When Cancer Comes, We Need the Details

Smiley after-treatment videos don't prepare you for what's to come
July 18, 2019 Updated: July 23, 2019

Hi, my name is Michele, I’m 47 and I am a cancer survivor. Stage 3 rectal cancer survivor to be more precise. 

It still stuns me sometimes when I say this (or, in this case, write it). If you would have told me three years ago that I’d have this title, I would have thought you were absolutely insane.  

Back then, I was a single professional female busy traveling the world for work and living my life. The furthest thing from my mind was being diagnosed with a devastating illness and spending one and a half years on the scariest rollercoaster ride of my life.  

In my old life, before cancer, if I had been asked to describe myself in three words, I would have said reliable, funny, and quick-witted. Now, after making it through my last surgery on March 1, 2019, (an ileostomy reversal) and reaching the end of my cancer treatment, I’d have to say that I am unbelievably resilient, surprisingly courageous, and remarkably still quite funny. 

You see, cancer changes you. I mean it really changes you. I equate it to being suddenly kidnapped from the street one random Tuesday afternoon, your body tied up with rope, a bag thrown over your head, and being taken to a cold and dark isolated place. There, each day, you are faced with countless emotional, physical, and spiritual trials you have never faced before. Then one day, after what seems like an eternity in captivity, you are taken back to the street where you were snatched from and set free.

Although you are broken and exhausted, you open your eyes and recognize your surroundings, grateful to be back home. However, nothing about your life will ever be the same again.  

When I was first diagnosed on Dec. 14, 2017, at the age of 45, I spent hours on the internet researching as much as I could about rectal cancer, and what was in store for me.  

What I remember coming across were mostly cancer center websites or blogs that offered short summarized stories from people who had made it through the process. While some of the content was helpful, and even inspiring for a few moments, it left me upset.  

Here I am at the most desperate and weakest moment of my life and you are showing me fancy camera angles with dramatic music playing in the background? Shots of perfectly dressed and coiffed families smiling, holding hands, and walking on the beach or playing with their dogs? I don’t care about that fluffy stuff!  I don’t want to see happy people smiling at the end of their ordeal. Give me the real deal. Where are the dirty hospital beds, freezing cold patients sitting for hours in chemo infusion centers, and people too weak to walk from their chemo chair to their car?  Ummmm, where was that? 

I would have been thrilled to come across a person dressed in wrinkled pajamas with their hair all messed up, sitting in their unmade bed telling me about the entire cancer journey on their iPhone.  No special effects needed. Yet, I didn’t come across such a resource at that time. Stepping into my treatment, I had some information from my internet research, but most of it, I just found out as it happened to me.  

With that said, I am so grateful to The Epoch Times for giving me this unique opportunity to share my entire cancer story—from my very first tears to my final triumphs—in raw uncensored detail.  

My wish is to take you behind the scenes with me into the hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and treatment rooms to share what I saw felt and heard. I pinky promise not to leave any important things out no matter how personal or embarrassing. If through these articles, I can bring clarity and understanding of the treatment process or help you understand the merry-go-round of emotions that are felt on the long upward climb, this will all be worth it.

Come back for my next installment, where I will share my pre-diagnosis story and the point when I knew something wasn’t right. I’ll discuss the signs and symptoms, my growing fear, and my trip to a urologist (of all people).

Until then … breathe deep, be kind, and take it one day at a time.


Michele Goncalves is a financial compliance and fraud auditor for a Fortune 500 company by day and a passionate pursuer of holistic and functional medicine knowledge by night.