Young Adult Survivor - Mary Best


Carcinoid Cancer

Date of Last Treatment

July 28, 2014

Cancer-Fighting Motto

Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

“It’s a stage one carcinoid cancer tumor.”

I had no idea what my doctor was talking about. This incredible medical professional that I had grown to trust just threw me a curveball five days after I had my first ever surgery. My roommate walked me out, back on to the sunny street about 70 blocks uptown from my dream internship at a theater company. Within a few days, I was scheduled for countless tests and scans I had never heard of and made a plan to move home.

Cancer hit me at the worst possible time. I had everything I’d ever dreamed of, and at 21, I was losing it all.

The coming weeks brought a whole mess of “How are you feeling?” accompanied by a grave tone from friends or family members. I spent months after my diagnosis absorbing these sorts of questions and inferences, while secretly hoping someone would reach out to help without me having to ask.

It became so exhausting to explain to everyone what carcinoid cancer even is (It’s a neuroendrocine tumor). On top of that, it was even harder to explain that against all odds, I only had a stage one tumor found completely by accident in an unusual place, which was all unheard of for someone my age. Despite having been cleared of cancer, I was still symptomatic, which meant uncontrollable shaking and flushing, loss of appetite and diarrhea at any given moment. Plus anxiety attacks on an extra bad day.

I feel like everyone thinks that hearing “you’re cancer free” is the end, and life is just full of sunshine and wonder after it. Don’t get me wrong, there was a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders, but anxiety soon took over. I was still having trouble finding foods my body wanted to digest, despite the intervention of numerous doctors. No matter what I did or researched, there was no information or website that could give me all the answers.

It’s been almost two years since my initial diagnosis. I’m still figuring out what foods agree with my GI tract. Even with weeks of great days, there will still be a bad, sleepless, shaky night thrown into the mix. That used to really scare me — right after I found out, I stayed up all night because I couldn’t bring myself to let cancer turn my dreams into nightmares. My roommate had left for spring break, and I just had Netflix and a view of Brooklyn out a sixth floor window to accompany me.

During that night, after an episode of the shakes, came the first time I cried about what was happening to me. I’m not sure why, but I looked out the window, and I saw colors begin to fill the sky. I made it through the night. Afterward, I figured if I could make it through that first night alone, I could face many more.

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” - Les Miserables