“I Witnessed a Cancer Diagnosis” Club

Five years ago I accompanied my aunt to her visit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she received her sentence to battle with ovarian cancer. It was the day which sent the trajectory of her life in an altogether different plight. Forced to stare at mortality by this invisible killer, she embarked on the fight of her life.

Our little family could only witness as she struggled, drowning in the middle of the ocean. Cancer alienates its victim no matter how much support surrounds them because while emotional baggage can be shared, only a cancer patient is physically being debilitated, blow by blow, from the inside out.

After the initial diagnosis, I flooded my brain with medical information but as the months went on, treatments consumed her days, buying them from the chemical demons. She didn’t want to see anyone; she always felt awful. Her hair fell out, it grew back, she went into remission, cancer came back. More chemo, more remission, more cancer.

Along with its massive power to suffocate the organs, cancer penetrates the mind, and shakes it around like a snow globe, forcing your entire world off balance. It will force you to cling to invisible threads of hope and pray to any Gods who would listen while simultaneously doubting anything and everything. As a witness, you are helpless, guilty, and scared. Particularly when it’s a family member; especially if it’s genetic.

I wrote 4,000 words in a journal about the day my aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer but yesterday after I wrote my first 100-word story, I wanted to continue the challenge. I gave myself 100 words to describe March 16, 2011.

An MRI revealed a large mass around her uterus. My aunt’s doctor advised an urgent appointment with an oncologist. We went to the best, Memorial Sloan Kettering. Long, clinical hallways; strong, confident hands; soft voices, and painful exams welcomed us.

Harsh diagnosis: Stage 3C Ovarian cancer. Harsher treatment: radical hysterectomy, debulking surgery, chemotherapy. “I’ll do anything they tell me to do,” she said lifelessly, yet hopefully.

We scheduled the surgery; feigning control without having any. Moving like puppets, we signed and initialed, dotted with our tears. “Why did this happen to me?” she asked. “No one knows.” the doctor answered.

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