“My Voice” by Kristin McQueen

Kristin McQueen - 'Survivor'

My journey has been more of a roller coaster than I ever imagined.  On June 27, 2003, metastatic thyroid cancer stormed into my life.   It is still so fresh in my mind that I could give you a play by play of that day, down to the detail of what I was wearing and where I sat in the doctor’s office.  At the same time it feels like I’ve been dealing with it forever as I can’t really remember the last time I felt healthy for a good stretch of time.  It’s been surgeries, complications, recurrences, more treatment, more complications, and more surgeries.

I’ve been labeled a survivor and still am not sure of how I feel about that term since I think that everyone gets stuck with some raw deals in life, so cancer is no different.   But when it comes to cancer, I don’t think the term “survivor” has anything to do with physical presence on Earth.  I know quite a few people with cancer who are no longer here and I wouldn’t call them anything but survivors.  To me a survivor embraces what is in front of them with their entire being.  That means feeling all the good and bad because we’re not human if we ignore the bad.  However, that does not mean dwelling on the negative.  My pity parties are not allowed to last more than one day.  A survivor just accepts the added challenges and finds a way to do what they love despite them.  It’s about not letting the disease invade your spirit.  A survivor makes the best choices for themselves and their quality of life.  I don’t think people that refuse treatment are any less of a survivor.  They choose what is best for them and sometimes that is to die on their own terms instead of on cancer’s agenda.  Taking charge of your life is being a survivor.

This year on my 6-year “cancerversary” I wrote a letter to cancer and gave it a piece of my mind.

Dear Cancer:
You are a sneaky little jerk.  You thought you could pick on someone younger because you thought they wouldn’t find you.  Ha!  I felt you as you invaded my neck and made yourself at home.  You thought you were so clever, and yeah, you snuck past the three doctors that over-looked you, but I knew you were there.   You shook up my world when I was only 24, but I shook back and got my priorities in check.  You kept growing, so I had you cut out.  You thought you were smart and came back, so I had you cut out again.  You got mad and took my voice.  I spoke less and listened more.  You made it hard for me to breathe when I exercise.  I slowed down and enjoyed the scenery.  You see a trend here??  You can try to keep taking, but I won’t let you steal my joy.  I nuked you and you rebelled and took my taste buds.  So I created a new menu of crazy foods.  You hid some cells and came out firing again so I hit you back with a much larger radioactive bomb.  Boy that pissed you off and you created your partner in crime, Stabby Joe (http://www.neurosurgerytoday.org/what/patient_e/trigeminal.asp).  I didn’t know pain until he came along.  You thought you knocked me out with this searing pain, and yes you knocked me down, but not out.  I had my head cut open to kill you.  You dodged that bullet, but I ran a marathon 2 weeks later just to spite you.  I opened my head again to kill you and you rebelled even worse.  You took away my hearing on one side.  Now I focus and listen more intently.  You ganged up on me and stacked Stabby Joe and Mr. Vertigo against me.  You made my world spin.  You laughed at me and made it extremely difficult to do the most mundane things.  I laughed back and completed an Ironman.  You kept picking on me so I opened my head some more to try and kill you.  You messed up my eye and took away my ability to chew normally.  So now I’m better about wearing sunglasses and I take smaller bites when I eat.  See, I told you I will always one up you.  You test my friendships.  You make it hard for me to have a normal social life.  You take all of my money.  You withhold restful sleep.  You think your team is strong.  I’ll admit, you put up a good fight, but I put up a better one.  You think you can keep taking.   I think not.  I will conquer you and someday I will have a day without this awful pain you have created.  Since you barged in I’ve been cut open 9 times and nuked twice and you have scarred my body in many ways.  So now I embrace my body for what it’s capable of, not what it looks like.  I’ve taken every punch you’ve thrown and I’m still standing.  I try not to dwell on what you’ve taken from me and instead figure out how to keep doing what I love despite the challenges you’ve put in front of me.   My best revenge is living my life.  I don’t appreciate how you’ve tried to take over my body for the past 6 years.  So guess what?  You’ve met your match.  I may lose a few rounds, but I never lose a smackdown.   I will always one up you.  I’ve got a whole army of pissed off people behind me.  We’re smacking back at you and we will win.  So in case you didn’t get the memo, suck it cancer!  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/mcqueen