Mary shares how she copes with the fear of living with uterine cancer.
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You know, the first time the cancer came back was devastating, of course, and so I want to say to people is don’t let it be devastating. Easier said than done, I understand, but I said, then there’s two types of cancer survivors – there’s someone who has had cancer, and there’s someone who has had cancer that has come back. You really move into a different realm when it comes back because that’s your big fear is that it’s going to come back, and so when it does, the big fear has happened. And I even found people who are cancer survivors, who had been there for me the first time, had to keep their distance. I had a woman say to me, “You know, Mary, this is really hard for me because my cancer is not coming back,” and I really had empathy towards her, so when I say I have this little speech that I give, the reality is I don’t give it that much because my story is not a big comfort to people. So what I try to emphasize is generally the way you would use the term is that I am a 18-month survivor, that you are a survivor based on the last time cancer has been removed from your body. So what I say is I am 18-months cancer free, but I am a 12-year survivor because I have survived this since 1996, and so I hope that’s a great role model for people who do have cancer coming back. Cancer coming does not have to be a horrible occurrence. You know, I have to tell you, the fourth time they told me I had cancer, it was the beginning of November and I was going to China that month on business. So I said to the doctor, I said, “Can we wait till December to do the surgery because I am kind of busy this month? I am going to China.” By this time he has known me 10 years, so he grins and says, “Sure, give me a call in December.” Well, I called in December; we couldn’t get the surgery scheduled till the third week of December, and in January I was going to Africa, and I called him and I said, “You know, if I have surgery the third week of December, I won’t be well enough to go to Africa in January.” He says, “Okay, but we are going to do February or else. You’ve got to block six weeks off your calendar, Mary, so we can do this surgery, and you have time to heal,” but you know, so what a great story. It’s like I am not going to let cancer interfere with my life. Yes, there is things I have to do to take care of it, but I was able to, and he wouldn’t have put it off for three months if it wasn’t a safe thing to do, but you just can’t let it stop you.