By Sister Janis Yaekel, ASC
I am Sister Janis Yaekel, ASC and I have pancreatic cancer. In fact, I have lived with cancer since 2012. I hope to share in my blog my journey and my reflections on the presence of God in my life. It is my hope that those who read my entries will find strength for their own journeys.
On a recent visit to my oncologist, Dr. Tan was so excited that my last CT scan and MRI indicated no growth in the tumor. He will re-test me at the end of August.
He asked if I felt changed by my pancreatic cancer diagnosis. How could I not, I told him! One day, I am merrily moving through life and the next day I am told that I have a very deadly disease.
When one is stopped in her tracks by such news, it is bound to cause some change. Since my doctor posed the question that day, I’ve reflected on it some more. Here’s what I think.
It is sobering, to say the least, to hear that you have pancreatic cancer, one of the disease’s most deadly forms, and to know that only about 20 percent can expect to live more than five years.
Oddly enough, when I received the diagnosis, the thought that came to me was not “Why me?” but rather, “Why not me?” I was surprised by my own question, but it came from deep inside, so I don’t discount it, and it remains a constant companion on this journey.
I think this question is foundational to how I am different after the diagnosis. I suddenly looked at my life through the eyes of one afflicted and found that “why not me” became a source of strength and courage. “Why not me” suggests to me that I have what is needed to walk this path into the unknown.
I have known plenty of times when I have worried, but I haven’t known real fear. I have looked at family, friends and community differently and that has been a good thing. I have too often taken for granted these treasures who surround me. I have found that simply being is worthwhile, and how I am in the moment can be a gift to others.
Yet, as I reflect, the day-to-day me hasn’t changed at all. Life still has a daily pattern that isn’t consumed with the concept of cancer. I still get up most mornings with a sense of well-being. I am engaged with life in so many ways because life is still going on around me.
I laugh at the antics of my cats. I watch the political races avidly. I follow sports, and I get my hands into the garden dirt as often as possible. There is nothing new or different about these activities; I have always enjoyed them.
Someone once told me that a person who gets a cancer diagnosis either decides to live with the disease or die from it. I think that I am living with it at this time. But this isn’t because I am so courageous, because I’m not.
What I think that I have is a lot of grace from God to keep going. God knows the answer to “why not me” even if I don’t, and God is working in my life to bring about some good result. That result may not mean cure, but it will mean something significant for me and those around me.
So in the end, I would say that this cancer has changed me, but not as much as God’s grace has worked marvels for me.