"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing." -William Butler Yeats, Irish poet
Today marks the one year anniversary since my surgery and official ovarian cancer diagnosis. It also happens to be St. Patrick's day. As my own ironic "Luck of the Irish" would have it, I got to hear the words "It was cancer" as a diagnosis on St. Patrick's day. Allthough, truth be told, I *am* lucky. Well, at least as lucky as a woman who had just been diagnosed with cancer can be.
First, here are some facts. Ovarian cancer is referred to as "The Silent Killer". The symptoms are often incredibly subtle (bloating, frequent urination, fatigue) and the 5 year survival statistics for women who are diagnosed are incredibly grim (only 15% of patients are diagnosed in early stages. The overall 5 year survival rate is 44%. Survival rates vary depending on the stage of diagnosis). There are no tests that can accurately detect it, including the pap. The only way to diagnose ovarian cancer is through invasive surgery. In most cases, women and doctors don't catch it until it is in it's advanced stages- after the disease has spread like a dandelion from the ovaries throughout the body cavity. Ovarian cancer is the calculating, sociopathic, Jack the Ripper of cancers. It is a maniacal lady killer.
Fortunately for me, I got my ass to very smart doctors who listened to me, all in time for them to remove the ticking time bomb that was thriving in my nether regions. I am still in the midst of processing all of this-the hardest era of my life, thus far. Was I lucky to get ovarian cancer? Hell no. Am I lucky to have caught it in enough time for it not to have spread to vital organs? Hell YES. I have the choice to look at the glass as half empty or half full. I prefer half full, on the rocks, with a splash of Jameson whiskey.
Some define the term "Luck of the Irish" as not luck at all, but more of an attitude- a positive look at a bad situation. This is the definition that resonates with me. Sometimes it manifests itself as the jokes I crack about my cancer diagnosis (I now sarcastically refer to the little annoyances in life as "WORSE THAN CHEMO!". What can I say? Sometimes I go dark.). Sometimes it manifested as the daily gratitude list that I'd text to my good friend Heather from my chemo chair. Sometimes it manifests as a desire to connect with and help other friends and family pull through their own losses and heartaches.
This is not to say that I don't have my meltdowns over the loss and anger I've felt and experienced. I've had PLENTY of them. Too many to count at this point. But, without denying that hearing "It was cancer and you'll need to go through aggressive chemo" is indeed a bad situation, I'm committed to always at least *try* to look for the positive spin when shit hits the fan. In other words, "When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade!". A sense of humor and positive perspective has helped me cope and grow immensely over the past year. It has allowed me to look for opportunities to learn about myself, to contemplate the world, to be vulnerable, to connect, to educate, to grow, to experience happiness and joy and wonder alongside the moments of pain and frustration and fear and anxiety. It has saved me from allowing my brain to plummet into an uncertain, anxious abyss of cancer sadness and camp out there for good.
Growing and cultivating that positive outlook has been my lucky pot of gold this past year. I hope I get to generously share the wealth for many years to come.