According to Scitable Nature Education, cancer causing mutations that lead to cancer are of “two basic classes of genes: proto-oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes.” When a proto-oncogene changes (mutates), the activated gene form is called an “oncogene” and causes cancer. Everyone has those genes, and whether or not cancer is activated depends on a number of complexities beyond our control — in addition to lifestyle choices, inheritable conditions, environmental toxins, and more. The odds are strikingly against us according to the American Cancer Society, with “one out of every two men and one out of every three women” developing cancer in their lifetime.
I learned about oncogenes in college biology. I remember the professor saying, “it’s a matter of whether the switch stays off, or is turned on. We’re all susceptible to cancer.” As I’ve walked beside family and friends going through cancer, those words have resonated a bit louder. In the last two weeks of Because Hope Matters Radio, my co-host Rob Harris and I have held a firmer grip on those facts.
Jana Flaig considered herself a health-nut. She subscribed to Prevention Magazine and followed its lifestyle tips and suggestions. There was no family history of cancer, until she became the first of three members to battle it. On our radio show she spoke openly about her cancer, and how she challenged the fear of it using humor. Despite that the odds hit her hard, Jana hasn’t given up being a health-nut. In fact, she uses the cancer journey to help others live more healthfully.
Last night, it seemed like the scenario repeated itself. Lockey Maisonneuve was stunned to learn that she had Stage 3 breast cancer. She endured 18-months of chemotherapy and surgical procedures. Lockey knew of no family history, and she too led a healthy lifestyle, as a certified personal trainer. Married with two children, she conveyed that “the worst part of cancer was having to tell my kids.”
My mind wandered back to the biology professor’s words of almost twenty years ago. What turns cancer on … and off is vastly not in our control. Still, we can control the impact we make, in spite of cancer.
Lockey felt empowered in realizing that “scars are our body’s way of helping us share our stories.” A veteran of war is considered heroic for enduring the battle and courageously moving on with life, scars included. Scars are literally a symbol of reconstruction. Wounded warriors are some of our nation’s greatest teachers about moving beyond the “battle.” What caused the scars becomes less important than how the scars shape one’s life in the aftermath.
I was severely burned as a toddler. In my childish mind, I wanted to help my mother while she was changing my brother’s diaper. So, I ventured into the kitchen, got up on a stool and pulled on the pan of boiling hot water containing his bottle. The water missed my face and spilled onto my chest and left arm. I spent weeks in intensive care healing from 3rd degree burns. I was told that I cried so loudly so often that my grandfather sat in the hospital hallway crying sympathy tears; he simply couldn’t bear entering my room. Thankfully, I don’t remember a single moment of being a 3-year old burn patient.
When Lockey openly shared the negative thoughts about her scars, how she was afraid to wear a two-piece bathing suit for fear of exposure, and how she felt “busted” by her scars, I identified with her. For most of my childhood, I shied away from wearing clothes that would expose my scars. I didn’t like the rude inquisitions, or worse yet, people who just stared without asking. Then I reached a point where the story became a healed moment. My husband of 32 years helped me get there. My scars didn’t phase him, so why had I let them phase me?
Lockey reached a point where she stopped letting her scars affect her rehabilitation. Her scars went from reminding her that she’s busted to reminding her that she’s strong. Last night on-the-air I celebrated her public baring of her scars on Positively Positive dot com, as I commended her courage.
Lockey Maisonneuve was more equipped for the battle through breast cancer because of her healthy lifestyle choices. Cancer turned on … and off. She took what she learned in the battle and combined it with what she already knew as a personal trainer. She created “MovingOn“as a rehabilitative exercise program with the goal of helping women regain control of their bodies and their emotional beings. Her strength has become strength for others. There are no winners or losers. There are survivors who make the best of “it” (whatever battle it may be), and then move on with life.
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