Monday, April 03, 2006
The Who of What?
This morning I agreed to be interviewed for a book dealing with life after a chronic or life-threatening illness. When the author first contacted me, I was interested in the topic. There are currently 10,000,000 cancer survivors living in the United States alone. Medically we are making advances, but we are leaving a large number of people in this weird limbo ill-equipped to maneuver the course. It's a topic that needs to be discussed.

The author was kind and friendly and agreed to send me a copy of the first chapter so I got a flavor of the book. When I read it, I wondered why I agreed to this interview. Her focus for this book is to discover the gifts of illness. Even typing the "gifts of illness" makes my stomach turn a bit. Where is the gift in all this? Is it the constant looking over my shoulder? Is it the paranoia that each ache, pain, or discomfort is something more than it seems? Is it the lymphadema? HMO headaches? Perhaps it is the aching scars? And if there is truly a gift, where is the receipt because I want my money back or at least an exchange. This is what came to mind as I read the first chapter.

But I agreed to the interview and I am nothing if not responsible. The author, Jill, called me and we began talking. She was courteous, warm, and compassionate and had her interview nicely organized. As we began to talk about the various aspects of my experience, I started to remember things and put things in perspective a bit. Her last question was about if I had the chance to go back in time and choose to go forward from the point of diagnosis not having had cancer or simply proceed as my life had unbfolded. I thought long and hard about this because it has not been easy lately and the challenges, long term side-effects from treatment, and lingering issues have provoked anger and frustration. My gut instinct was to say give me the option with no cancer.

But as our conversation evolved I realized that the cancer experience can focus or sharpen your perspective on what is truly important in life. While I can't say that I learned anything I wouldn't have learned over time, I can feel a different passion for a different kind of living. While I would never say that cancer changed me for the better, I simply made the best of it. My answer, surprisingly, was to let my life unfold as it had.

But it's still not a gift.

*The book will be out the spring of '07.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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