No Guidebook for Cancer (Part I)

My name is Vanessa Racine, and I would have loved to have read the book “How to Live with Cancer at Age 23.” I would have loved to have read the book “Cancer for Dummies” that teaches us, step by step, how to live through this.

Photo: Frédéric Lebeuf

As told to Frédéric Lebeuf

How can you make it through each day with this disease? How can you avoid fearing the future? How can you not feel like you always have a pit in your stomach? But, most of all, how do you live with the enemy? The book on this does not exist.

And after two complete remissions, I’m writing my own story. I’ve given it all I have. This is my recipe for getting through it. We all have a survival instinct. But we have no innate sense on how to fight an unknown illness.

The First Fight

You feel invincible at age 23. Life is opening up to you.

But in my case I felt as if it were closing in on me.

I always thought that life throws you challenges you can overcome. I asked myself how I could overcome my cancer.

When you get the bad news there are two ways to react. You can cry, which completely demolishes you. Or you can get up and push ahead. I decided to choose to live. I didn’t want to think about death. I decided not to have any doubt; otherwise, I would have been crushed.

I suffered from a rare form of cancer, a paraganglioma. Sometimes I got the impression that I was a lab rat. I went through a number of tests, which helped medical science advance. The cancer was a part of me, as it was genetic.

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