“My Voice” by Janis Fitzgerald

Janis Fitzgerald - 'Survivor'

At the height of a promising career, two lovely twin boys, a happy marriage and lovely new dream home I was diagnosed with Stage IIIC Breast Cancer at the age of 40. I had always thought I lead the ‘good’ life to lower my risk. I practiced everything the advocates told me to.  I prayed and believed in G*d.  It didn’t matter. I have learned that cancer happens, to anyone, at any age, at anytime.

At age 43 I found out the cancer had returned and it was growing.  In my bones and in my lungs, I am now a Stage IV, I am terminal.
The question that I have asked myself is the fact that I will never be cured of cancer negates me from being a survivor? I went from being a 3 year BC survivor to living terminal.  That sounds harsh doesn’t it?
When you get a cancer diagnosis, it takes you down to your knees. Eventually, you get back up. After tests, scans, radiation, surgery and chemo you can call yourself a survivor. I survived cancer, I survived the treatment.  But wait, the cancer wasn’t done! I still have to have the tests, scans, radiation, surgery and chemo and I am not going to survive cancer.

I am surviving the treatments for my cancer. I am surviving the pain knowing that I will die younger than I anticipated and leaving my 8-year old twins boys without a mother. I am surviving endless pokes, chemo poisons, hair-loss, radiation burns and weight-gains. I am surviving living with depression, fear, anxiety, sleeplessness and extreme fatigue.

For me, being a survivor is walking into that cancer clinic to receive chemo that may or may not work to stop the cancer from growing and still in a few days know that I will get sick from the treatment and suffer horrendous side effects.   I am surviving because I know my disease, I know how it is cruel and relentless and I know that I have to be my best advocate to continually survive the process. I do all this so that I can survive one more day to experience life.

I hate what cancer and its treatments have done to me, but I press on. This is what being a survivor is to me. One day I will need to make the decision to stop treatment and to stop being a survivor. Then what will I be?

Janis Fitzgerald
Age 44, BC Survivor Stage IV