Anecdote | Cancer

Debating what is selfish in my situation

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About three weeks ago I collapsed; turns out I had a brain tumor. They did surgery, removed the tumor and now I’m recovering. The tumor was a stage IV brain cancer. It has metastasized.

Since mobility is an issue, a friend is looking after my German Shepherd Snowy. I miss him immensely, but this is the best thing for him. My friend has a dog that gets along with Snowy and this is giving him a good quality of life while I focus on healing.

The problem — what if Snowy bonds to my friend more than me? Will that…


And other celebrity women?

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I consider myself a feminist. But what does that even mean?

Does it mean that I only care about women? No.

Does it mean I only care about myself? No.

Does it mean I think women are better than men? No.

Does it mean that heterosexual couples, when dating, always need to split everything 50/50? No.

Does it mean women should get angry when a man holds a door open for her? No.

Does it mean that a woman shouldn’t do special things for men that she cares about? No.

So what does feminism mean to me? Because feminism does…


Sorry guys, you’re not in charge of me

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I remember when I was a new grad working at my first real engineering job. I started to date this guy. I liked him, but he wanted to get serious way too fast.

It was too bad. Looking back, he and I were very compatible and I probably would have been happy with him, but he came on too strong too quickly and I couldn’t handle it. It takes me a long time to fall in love, but I think I’m worth the wait. At least, I hope so!

One thing I remember was going home to meet his family…


This was in 1930s India

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It was the late 1930s. My grandmother was 18 years old. She and my grandfather were traveling through India working for Mahatma Gandhi. They would go from village to village and educate people on things like modern hygiene and talk about Indian independence.

Since these were rural areas they were going through, there were no hotels or restaurants. Typically, villagers would offer them meals, though occasionally they would buy food. Sometimes people would allow them to sleep in their huts but sometimes they would have to find a public place to sleep.

One night they were sleeping in a temple…


Why do people feel the need to label and invalidate others?

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Recently, I read an article about someone’s struggle with lymphedema. As someone who has recently had to deal with this myself, I commented on her article. I told her I wished the best for her, and I do. The struggles she describes having to deal with seem overwhelming and I think it’s very brave for her to honestly share her experiences.

However, I made the “mistake” of defending another commenter who had offered dietary advice.

From my personal POV, when others try to be sincerely helpful, the proper response is not hostility. As a cancer survivor, I understand the frustration…


But do they really?

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When I was in college, there was a guy in my dorm that tried to rape me. He didn’t succeed. I fought back and I got away.

At the time, I didn’t even realize he was trying to rape me. Yes, I was that naive. It was a good thing though. Because I didn’t really realize what he was trying to do, I wasn’t paralyzed by fear.

You see, I thought he was just wrestling. I grew up with a brother and had plenty of guy friends. I was used to roughhousing. …


I am hoping to beat the odds once again

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I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast disease right around the time my husband and I decided to try for a baby. When the doctor gave the diagnosis, he was panicked. He wanted to rush me into surgery immediately, and follow up with chemo and radiation.

I told him to hold his horses. I needed time to process and think.

The doctor gave me 6 months to live. That was 17 years ago.

I think one reason I’ve survived so long is that I honor my own needs. At least when it comes to the important stuff.

I can be stubborn…


When does this misery end?

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I went to the emergency room yesterday because the right side of my body was swelling up. From the right side of my face down to my neck and my entire right arm from shoulder to finger tips. Some swelling where my mastectomy scarring remains.

The tissue was swollen and it hurts when I touch it.

I was freaked out. I had started to swell about three weeks ago and I’d hoped it would go away. But it hasn’t. It’s gotten worse.

Well, yesterday they diagnosed it. I’ve got lymphedema.

This is something that can happen to mastectomy survivors.

My…


In Life, Love, and also Crypto

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I’ve never been a patient person. Heck, I grew up in New York City and managed to walk faster than the crowds there — I’d slalom around other pedestrians like they were standing still.

That was me in my pre-cancer days. Since then, I’ve slowed down quite a bit. I’ve also become more patient.

Cancer helps with that. You can’t hurry doctors. They’ll keep you waiting and there’s no point in griping about it.

While I would never have wished for a cancer diagnosis, learning to be patient has been one of the silver…


Not without an oxygen tank

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With the Delta variant of Covid making its rounds, people are once again masking up. Well, some never stopped masking. But many of my friends who had gotten their vaccines decided they could safely remove their masks in many situations where they had prior masked.

Now, though, they are re-masking.

I get it. No one wants to end up in the hospital fighting for their life.

Of course, I am already there — not in a hospital, thankfully, but fighting for my life.

3 months ago I had surgery to remove a lemon sized brain tumor, and it was discovered…

Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, artist, writer, engineer. Grew up in NYC, living in Austin. Love animals, books, hikes, art, travel, D&D and fireworks.

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