I’m Proud to Be a Cancer Survivor

Elise and her husband

[Guest Post by Elise Silverfield May]

Immediately after giving birth to my son, I heard the words no one ever wants to hear, “You have cancer.” To be more specific, I was told I had stage IIIB Hodgkin lymphoma.  My young, naive, 27-year-old self had never heard of this disease nor did I know it was cancer. Thus began my relationship with the dreaded “C.”

Instead of my first year of motherhood being filled with play dates and park visits, I was busy navigating chemotherapy treatments and doctor appointments. Thankfully after eight months of treatments, I was declared in remission. I wish that is where my relationship with cancer ended, but this disease was not ready to just walk away. 

My life was forever changed as I suddenly worried about everything. If had a headache, it must be a brain tumor. If my son got a cough, it must be lung cancer. My active cancer was gone, but left in its place was a constant fear about it returning. My life continued, but the frequent CT scans and lab tests were a constant reminder of how cancer changed me. 

Being sick taught me to appreciate every single day and take nothing for granted. I can honestly say that is how I have lived my life since the fateful day I received my diagnosis. I have loved being a mom and watching my son grow up. It was my priority to be there for every school event, activity, and everything that was important to my child. I adore my family and friends and never pass up an opportunity to tell them how much I love them. I have tried to do all the right things because bad things don’t happen to good people, right?

Fast forward 13 years to age 40 and my worst fear came true. I was again told I had cancer. This time, it was stage I colon cancer. While I always worried about this happening, there was almost a sense of relief when it finally did. I could now stop fearing a recurrence and start fighting. After having surgery to remove a large part of my colon, I was again deemed in remission. 

After my second battle, I no longer had the constant fear that I would get sick again. The cancer had come back and I had beat it…again. I felt like I was finally able to breathe a bit easier. Life continued and things were good until they weren’t.

Ten years to the month of my second diagnosis, my husband was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma with tumors in his brain and lungs. I could not believe this was happening to us yet again. My husband was the picture of health and was the last person I ever thought would get cancer. We quickly entered a world of brain surgery, radiation, and immunotherapy. Not only did we share a fantastic love and life, but my husband and I now shared an oncologist. 

Sadly, my amazing husband lost his battle after a courageous 10-month fight. It never crossed my mind that he would not beat this just as I had. There has been quite a bit of survivor’s guilt on my part. Why was I able to get well, and he was not? It is a tough question for which there is no answer. I am now here –– a 51-year-old widow mourning everything cancer has taken from my family. 

There is no doubt cancer is a monster, but the best way I can get back at it is to live a happy and healthy life. I will wear a badge of pride for both my husband and me. He was a formidable opponent and   survivor for ten months, while I have years under my belt. I will continue to fight the beast as one more way to honor my husband.

Elise Silverfield May lives in Dallas, Texas. While pregnant with her son, Elise developed Hodgkin lymphoma. Thirteen years later, at age 41, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. She is a published writer, with articles appearing in Coping with Cancer magazine and on the AOL and Yahoo websites. She believes everyone becomes a survivor from the moment they are diagnosed and that it’s important to draw strength from one another.

Elise is part of the Official NCSD Speakers Bureau Roster. To access the Roster, register your event today.

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