Eight years ago I was diagnosed with cancer at age twenty-seven. Eight years ago George W. Bush also became President of the United States. I’m not delusional enough to believe there is a connection between these two events, however, in the history of my own personal life, they are deeply entwined.
November 4, 2000, I was lying in bed three days post-surgery. My thyroid and 30 tumors were removed from my neck. My mom was asleep on a dingy futon on the floor of my studio apartment. Exhausted from the chores of motherly caregiving, she slept soundly while I listened to the radio. The announcers were ticking off states as they rolled in. Florida went to Gore. But in a short while the announcer remarked that there maybe a problem and they began suggesting recounts.
I could not sleep. It was not the election, it was my nerves, my fear of impending radiation, and my realization that I had just been diagnosed with cancer. The rapidly unfolding election debacle was a nightmarish distraction from my own private hell. When my mom woke up in the morning, I had still not gone to sleep. Sitting in our beds, I told her the whole story that rest of America was just waking up to.
I’m not an optimist. I’m a pragmatist. For me, hope is not a solution for fighting cancer. For me, faith is not the key to survival. Vigilant watch over my doctors, continual education, and relentless research in an effort to find unopened doors – that is how I surmount my cancer. After multiple surgeries, many goes at treatment, my cancer persists. Eight years later, I am thirty-five years old and still not cancer free.
I am not insane enough to believe that my cancer is tied to the election. But tonight, in a crowded bar in Chicago, as I watched Obama’s victory speech, I secretly hoped to myself that this much needed change in our government would some how usher in a change in my health. Maybe the four letter word plastered on buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers around town has sunk into my subconscious; for the first time in eight years, tonight I dared to hope. The feeling didn’t last long. Just about the length of Obama’s speech. When it was over, I turned to my husband and said, “He better make good on his word to eliminate pre-existing condition exclusions.” Like I said, I’m a pragmatist.