A woman tries pulling herself up from underwater

The Cancer Lake

The paddleboat was just big enough to fit me as I paddled to the middle of the lake. I remember leaving shore, friends and family gathered there celebrating my send-off. They cheered and jumped up and down, screaming, “You got this!” as I reached the deepest part of the lake. I was alone on the boat; no one could go any further with me. I did not want to leave the safety of the boat, hell, I did not even want to leave the shore, but I knew the next step I needed to do was get into the lake. So, I stood up tall, balancing myself, drew a long deep breath, and jumped in.

Newly diagnosed

Getting into the water is what it was like when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer. I jumped into this metaphoric lake, full of other cancer patients. We were all together, but yet could not help each other. We did not want to drown. We carefully trod water. Tired. Sick. Barely hanging on. People cheered from the shore, rallying for those in the lake. We all waited for a boat to come to rescue us. Some jumped in, got wet, and a boat came right back for them to take them back to shore. Some stayed a lot longer before their boat finally arrived. When they all reached shore, they were greeted by friends and family, celebrating the success of their time in the lake. They cannot forget about the struggles they endured in the lake, and the lake has changed them forever. They look back at the lake, seeing the others, knowing that some of them will never be rescued. And they are grateful to be on the shore and not one stuck in the middle of the lake.

Living with MBC

After almost nine years of living with metastatic breast cancer, I am still in this figurative lake. I watch others come and go. I do my best to keep living. I do great at treading the water, but sometimes I get so exhausted that I let myself slip right below the water. Because slipping is the only real rest, I get. I do not want to drown, so I try swimming to shore, but the shore only gets farther away, which makes me even more tired.

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There are moments on the lake that the water is choppy, the storms roll in, and I have no idea how I will survive. The rain seems like it will never stop, and I will never know the calmness of the lake again. Then there are moments, on still days, when the sun is shining, and there is a cool breeze where I can float in the lake. I lay back and allow my overworked body to take a long break. I soak up the sun and let the rays of hope fill my soul. They recharge me for the next time the lake is out of control. A vicious hydrologic type of cycle in the lake of cancer that only metastatic patients experience. And I watch . . . from the middle of this lake, feeling forgotten by those onshore, avoided by those who were lucky enough to get out and really only having others in the lake to understand the enormous burden being stuck out there causes.

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