There is always hope.

I know a few people now on their own personal journeys through a health crisis. I hope that they believe me when I say that hope and belief in the future is so important to not just recovery but, happiness as well.

I remember crying in my doctor’s office when I was “staged” as 2a. Cancer staging goes from 0 to 4 and, of course, I was hoping for a 0 or at most a 1.  But, there I was, stage 2a. You can never go back a stage, either. You can only be unfortunate enough to move on to a further stage. It’s just one of those things.  When he told me 2a, I felt like he was telling me I was halfway to an early demise.

I was lucky, though, in my choice of doctors. Well, except for that a-hole that I mentioned in my last blog and that I’ve spent enough time and negative energy on this week so, I won’t mention him again.

Anyway, my beautiful, caring love of an oncologist put it to me this way (and, believe me, this is not an exact quote – it was many years ago – but, it’s close enough that you’ll get the drift of it).

“Nicole, I have had people in my office with a stage 0 cancer who should have gone on to live for many, many years and they don’t survive the year. I also have appointments today with stage 4 cancer patients who have been coming to see me for twenty years and are still going strong. We will do every available treatment there is and then, when you are finished, I want you to go and live.”

Those words were so powerful to me.  They gave me such hope in a desperate, terrifying time.

I also am going to now plead with everyone going through this to stay away from statistics. First of all, you are most likely getting your information off of the internet so, you have no idea where the statistics are coming from, if they are from a reliable source, if they are accurate or if they are up to date.

Here is an example of something that might strike terror into the heart of some poor soul, just back from the doctor’s office, just diagnosed, who has not yet learned that if you go roaming around on the internet looking for things to make you feel better, you will probably end up making yourself feel so much worse.  This is  completely made up example, by the way, and is in no way based on any facts.

“Twenty percent of people diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer will survive longer than five years”

Now, the implication is that the other eighty percent within five years of a cancer diagnosis, no? Ouch.

First of all, this doesn’t touch on various, much important information such as; what was the prior health of the patient before diagnosis, how old is the patient, what is the patient’s family history, do they have the mutant breast cancer gene, what treatment are the receiving, what is their mental state, what is their emotional state, do they have family support? You get the idea.

Second, a statement like this would scare anyone with a cancer diagnosis. Why are we only talking in five-year increments?  Is that the best I can hope for, even if I am in the lucky 20% that should survive, according to the statistic.

It’s nonsense.  This scientific information that you, the lay person, are getting off the internet is meant for scientists, people. It helps them determine treatment, come up with new treatments, etc.  So, leave the statistics, charts and study analysis to them.  If you absolutely need to go online, you are better off in a support group room where you can find people who have similar situations to you and ask them about their personal experience.  Even then, remember that every person and every cancer is different so, if one type of chemotherapy made them sick as a dog, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have the same experience.

The best advice I can give you is this: when you are first diagnosed, with whatever illness it is, go in a dark room, close your eyes and picture a big, bright neon sign (in the color of your choosing – I prefer purple) that says HOPE.

The fact is, if you wake up in the morning and you are breathing, there is hope.

Hope not only for your survival but, for an ability to lead a life with joy in it, regardless of the circumstances.  I have always tried to do this and I do believe it has served me well.

I got this attitude from my mother, who is still going strong after three cancer diagnosis (and a hell of a lot of other crap in between that would bring many people to their knees). She has the best mental attitude of anyone I know. She is so grateful to be alive that she radiates life.

You also need a strong constitution. Not all doctors are as positive and kind as my oncologist.

I went for the genetic testing, to see if we carried the mutated BRCA gene in my family.  If we did, it would mean that I would have a much, much greater chance of developing ovarian cancer and my sisters would have a much greater chance of developing breast cancer than the average woman.

The test, mercifully, came back negative. We were elated. We were relieved. It should have been a wonderful moment.

The geneticist, however, felt it necessary to point out that there are other mutations that could have caused both my mother and I to get breast cancer that may not even have been discovered yet.”

Well, a big Thank You for that!

The bottom line is, my oncologist wanted me tested for the BRCA – it was negative. My sisters are followed as if they are high risk anyway and will continue to be. God only know why both my mother and I got it when there is no other family history. Something environmental, a drug she was put on while pregnant with me, the fact that something like 1 in 8 women who olive on Long Island are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? We will just never know.

I was upset for five minutes, my mother not at all.  We try not to let people who will always find the negative, and feel the need to point it out, affect our lives.

So, my friends, stay positive and focused. Remember to keep the faith and do whatever you have to do to get well, or stay well. Lean on your family and friends and, don’t forget to keep thinking about that light at the end of the tunnel, as cliché as it may sound.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2003. A few months later she got a new puppy.

She named her “Hope”.