I hope that by sharing my story I can help end the stigma of anal cancer. It seems to be the last taboo in terms of body parts that we are not comfortable talking about. When detected early, as mine was, anal cancer is very treatable. I was extraordinarily lucky that my very thorough gynecologist did a rectal exam, because I did not have any symptoms. Unfortunately, those who do have symptoms are often too embarrassed to go to the doctor. Please don’t wait if you do. Call your doctor immediately.
A support system
No one should go through cancer alone. Thankfully, I was surrounded by a close-knit extended family who cared for me. In addition to the support of my wonderful husband, children and dear friends, I was also generously invited to join a prayer circle. I came to love the people in that prayer circle, even though I did not know anyone prior to joining. Anyone can start a prayer circle or support group on their community.
Continued support after cancer is also important. Transitioning from the end of treatment back into life’s routines takes time, and patients whose cancer has been eradicated still need love and assistance.
I was able to stay positive throughout my diagnosis and treatment because I have an extraordinary amount of love in my life. This did not preclude me from experiencing all the difficult feelings that accompany a cancer diagnosis, but with a strong support system, I was able to come through the experience without more trauma than necessary. In fact, I feel, as many cancer survivors feel, blessed.
The advice I would give to those facing a cancer diagnosis is to create a strong community of support. If you don’t have a close family, or friends, then look to cancer centers and their community services for help. Online support can also be very powerful.
Be sure to find a practitioner who will look at your body as a whole. The focus from your oncologist and radiologist is to kill the cancer, but you need to do everything you can to support yourself holistically.
I have only just begun to use social media to share my story. Much to my own surprise, I announced my diagnosis through Instagram. I was supposed to go to an industry party and suddenly realized I did not want to put on a wig and act “normal.” I posted my short hair and slowly told my story in my own way. Now I plan to use whatever media available to remind people to take care of themselves. I never wanted to be the face of anal cancer, but if it will help save anyone’s life, I am in.