A woman looks worried as a growth in her neck gets bigger

Brace Yourself...New Symptoms, New Growth, New Fears

Hi folks. I hope you are all well and finding joy in every day. There are days that are easier for me than others.

New symptoms can be frightening. I found myself searching for justification for the new symptoms that could be an alternative to new growth. Denial. But, somehow, I knew what the scans were going to reveal, I just did not know how bad it would be. Flashback to three years ago, this is how it all started.

Four unexpected days in the hospital

New growth. My cancer had already metastasized to my lymph nodes. I knew this, but now I have a lymph node infected with cancer that is in an inconvenient location. How does one tiny lymph node cause such pain? At the time of my scans, this lymph node was interfering with breathing. It was (only) blocking the airway to my left lung. A bronchoscopy revealed not only is my left lung blocked, now my esophagus is obstructed as well. Oh boy.

Turns out when your esophagus is blocked, food and medications cannot get to your stomach! Ugh (again). To make a long story short, I ended up spending four days in the hospital.

Next stop: Radiation

While in the hospital, my radiation oncologist, pulmonologist and medical oncologist all conferred – radiation is my only choice to supply quick relief. Yay (insert sarcasm)! So, in the last two days of my hospital stay, I was in the radiation department getting zapped. I had been in this situation before, way back in the beginning. The only difference then? I was younger. I was stronger. It was the beginning of this roller coaster ride, and easier to find hope and determination.

My body is broken, my heart is broken

Now that you have the back story, what I really want to talk about is this (new) fear.

All I could think about, “I’m going to die. I don’t want to die. I’m not ready to die.” Is it going to hurt when I die? Am I going to feel it when I die? Will I know I died? It is an awful feeling.

I’m not telling you this because I want sympathy. I am telling you this because I am hopeful that I’m not the only cancer patient that has these thoughts. We are all going to die, yes. But, I have too much time to think about it. I have all these new symptoms, and I hurt. I hurt physically. I hurt mentally. I am scared. Not only is my body broken, my heart is broken.

How do we keep the faith?

I am putting my loved ones through some serious pain. Both of my parents are alive. How in the hell can they endure watching me slowly succumb to this awful disease? My daughters are now adults – 28 a 24. I am not only their mother; I am their friend. How painful is it for them to watch me deteriorate? My stepsons are 20, 19 and 14. How difficult it must be for them to be up close and in a front-row seat watching me face new challenges daily. My man, Adam – we have only had 6 short years together. How do we keep the faith? How do I keep a strong face? How do I keep being a warrior? How do I push through? How do I not disappoint everyone?

Again, this is not meant to rally words of support. I have plenty of that available in every corner of my life. Maybe it is necessary for me to write about this new fear to gain the strength I need to push through. Maybe there are fellow warriors that have experienced these thoughts and can let me know I am not alone in my new fear. Maybe I will learn from you that I am not crazy. Maybe my new fear is normal.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on May 7, 2021, Ronda Beaty passed away. Ronda’s advocacy efforts and writings continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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