This is a story about how my nerdom got me through one of the roughest times in my life. To me, being a nerd isn’t trendy – it’s a way of life that has served me well! With that said, there are all kinds of words I would use to describe myself – mom, wife, the 4-H Lady, Geek, runner, yogi.
But even with having a mother and grandmother with a history of colon cancer, I never thought I would have to add “cancer survivor” to my list.
Don’t get me wrong – I am very thankful that ‘survivor’ is included in the description! So since both my mother and grandmother had colon cancer, while unpleasant, I had to begin my screenings at age 25 (much earlier than the recommended 50). For my first checkup, everything came back fine. I got the referral from Dr. Fricker to come back in 5 years and went on my way.
In July 2014, my 30th birthday rolled around and I remembered it was that time again. I finally got around to making the appointment for my colonoscopy in September. After the procedure my doctor said he found a thickened fold and that it could be irritation from the prep for the procedure or it could be cancer. I honestly didn’t give it another thought as my husband, A.J., rolled me out of the office. All that was on my mind was how hungry I was!
That was September 19th. My follow up was a rainy Monday morning on September 29th. I remember telling A.J. before we went to bed that night that I didn’t think they found anything because it had been a week and a half. When my mama was diagnosed she went for her colonoscopy on Monday and found out she had cancer on Wednesday.
That rainy Monday, Dr. Fricker walked into the office and just said it; “I don’t have good news for you. It is cancer.”
I was in total shock.
He said I would have to have surgery. I asked, “Surgery like Mama had?” I was there with her and knew all she went through. All I could think over the next days and weeks was ‘I don’t have time for this. I don’t want to stop my life for this.’
For some reason, my mind went to the scene in Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo and Gandalf are talking in the mines of Moria. Frodo says,
“I wish the Ring had never had come to me. I wish none of this had ever happened to me.”
Gandalf’s reply is one that I clung to as I went through my cancer/chemo journey.
I felt like Frodo sitting in that deep dark mine. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want to have to face what was ahead. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t want to have surgery and put my busy important life on hold (insert sarcasm here). I had to have the surgery. I had to take the chemo. I wanted to live. To see my little boy grow up. To grow old and grey with my husband.
And when I would get to feeling bad about my situation my mind would also go to the quote from Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban when Dumbledore is addressing the students of Hogwarts on the dangers dementors.
“A word of caution: dementors are vicious creatures. They will not distinguish between the one they hunt and the one who gets in their way. Therefore I must warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. It’s not in the nature of a dementor to be forgiving. But you know happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Good things have come from having cancer. My parents who divorced when I was 2 finally speak to each other instead of the awkward silence and stares from before. I have renewed my friendship with my childhood best friend. We had drifted apart our Senior year of high school, but our friendship is stronger now than it ever was. There can be happiness in even the darkest of times – you just have to find the light!
I had my surgery on October 13th. Everything went well but even though the cancer was only in one lymph node out of 57, I would still be facing chemo. I was in the hospital with instructions not to pick up anything heavier than a gallon of milk. Brody, my son, was 9 months old at the time and was much heavier than a gallon of milk! Luckily, we have a wonderful nanny named Ms. Mary that keeps him in our home. But in the meantime, I was still around Brody 24/7 and unable to do anything with him. I could feed him when someone put him in his high chair and give him a bath but that was it.
No rocking at night, no playing on the floor, no changing diapers. I could not even sit and hold him because of my incision. He not being able to understand why I couldn’t pick him up upset both of us. So most days I would stay in my bedroom so I could stay out of his sight. This was the first time in 9 months that I had idle time on my hands. Working full time and having a family doesn’t allow for much downtime!
The show Warehouse 13 had been on my Netflix queue for some time but I had just never gotten around to watching it. I decided now was as good a time as any. I can honestly say that show got me through one of the hardest times of my life. Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for myself, I was transported to a world of science fiction and history sprinkled with humor and topped off with a great mix of characters. Being able to escape into the world of Warehouse 13 helped me get through those hard days.
In May of 2015 I was declared cancer free! Which is great news, but every year for the next five years I have a date with my surgeon and gastroenterologist just to be sure.
Being a nerd and the wealth of content, story and enduring themes of bravery and hardship within nerd culture gave me strength to get through some of the hardest days of my life. Yay for bring a nerd!
Julia is a curious mix of southern belle and nerd. She resides in South Georgia with her non-nerd husband , nerd in progress 19 month old son and two spoiled rotten Australian Cattle Dogs. A lover of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Dr.Who, Lost Girl, Warehouse 13 and all things Tolkien. She has a been a nerd for most of her 31 years, and somehow seems to be getting nerdier the older she gets!