frozen pea friday: “cancer is my kryptonite”

it’s friday and we have a frozen pea friday post to celebrate cancer survivors. today, a guest post by hayley:

hi! i’m hayley and i’m an alcoholic. oh wait, wrong posting day. this is the cancer posting day. let’s try that again!

hi! i’m hayley townley. i’m thrilled to have been asked to be a guest blogger on change therapy. thanks, isabella!

kryptonite, as you may know, was superman’s weakness. cancer in all its forms is my kryptonite. in 1991, i lost my mom to breast cancer. she was 47; i was 25. she had been battling it since she was 37.

in 2002, at age 36, i was diagnosed with stage 3B breast cancer.

it’s now 2008, i am 41 years old, i have a fabulous head of hair, and i am a survivor!

i have always thought of myself as a superhero, minus the cape and the tights. i can handle anything thrown my way. i have always been oblivious to the things that might get other people down.

of course, this could stem from our family motto: “nothing is wrong and we don’t talk about it.”

but when i was diagnosed, it hit me hard”from all angles: mental, physical, emotional. it laid me out and made me realize that, after all, i may be only human.

now that i’ve been free of cancer for over five years, i am stronger and more resilient. i am faster than a speeding bullet. more powerful than a locomotive. able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. but whenever the word cancer comes up, i cringe inside. it’s as if somebody has slipped me a little bit of kryptonite.

i live with the possibility that it will come back. i was never a hypochondriac before the cancer; that tendency is one of the little perks of having had this disease. when i get a headache, i think it’s a brain tumor. when i find a bump on my leg, my heart sinks. before each doctor’s appointment, i lay awake long into the night. i panic inside over each mammogram or blood test. only when the oncology nurse calls to say that i’m good to go, do i relax again. the kryptonite dissipates a little bit more each time i pass a test with flying colors.

a friend recently got a bad diagnosis ” lung cancer, lymphoma, and brain cancer. i visited her in the hospital. kryptonite had reduced this once statuesque, beautifully poised superhero of a woman to lying in a hospital bed with tubes and drains sticking out of her. she was tired but in good spirits, and i know her superhero was still inside of her.

i had a good visit with her. she was on day 13 of her treatment and still had her hair. i had lost my hair on day 13. i brought her two cancer survivor buffs”the superhero headwear of cancer survivors.* i felt powerless in what else i could do for her. i tried to tell her it would be alright.

as i sat there holding her hand, a nurse came in to give her some of the same chemo drugs i had been given. i could sense the metallic taste in my mouth and the hollow place in my gut as i watched her dutifully swallow each horse pill. the kryptonite got stronger and i could feel every nerve ending in my body as i had before, when the situation was reversed.

as i left her bedside, i tried to carry out as much of her kryptonite as i could. i wanted her to be the strong, nothing-ever-fazes-her person i knew. just like me. the cancer tries to chip away at our bodies, but the kryptonite cannot affect our souls.

mary ellen died last month. not i, nor the drugs, nor the doctors could absorb enough kryptonite to return her superhero powers.

it’s crazy that in the 21st century”when we can put a person on the moon, make a computer that weighs only three pounds, and instantly share our thoughts with someone on the other side of the world simply by pressing a button”we still cannot cure cancer. someday, i hope there will be a kryptonite dumpsite where we can dump this disease.

if you or somebody you know is facing cancer, it’s your kryptonite, too. i survived it. superman survived it. you can survive it. let’s all don our superhero capes and tights and change the world together”one kryptonite diagnosis at a time.

this post is dedicated to my friend maryellen and, of course, to my mom. you will always be superheroes in my book.

bio: hayley lives in san luis obispo with her best friend and husband of 18 years, tim; their two dogs, shelby and lucy; and 14-year-old jazmine the cat.

she and her canadian co-author are writing a book about the lives of 100 women after breast cancer. she is also writing a book full of humor, insight, and warmth on her full cancer experience, along with one specifically for people who have a friend with cancer.

she blogs at and at improg. in addition, she owns the website cancer survivor stuff, which sells headwear for survivors and handmade greeting cards. she is working on another website to tie in with the book AFTER . . . there is life after breast cancer, which she will launch by mid-summer.

*cancer survivor buffs are available from cancer survivor stuff or planet buff (type in “hayley” as a referral code).


  1. Wow, more tears but not of sadness but of hope that more people are drawn to feel like you.

    You are a special being “what kind ?” again thanks.

  2. Hayley, You have always been an inspiration(hope I spelled that right) We love you.
    Anna & Ron

  3. hi everyone!

    @hayley – first of all, thanks so much for a lovely post! what an interesting way of looking at it.

    capital letters as kryptonite – hmmm … interesting … you might be interested in this post about upper vs. lower case

    @susan – thanks so much for introducing me to hayley!

    @richard and @ron – yes, what an upbeat way of dealing with this devastating illness. i, too, hope that many will be inspired by this.

  4. Awesome blog! You’re not only a superhero and a survivor, but you thrive, girl! Love you mean it XOXOXO

  5. Yes Hayley put on her super cape and chemo wig, even though she had hair and left cancer in the dust years beforehand, and drove up in her convertible to meet bald me for the first time. She is that girl, Super “Piss in Your Face Cancer” Girl.

    I love her!! Great guest post and I am loving frozen pea Friday!

  6. Hayley,

    You are doing a great job. 16 years for me and you were the one person that got me to write about it. Thanks

  7. Hayley – you have grown into an amazing woman – I am very proud of you, sister.

  8. I am sitting at my desk at a copper mine in southeastern Utah.Just moments ago I sent out my crew of strong,burly miners out to do some of the hardest, most treacherous work there is. I gave them words of wisdom and stressed safety in all they do for the next 12 hours. It is my job to make sure they walk in the door in the morning and kiss their families. They believe in me,trust me,and now I am here too keep them safe.They think I am strong….I just read my sisters addition to this blog. I sit here,sobbing ..weak..krptonite.Your my hero sis!Mom is so proud of you,and so am I! I know the rest of u are jealous-she is MY sister and we rock!!!

  9. I have the privilege of knowing this beautiful woman first hand. The zest for life that generates from being around her is one I rarely feel from people. She truly knows the gift of life and one cant help but get caught up in her excitment.I really dont think she knows how powerfully she has touched so many in her life. We all go about our busy lifes but Hayley
    please know I am truly a better person for knowing you……Keep sharing your positive, it cant help but grow….(I think you Jesus!!!) Mar Mar

  10. Hayley – as a co-survivor, I love your humor. Yes the idea of it coming back is always there, but with the help of each other and our love for each other and faith in the one who holds everything in His hands, we can get through this. I’m also hoping for a “kryptonite dumpsite “. You go girl!

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