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Survivor since 1995…

It started out as a bump on the rim of my anus. I had no itching or swelling (also a sign of hemorrhoids) or bleeding, but I feared it might be cancer. I had it biopsied immediately… I got it early! When I found out that my anal tumor was malignant, I knew I faced the toughest challenge of my life (I was 47)… I couldn’t quite believe I could die from it, but I knew it was possible. I was determined to beat it and not be miserable… so I chose to continue to smoke through both radiation and chemotherapy treatments in spite of finding out that smoking is one of the primary causes of anal cancer!

My radiation was more brutal than my chemo, because it burned “down there”_ I couldn’t wear underwear or take a shower_ I had special cream_ I had diarrhea_ I had such sporadic nausea that I once threw up on a public bus on an otherwise uneventful day. I was doing radiation as an out-patient while simultaneously doing chemo as an in-patient.

I finally quit smoking in 1999.

In 2002 I had surgery to remove a benign tumor in my thyroid (in the neck). Although the tumor they removed was benign, during the surgery they discovered another tumor which they biopsied. That was malignant, so they subsequently removed that as well. I still have some of the thyroid left, but will have to take supplemental drugs, to augment its reduction, for the rest of my life.

I’ve had no recurrence of cancer since,  so I’m fine for now. I’ve gotten used to the idea that it can come back and I just don’t dwell on it; what it does, it does. I have no control, so why worry? Beating cancer is a personal victory and a realization of your mortality… it also makes you aware of how alone you can be and the importance of community. In my case, the medical team who saw me through treatment were my strength and my physical salvation. As horrible as cancer is, I think it has brought us together, a sort of bond that we have. The survivor project is an opportunity for me to have a voice in an otherwise silent battle!

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