Fighting Cancer with Support
by Traci Clancy
In September 2008, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. As I waited in the radiologist’s office for the results of my biopsy, my husband, John, and I were confident that the tests would come back negative. The statistics were on my side: no one in my family had had breast cancer, and many of our friends told us that if it hurts, it’s not cancer or if it’s on both breasts, it’s not cancer. Well, it was, and we were shocked.
By the time we left the doctor’s office and got back in the car, my sister had called about four times, asking for the results. When the phone rang again, I finally answered it, but I just couldn’t tell her; it was too hard to say the words, “I have breast cancer.” When John tried to tell her the news, he got choked up as well. Eventually, she realized what had happened at the radiologist’s office.
I was so devastated that I couldn’t face the prospect of sharing the news. The process of calling our families was exhausting. Each phone call drudged up the same feelings over and over again and drained us.
After making some of the worst phone calls of our lives, John and I cocooned ourselves in our home, deciding how to accept and face the reality that our lives were forever changed by the ugliness of cancer.
The next night, our friends Margie and Bill called, asking if we wanted to have dinner. We decided to break out of our isolation. The decision to stay connected to our family and friends was the best medicine we could have taken. Over a game of cards, I realized that I could relax all four of us by making fun of my situation.
When Bill trumped me, I looked at him and thought, I can make fun of this right now and set the path of how we’re going to deal with this. So I whined, “I have cancer!” Bill said immediately, “Oh God, here she goes!” We all burst out laughing; it was such a relief to not be burdened any more by the gloominess of my diagnosis. Since then, humor and staying connected with family and friends have been the most important parts of my journey to overcome cancer.
The next morning I began to reach out to my wide circle of family and friends that was spread across the country. I still didn’t want to repeat myself over and over again on the phone, so I enlisted a friend to search the Internet for an easy way to update everyone with information. CaringBridge, a nonprofit that provides free websites that connect families and friends to share information, love, and support during a serious health event, was the answer.
Not only was I able to easily update everyone on my website, but journaling also became a cathartic experience for me. I am able to vent, or share scared feelings, or give immediate results when everyone is waiting to cheer me on and to give me support.
Connecting through my website helped me through my highs and my lows. Once, when the scans from my chemotherapy were clear, I called my sister and had her update my site with the good news. By the time I got home, I had over 20 excited messages from my family and friends who were celebrating with me.
Another time, when my blood levels were dangerously low, I wrote about my fears, and soon I had over 15 supportive messages from people who had had transfusions. I went to bed that night more relaxed than I would have without that support.
Chemotherapy and radiation were not easy, but I was able to keep up my spirits throughout the process because I remained connected to my family and friends. The messages of love and support that they sent me through my website made me feel like someone was constantly with me. They were always telling me how strong I was, and it made me feel like I could beat the cancer.
If you take anything away from reading my story, please remember this: keep laughing and stay connected to your family and friends. They are your lifeline. Their support and encouragement can help you fight your battle against cancer. My journey would have been completely different without my strong, easy-to-reach support network.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Traci Clancy was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2008. She finished radiation treatments in July 2009.
For more information about CaringBridge, visit www.caringbridge.org.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2011.