As a 27-year-old colon cancer survivor, Sam often spends time wondering what her like would be like if she never had cancer and developed Lynch syndrome.
It's been five years since I had my bowel removed due to colon cancer, and I'm still dealing with the emotional effects of it. I suppose I've had a long time to come to terms with the fact that it even happened to begin with, but I'm also trying to deal with the fact that I have Lynch syndrome, a hereditary condition which increases the risk of getting certain types of cancer. So not only has it been difficult to come to terms with what happened when I was 22, but it has also been difficult to come to terms with the possibility that it will happen again.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about what my life would be like without cancer...
I wouldn't be paranoid about every lump or bump that may feel a tiny bit different. I wouldn't have annual screenings, acting as a constant reminder that each year that my life may change again, in an instant, if the cancer comes back. My life wouldn't be filled with triggers – things that remind of being in the hospital, surgery, the whole thing in general. I wouldn't have terrifying flashbacks.
I wouldn't feel pressured to be so aware of and responsible for my body. Lynch syndrome causes me to half-expect cancer to happen again – but that means if it does happen and I don't notice it early enough, it will be my fault because I should have seen it coming. At the same time, it feels like it could easily happen again without me knowing because I have no control over it — it's in my genetics. If my life had no cancer, I wouldn't struggle with the pressure of having no control whatsoever, but at the same time feeling completely responsible.
But then I think about how if I never had cancer, my life wouldn't be filled with the gratitude
I feel for the very simple things - just for having my partner with me and for both of us being healthy. But to mention the sense of urgency I feel more than ever to DO things. "One day" isn't good enough anymore. If I don't make solid plans to do things, they are just pie-in-the-sky dreams. If I leave it too late to travel to the places I want to see and do the things I want to do, it might be too late. And if I didn't have cancer, I wouldn't be so vigilant with my body and wouldn't have learned how to listen to myself so well.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that anything about getting cancer was good, but I guess I could say I'm proud of the outlook on life that it brought me. Now, more than ever, I'm determined to live...and do anything I want to do. I just need to focus on the positive side of things rather than all the negative things. It's not easy. But I'm trying, and that takes a lot of energy. I have a lot of respect for everyone else who is trying, too.
What are the positive side effects of cancer that you are grateful for? Let us know in the comments below