Elana Waldman: What inspired me to continue blogging

How a young girl inspired me to continue this blog

A woman typing on a computer with papers

Photo: Masterfile

Hello all,

Let me start by saying that I am doing OK. I am still in treatment – weekly taxol and avastin every third week. I am tolerating the treatment fairly well although was recently sick. I’m not sure what combination was the virus and what part of it was the cumulative side effects of the drugs making everything more difficult. But, my test results have all been positive so I am happy to continue with this regime.

So, what happened? Well, September and October, Sydney had a lot of time off of school because of religious holidays and PD days and I guess I just fell out of the habit of doing the blogs. Then, I started wondering if I actually wanted to continue doing this blog. I have to be honest, there are times when it can be an intrusion. People reach out to me whom I don’t even know and ask me for answers that I don’t think I have. They want me to comfort them and I truthfully don’t know how. I can only tell them what I’ve been through and that isn’t always comforting for someone who’s been newly diagnosed. Having to tell them that I’ve been in treatment fairly continuously for over seven years, with two surgeries and a coma – not exactly uplifting stuff.

Then, to top it off, several people that I know who had cancer died. I felt a little beat up. I felt a little discouraged. Is my positive disposition helpful or denial? People say I am an inspiration because of how I handle my disease. I truthfully still don’t know what that means. I live my life and do what I need to do for my family and try to enjoy the life that I have, for however long I have.

So, why do the blog? Where is my inspiration? It came a couple of weeks ago. I was talking with Sydney and one of her friends at a restaurant one day. The topic of the Terry Fox run came up and I said that one of our friends ran in my honour at his school and how amazed I was that he did that for me. Sydney’s friend asked why he ran in my honour. I hadn’t thought about the fact that she might not know that I had cancer because it’s such a daily fact in our lives. But, she didn’t.

So, I looked at her parents and felt horribly for having started this conversation and being the cause of a conversation that they may not have wanted to have with their daughter at this point. I explained that I did have cancer and that I had been diagnosed over seven years ago. I told her that I got medicine for the cancer and that I was able to do most things but that I was very tired and sometimes felt a little sick. She then said that all she knew about cancer was that Terry Fox had lost his leg, ran for money and then died from cancer. Scary story. I tried to lighten things up – as I do – but I felt really badly about sharing some harsh reality with an 8 year old who didn’t need to know about these things.

Later that day, I got an email from the girl’s mother and she said, “Just wanted to pass on two comments from my daughter. One – ‘I am not afraid of people with cancer anymore’ – and two – ‘I didn’t know someone can look so good with cancer’.”

I decided to continue with the blog. First, I don’t want people to be afraid of cancer. Yes, it can be a deadly disease but it can also be a chronic illness that you can live with. Second, it doesn’t have to overtake your life just because you receive a cancer diagnosis. It becomes a part of your life for sure, but it doesn’t have to be the defining part of your life. Obviously there are times when it is – in the heart of treatment, when you have a surgery, when you are first diagnosed – but over time, it becomes another part of your life to juggle, along with your other responsibilities. It informs certain decisions you make, but not everything. Times are changing, medicine is changing, research is advancing and the face of cancer is changing.

I never wanted to be the face of cancer. I never asked to be the spokesperson. But, if I can help people be less afraid, if I can help people treat those with cancer in a normal fashion and not be afraid of saying the wrong thing and treating us in whispers and too delicately, then I am happy to have that intrusion in my life. It is well worth it. I am not cancer and it doesn’t define me. It is definitely a big part of my life but it is not in my top five words if I would be asked to describe myself. That’s what I want people to see and understand. That’s what this blog is about. That is why I will continue to put myself out there no matter how uncomfortable it may be at times to be the centre of attention. We are just people who want to be treated as people, not as a disease.

I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a lawyer, a confidante. I am happy with my life, I am optimistic, introspective, honest to a fault and fiercely loyal. I can be obnoxious, outgoing, funny, quiet, judgmental, trustworthy and loving. And I happen to have cancer. I also happen to come from Montreal, live separated from half of my family as a result, am divorced, have some housing and financial issues and lost some people who were very close to me. All factors that have shaped who I am today. Not one of whom defines me on its own.

To read all of Elana Waldman’s blog click here.