From May (when I was first diagnosed) until early August (when I was discharged from the hospital), I was handling the challenges of being a laryngectomee or at least that was my self-assessment.
In fact, I was anxious to start the next phase, which was radiation and chemotherapy, and expressed those thoughts to my doctors. I figured I had made it this far with success, so I could easily conquer the next level.
What an optimistic knucklehead I was - lol! Easy and conquer were not words to describe my behavior. Instead, I acted like a spoiled brat because I had underestimated how dramatic my reaction would be to the procedures.
Actually, the chemo wasn’t bad for me. I was able to handle the needle poking and the 2-hour infusion time without a problem. I used it to respond to emails, write encouraging text messages to others and take highly restful naps.
But radiation was an ordeal for me. Perhaps because I’m claustrophobic, I just couldn’t adjust to the form-fitting facemask that patients are required to wear during the procedure. Also, I just couldn’t seem to relax before the process despite taking anti-anxiety medicine. It often took the technicians several tries before they could complete what should have been a 5-10 minutes process.
Further confounding me was that other patients - from young adults to sexy seniors - were breezing through the process without a glitch or displaying any of my dramatic behavior.
Anyway, I finally got through it after 6 weeks and only had to reschedule one appointment. So, I finished both treatments on October 22, instead of the originally planned date of October 21.
To celebrate the milestone, my family coordinated a “Ringing the Bell” gathering and invited my friends and colleagues. Using the City of Hope parking lot as the venue, 31 people attended to enjoy cupcakes and witness me ringing the bell that signified the completion of the treatments.
Having such wonderful support was so inspiring and uplifting and introduced me to people that I’ve known for years but had no clue that either they or a family member had been through a similar experience and survived!
I also learned an important lesson, which is: Don’t be afraid to share my experiences with others, including my fears, challenges and happy surprises. You never know who has words to help you deal with what you’re going through.
Cora Jackson-Fossett is the religion editor and a staff writer for the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper. Read her first blog post titled "Cora's Biography" to learn more information about her!