Lila Herod: Cancer teaches that life is about love
October 9, 2016
The silence was deafening as my husband and I drove home from the University of Colorado Anschutz Breast Cancer Clinic in November of 2011. We were in shock and speechless as we contemplated the difficult road ahead of us. I had officially been given a breast cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, we noticed that Martina's McBride's song, "I'm Gonna Love You Through It," had started playing in the background. The lyrics resonated deeply within both of us as she sang, "She dropped the phone and burst into tears, the doctor just confirmed her fears."
Waiting for a diagnosis can take weeks because of the many different kinds of tests that are required in order to receive a definitive diagnosis. It literally felt like a lifetime had passed while waiting for the results. Every hour, every day had been anxiety-ridden and surreal. It was extremely overwhelming when my team of oncologists issued an official diagnosis: Invasive ductal carcinoma, stage III- HER2 +. I listened intently as the doctor explained my specific type of cancer as well as my detailed treatment plan, which involved six months of chemotherapy, a radical mastectomy, seven weeks of radiation and monthly immune therapy infusions for the entire year.
I was terrified of the unknown possibilities, and my mind tormented me with "what if" scenarios. I agonized over how I could possibly stay strong for my family and friends. I will never forget a lunch date when I broke the news to my closest friends. We cried together and they encouraged me with their love and support. I then opened my fortune cookie and the message said, "Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death." Throughout my cancer fight, I discovered my greatest enemy was myself, for my mind was constantly flooded with worries and fears. Even after four years in remission, I still experience difficulty keeping my thoughts in line!
Cancer teaches you about love. Love is revealed just as described in the lyrics from Martina's song,"When you're weak, I'll be strong. When you let go, I'll hold on. When you need to cry, I swear that I'll be there to dry your eyes. When you feel lost and scared to death, like you can't take one more step, Just take my hand, together we can do it…I'm gonna love you through it."
Cancer is a painful, exhausting experience, but it is even more devastating to watch someone you love battle against it. The fight is real, and it does not stop until the very end. It stings when I think of all the friends I know who lost their own fight with cancer… Tony, Faye, Oveta, Josie, Mary Bea and Melanie. Yet when I think of their lives and their families, I smile brighter. There was no time wasted here, for they lived, loved and were loved in return!
There is nothing that matters more than the friends and family who share this life with you. Life is not about your physical appearance or the things you own. Life is about love.
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Cancer has changed me on the inside as well as the outside. My body has changed. I have the scars, and I continue to struggle with fatigue and weight gain. And my soul, it has changed too. I'm filled with happiness and gratitude for all of the blessings in my life. My life is a good life. A really good life!