Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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Reality Bites

The sun is finally up, ending a long and sleepless night. I arose long before dawn, my back aching from too many hour spent prone. These are the hours when I feel so alone, angry and helpless.

While I try to be upbeat on my “good” days, the reality is that nearly half of my days are chemo-poisoned bad ones. Chemo is a depressant, and so is breast cancer, frankly. So in that darkest time before the dawn sometimes I can’t help but dwell on the battery of chemicals unleashed on cancer that also can cause permanent damage to my heart, lungs, bladder and liver. The price I’m paying for a chance at killing cancer is a risk of permanent disability. Reality bites.

Dr. Oz was on TV yesterday as I lay in bed clutching my knees fighting the waves of nausea gripping my body. The topic: breast self-exams. Not one person in his audience knew how to do it correctly, and very few performed the exams regularly. It’s like flossing, I suppose. We say we do it, but do we do it often enough, and do we do it right? The exam should last a total of 8 minutes on each breast for a thorough job, and it starts as high as the collarbone. The added degree of difficulty comes with fibrous breasts like mine where tumors are hard to detect. Whether there is a family history makes no difference. How could I not have known these things? I get angry with myself for being in this mess. And I tell you this because I don’t want it to happen to you.

Yes, this is a shitty ride, my friends. One in which I alternate between feeling the joy of living, then doubting on these bad days whether that it is enough to make this suffering worthwhile.

I try to keep my blog posts upbeat, but that is not always my reality. That sickly photo I posted from bed yesterday scares me, as it did some of you. I look and wonder what happened to the woman I used to see in the mirror. I miss her like you cannot believe!

That hairless, wan woman doesn’t seem like it should be invincible me.

But it is.

And it will be for a long haul.

6 Responses to “Reality Bites”

  • Marian Cruz:

    Dear Tracie, I have been thinking of you and do pray for you each day. Just seems like the time goes by and I don’t get to checking your comments.

    You are such a wonderful friend and my heart breaks to know you are going through so much, but please know how much I think about you and want you to get better.

    If there is anything I can do, please let me know.


  • Elaine:

    Lean hard into those angels that surround you and rest on their wings when the bad thoughts overtake you. Call me night or day. Keep fighting!!!!!!

  • Joni:

    Hi Trace,
    I just checked your blog to see if you had been able to let us know anything today on your condition. Most times we are all expecting that upbeat Tracie even in the face of your unbelievable reality, and when the posts are so poignant as tonight, it makes me want to reach out to you again and try to say something that will make you feel just a little better. Fact is, most of us on your “team” probably know very little about the
    realities you are facing in the disease itself and the poisons you are enduring to treat it, so I fear that’s part of your loneliness sometimes when we might
    not be able to relate or know exactly what to say…although we want to…’Easy for me’ to say for your suffering to “hang in there” & “you can do this!”,
    but it is sincere and from a deep down pulling for you!

    I, for one, believe God intentionally created your life, (Who knows why… for any of us?) because He knows of something important you either have done, are doing, or will do…and for that I pray that on the bad days you will know that, and it will empower you and break that seemingly inescapable feeling of how depressants work on the mind. Your life has a purpose..

    Thanks for the glimpses into your reality.
    Love, Joni

  • Michelle Johnson:

    Eight minutes? Really? Every time I read your blog I learn something, and then I realize that I am not as mindful about my health as I should be. I guess none of us are. We get so busy, so caught up in everything else.

    Do not feel that you need to be upbeat, or that your blog posts do. It is better to be real, whatever the reality may be. And you are touching a lot of people.

  • William Howe:

    Tracie, I’m sorry to hear that you are having such rotten days. Though I don’t know firsthand what it feels like to have a radiation or chemo treatment, I do know how it feels to be lonely when you are in the midst of real sickness. I know that I can NOT compare my health situation over the past year with yours, but I do think I can help you with the lonliness part.

    Hun, if it were not for my family, great friends and my wonderful church, I don’t know if I would have made it. I leaned hard on all three afforementioned groups and I felt their support EVERY DAY!!! Receiving cards, emails, text messages, notes and letters in the mail, phone calls etc, etc was incredibly wonderful and extremely meaningful to me. I had many emotional moments when someone would say or do something very nice/special for ME, and those were the things that kept me going. Realize that folks WANT to help, and LET ‘em!! My last advice for you is to pray, and to ask everyone you know to pray for you and your situation. Have faith that God is with you each day, and he is aware of everything you are going through, and he’s there FOR you. Lean on Him, too!

    That’s enough from me in this correspondence!! You are in my prayers and many others in NC, as well!! Keep fighting girl!! We’re ALL pulling for ya!!

    William Howe

  • LB:

    Being real will save your sanity ~ you don’t have to be upbeat for anyone if you are feeling bad. Share the pain and sadness as well as the moments of joy and I (and I am sure I can safely say we) will share with you to ease your bad days and celebrate your good days.
    Much love,

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