on top of the world! When I’m talking to my sister-in-law who lives in California, I tell her about my list and that she made it on the list. She says, “Why don’t you come for a visit?”

That’s a good question. How absurd to say, “But I got good news. The cancer has not returned.” I told her I’d think about it. For several days, I thought a lot about my list. Was it the “I’m dying” list? That’s exactly what it was as I wrote it. But shouldn’t it be the “I’m living” list?

I started thinking about how amazing it would be to sit at Laguna Beach and celebrate the fact that I am living. Oh, I could come up with an even longer list of reasons I should stay home, work more, focus on my “To Do’s.” But what fun is that? The work and the “To Do’s” will always be there. It’s a choice as to how I want to live my life. And I’m choosing to enjoy my life.

I went to California to visit my sister- in-law a few weeks later. We went to the ocean several times. I soaked in Laguna Beach – and it was spectacular. Next stop … Disney World with the family.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2008.