A Cancer Survivor Learns to Play the Whole Game

[NCSD guest blog post by Melanie Nix]

Melanie A Nix

One of the most important lessons I learned from my cancer journey is to play the whole game.  I love the competition of sports and I especially love the comeback stories; learning about or following players who suffer a seeming career-ending injury to not only work their way back to an active life, but play again at the highest levels of their game.  I’ve seen and heard about games won or lost within the last seconds, turning underdogs into champions.  More than the games, I love the stories of triumph.

When I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (an aggressive breast cancer subtype that doesn’t yet have a targeted treatment), I was a 38-year-old married mother of a four-year-old son and a 19-month-old daughter.  For months after my diagnosis, I had to embrace the fact that my life had changed forever.  After I had absorbed information about how the months ahead of me would be filled with multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and countless physical, emotional, and social side effects, it wasn’t until I began having surgeries and undergoing chemotherapy that I fully grasped the depth of the physical, emotional, and social toll that treatment would take on me.

I felt like I was experiencing a life eclipse.  The sun had gone out of my life and I sat in a pit of darkness and despair.  Before staging and prognosis and after the debilitating treatment began, by my own assessment, I was officially out of the game of life.  Sidelined by cancer. 

After a mastectomy and the first chemotherapy treatment, an extremely competitive and hard won Super Bowl victory provided a much-needed inspiration.  A game-winning speech compelled me to make the decision that no matter where I was in my game of life, I was jumping back in and I was going to play until the whistle blows, until the very end.  I was going to train hard, play hard, and get back in the game.  And, that’s what I’ve been doing.

Back in the game.  Nausea, pain, post-surgery pain, chemo brain. Back in the game.  Hair loss, weight loss, family lost, friends lost.  Small, but mighty support team.  Back in the game. Down and out, cry through the night, cry through the day.  Back in the game.  Why God? It’s not fair.  Back in the game.

Minute by minute.  Hour by hour.  Day by day.  Back in the game.

Chemo fatigue.  Can’t walk a city block.  Back in the game.  A half marathon, two Cherry Blossom Ten Mile runs, five consecutive Army Ten-Miler races.  Post cancer distance runner.  Back in the game. 

Mommy can’t get out of bed.  Mommy’s fragile and too tired to play.  Soccer coach, lacrosse mom, theater mom.  Beach day swimming alongside my kids.  Back in the game.  

Medical debt.  Job layoff.  New career.  Transformational speaker, writer, consultant.  Back in the game.

Ten years after my diagnosis, I have no idea what quarter I’m in, but I won’t stop training and won’t stop playing.  We have different diagnoses and have different prognoses.  But as survivors, what we all have is this moment in time to play the game.  I keep playing minute by minute.  Hour by hour, I’m living my fabulous comeback story.  I pray that National Cancer Survivors Day reminds us all of our strength, our ability to fight, face our fears and when sidelined by cancer to get back in and play the whole game.  I look forward to hearing your fabulous comeback story.  

Melanie is a determined combatant who provides actionable lessons for winning in the face of insurmountable odds.  Lauded for her presentations, her keynote addresses, trainings and videos have buoyed countless lives.  After her cataclysmic events, her pen and her pad paved a road to healing as she blogged and penned her manifesto, Soul of a Survivor.  Follow Melanie on Instagram @MelanieANix and on Twitter @MelanieANix.

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