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I Had the Good Kind of Cancer

When Lisha Perry Fink was told she had cancer – a “good” cancer – all she asked God for was to grow old. We think, nine years later, that the name of her blog, The Lucky Mom, is perfect. October can be overwhelming with breast cancer awareness messages, but we think this personal story is one of the small moments that should be read.

 

I studied the painting on the wall of the cold exam room. A jazz musician playing a shiny saxophone. I’d seen it before, but never paid it much attention. Today, though, I needed my thoughts to be focused on something other than my reason for this visit.

My mind flashed back to a day nine years ago. I sat in the same room, paying no attention to the artwork. Probably planning the rest of my afternoon. Not knowing what would come next.

cancer-diagnosis

Waiting.

That day, when the doctor entered the room with a serious face, I didn’t notice. When she sat across from me, I thought nothing of it. Not until she spoke the word “cancer” did I have the faintest idea there was anything wrong.

“But this is the good kind of cancer,” she said in response to my shocked expression. I had no concept of good or bad at that moment. All I heard was “cancer.”

She said a few things I don’t remember. The words “surgeon” and “pathology” were the only ones that stuck. Her assistant would call me with more details. I figured I would ask questions then.

I just wanted to leave.

In the stillness of my car I cried. “Good cancer,” she said. I’ll focus on that. She didn’t have a sense of urgency getting me to the surgeon. That was another good sign. I’ve heard stories of people being sent straight to the hospital. I was going to wait for a phone call. I tried to convince myself that it really was “good.”

I don’t remember how long I sat there. My husband was out-of-town, so I picked up the phone and called one of my nurse friends. She repeated what the doctor said, that it was the good kind of cancer, and that I was going to be OK. But isn’t that what anyone would say to a sobbing friend?

My mind raced through so many different scenarios. What would happen to my four-year old son if I died before he grew up? He didn’t yet know what cancer was, so he wouldn’t understand what was happening. But at ten and thirteen, my other boys would. I would have to hold myself together, even though what I wanted to do was to curl up in a ball and cry.

“Please, God, let this be a mistake,” was the first stage of processing the news. But my conscience intervened. “Lisha, people get cancer diagnoses every day. Why should you be spared?”

“Then please, God, don’t let it be bad. No chemo, no disfiguring scars on my face.” My conscience again piped in. “Lisha, people have to go through chemo every day. Why should you be different? As for scars, vanity has no place here. This is about your life.”

I hung my head a little lower.

“Then God, just please don’t let me die. I want to grow old. I want to grow old with my husband, watching our sons grow up, playing with the grandchildren I dream about.”

I decided at that moment that I would not ask God for terms. I would pray to grow old. An old woman with scars to tell her tale.

My mind returned to the present as I heard footsteps approaching. I had time for one quick prayer before the doctor entered the room to deliver the results of yet another biopsy.

No terms this time. No conditions. Just please, God, let me grow old.

Lisha Perry Fink

Lisha began her writing career in New Orleans in the 1980s, when she entered the glamorous world of writing corporate newsletters and ad copy. Her words – which have appeared on everything from utility bill stuffers to beer bottle labels and annual reports – finally found a home in 2010 when she launched her first blog, The Lucky Mom. Today she chronicles her experiences on The Lucky Mom's successor, LishaWrites.com. She is currently writing her first novel.

Lisha Perry Fink

Lisha began her writing career in New Orleans in the 1980s, when she entered the glamorous world of writing corporate newsletters and ad copy. Her words – which have appeared on everything from utility bill stuffers to beer bottle labels and annual reports – finally found a home in 2010 when she launched her first blog, The Lucky Mom. Today she chronicles her experiences on The Lucky Mom's successor, LishaWrites.com. She is currently writing her first novel.

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Mo at Mocadeaux

Friday 3rd of October 2014

When I was diagnosed with DCIS in 2012 I was told that if you had to choose one kind of breast cancer to get that was what you would pick. One doctor compared it to getting a cold. At the time of my diagnosis, my sister was battling metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her brain before it was detected. Compared to that I did feel like I was lucky - I even described mine as "a wee bit of breast cancer". But hearing the word cancer, even if it is the "good kind", changes your life forever. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Lisha Fink

Friday 3rd of October 2014

As I will you, Mo. We're lucky women, aren't we.

Denise Vedros

Thursday 2nd of October 2014

Lisha I had no idea. Glad you are okay. I too was just diagnosed with the "good" form of melanoma. Had surgery last week to remove it and surgery today to repair the nose. But three weeks when I was told I was a basket case. I guess it's part of the processing process.

Lisha Fink

Friday 3rd of October 2014

I wish I'd known then, Denise. I would have been right over with a cup of coffee and comfort. I was a basket case when I was diagnosed, too. I truly believe that's the hardest part. Not knowing. Love to you and yours, my friend.

Barbara Younger

Thursday 2nd of October 2014

I had the good kind of cancer too (although there's still the chance of return). I had early on endometrial. Full hysterectomy but I'm doing well. I get it too, how life suddenly becomes so simple. I blocked out every thing else but getting better!

Lisha Fink

Friday 3rd of October 2014

I'm so glad you're doing well, Claudia. It really does break it down into something simple, doesn't it? What's important becomes clear. Thanks for sharing your story here.

Lisha Fink

Thursday 2nd of October 2014

Thanks, Claudia. Here's to us!

Claudia Schmidt

Thursday 2nd of October 2014

My feelings when I heard that I had breast cancer were very similar - life suddenly became really simple - just let me live long enough to watch my kids grow up. It sure puts life in perspective, doesn't it. Very glad you're thriving 9 years later.

Lisha Fink

Friday 3rd of October 2014

It's a perspective only gained by facing mortality. Here's to us, Claudia.

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