Isn’t amazing how people think that once you have beaten cancer that you are done with it? They need to realize that it is never over. We feel the aftereffects for years. The physical and mental scars are still there. Some may be invisible to your friends, but survivors struggle every day with them. I put on a good face for all, but behind the smile, the humor and the laughter is a guy who is still hurting. I put on a brave face every morning, and leave my apartment to conquer the world!
I only once thought of suicide, but I do understand why others do: They want the pain to end. I came close in December 2015, but that was due to the meds the doctor had me taking. It was one of the darkest moments in my life. The AR-15 on the glass coffee table and one bullet next to it. I stared at them for a long time, struggling with my demons. Then a voice came and said, “ENOUGH! YOU LOVE LIFE. THIS ISN’T YOU.” I threw out the medicine and put the assault rifle away. I finally got rid of the weapon a few months ago, but kept the bullet as a reminder.
Now I push through the pain by writing about it, by using this as my forum to enlighten people on many things. I use humor and I love doing it. Laughter is the best medicine, right? Also, I now attend church and have a good relationship with God, thanks to my new friends at Crossroads.
I think all of us need to find that one thing that makes us feel alive inside. It could be your children, your family, your friends. Whoever or whatever it is, find it! Use it! What makes me feel alive and loving life are music and food! Get me in the kitchen and I’m on Cloud Nine, listening to great music and cooking up an amazing Italian dinner for my friends. Seeing friends enjoy a good Italian dinner, sitting around laughing and telling stories — that, my friend, is amazing. I can do that every day and hope soon to be doing just that every month. It is my therapy. And, in the near future, I will have my very own coffee bar. I hope to see everyone toward the end of 2017.
So, back to my opening question: Is cancer ever really over? Really? For the first five years, survivors visit their oncologists once every six months, then just annually. Most, if not all, of us have to take hormonal drugs to keep the cancer away, and often deal with their detrimental side effects. Physically, our bodies change, and our mental health suffers. Friends and family have no idea the struggles we go through every day. You try to tell them, but they usually say: “You are done. You’ve beaten cancer. Get on with your life!” Sometimes, I just want to hit back like Superman and use my deadly X-ray vision to melt their face. Instead, I just nod my head and whisper under my breath, “chooch.” (That’s salty Italian slang for a jackass.)
I even get the comment about God. “If you believe in God, your fears are taken care of.” Well, I do believe in God. I know He has my back! But the fear is still there. I have addressed this in other articles: The fear is real. I know people who have been in remission for more than 20 years, mostly women. But I do know one male breast cancer survivor who has been in remission for 23 years. That makes me feel good. But that is one out of so many.
Still, I believe in hope: The word is so very powerful! I hope one day that all cancer is eradicated from this planet. I hope everyone finds their peace.
So, when your friends or family or a virtual stranger says to you, “Get over it!” just smile and pray for their souls. They will never understand unless it happens to them. That is the truth. But there is hope for them, and for you. If you need help, please go to the American Cancer Society in your area.
[My name is Steve Del Gardo. Breast Cancer Survivor. Bad-Ass Warrior of Life! Read my story at www.protectthepecs.org]
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