Cancer Talk

I talk to people daily about cancer.  In fact, I have multiple cancer conversations going.  It seems unavoidable.  Everyone I meet wants to connect me with their person who has cancer, who works with cancer patients or has had cancer in the past.  They do this to be supportive, to help me and to encourage me. These talks take place between myself and women in varying stages of their treatment, some have completed treatment and some are like me, just beginning.  It’s helpful…mostly.  It’s also frightening.  It’s often enlightening but it’s always rewarding.  I am not alone.  You are not alone.  We are in this together.  The setbacks, the steps forward, the surgeries, the chemo, the nausea, the pain, the appointments.  All of it.  Together.  With every issue that creeps up for one of us I’m hit with some anxiety that the same could happen to me.  Seizures? Metastatic cancer? Remission? 22 different surgeries? Recurrence?  We all want to be that one who breezes through seemingly unscathed and graceful throughout treatment but how often does that actually happen?

Regardless where you are in this journey of cancer, and I’ll speak specifically about breast cancer because it’s the only thing I know about when it comes to having cancer, regardless of where you fall along this path I know that there are stages.  For me, these are the stages:

1– Waiting & Wondering:  is it benign? is it cancer? A lot of anxiety.

2– Discovery: this goes 1 of 2 ways, you find cancer or you don’t. A lot of fear. Fear of the unknown and of the perceived known.

3– Knowing:  cancer found, confirmed and now you have this awareness. More fear, panic, confusion and distraction.

4– Understanding:  this may not happen immediately for everyone but it hits you.  The reality of your disease becomes apparent.  I found some resolve.  I felt the need to gather a mental game plan.

5– Processing/Doing:  this, for me, is similar to acceptance in the 5 stages of grief.  It’s the “new normal”.  Some call this strength.  It’s not what it feels like to me.  It has become the routine.  The intermittent nausea, the appointments, the chemo days, the non-chemo days, the work days, the fatigue, the aches the pains and the pills to manage it all.  The diligent accountability for the very few narcotics I do take because I don’t want to come through this all just to be reliant on narcotics to get through my day.

So far, step 5 is my favorite part.  (well, blissful ignorance had its place but it’s time to get real).  Step 5 is action.  Step 5 is what I have to do to get to step 6.  I’m not even sure what step 6 is yet (stick with me and I’ll let you know when I’m there).  I’m a person of action and I like to see results so when I’m marking off completed chemo days or appointments I feel like I’m that much closer to the end of this stupid battle.

Last night I took my first bath (as opposed to a shower) since before my surgery.  It was relaxing for a minute but too hot so I cut it short.  It’s nice to not have to shave any longer–I intended to shave my legs but turns out I didn’t really need to.  I also had a moment in the tub where a couple of things hit me hard.

  1. I put a lot of pressure on myself to “be strong”, to “rise above”, to “fight the good fight”.  I feel like a big faker because all I do is go to the appointments they tell me to go to and accept the medication they give me.  I come home and do the things I’m supposed to do–spend time with family, clean house, cook, pay bills and now I’ve gone back to work.  I don’t feel like I’m strong.  I don’t feel like a fighter.  I’m just an intermittently nauseated chick going through her day.  I don’t feel heroic–especially when I’m asleep before 10:00 pm and awake at 4:00 or 5:00 am.
  2. I’m motivated by fear.   Fear of the unknown.  Fear of the known.  The fear of regret.  The fear of death.  The fear of cancer.  The fear of regret is huge–I would regret it terribly if I didn’t do all I could to get through this.  What if I’m not strong enough?  What if I cave in a moment of weakness?  I kick myself for taking naps, for crying, for having moments of doubt.  “If I could just be stronger…”.   I said to a friend last night that I’m afraid if I don’t give it everything I have (all the time) and I die then I wouldn’t have tried hard enough.  That would upset me.  (truthfully not because I’d be dead but leading up to that death I’d be so mad at myself)

I realize these things are self-imposed and negative.  I also realize that I don’t always have the ability to turn it around.  Some days I just have to allow myself that time and as long as I don’t allow myself to dwell there I feel mentally healthy enough, as if I’m “coping well”.  Most days I succeed.

 

PS: I adore Snapchat

 

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12 Replies to “Cancer Talk”

  1. I have to tell you, every time I read one of your posts that is as heartfelt and raw as this one, I can literally go back in time to when I was where you are and can so relate to what you are feeling. I’ve never considered myself a “survivor” or “strong”. Like you, I did as I was told and just kept putting one foot in front of the other until I got to the other side. Interspersed with lots of fear and pity parties. Speaking as someone who has been there, you WILL make it through this 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Very well said. It’s your life right now. But naps and crying are definitely a part of it. I once cried so much while I was making potato soup that I hardly needed to salt it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so interesting that you mention having conversations with so many people about cancer and so much is revolving around that now. What I mean is, I was seriously wondering how that affects you, good or bad or I don’t know, just curious. It’s alot, all of it I’m gathering, all of your feelings too both physically and emotionally, alot. I’m sure there is a sense of someone understanding and/or if they are recently diagnosed you can relate and help them.
    I’m so impressed with you continuing to share your story. I don’t know how you are getting out if bed everyday, let alone working on top of everything. You may not feel strong, but you are. I hope the nausea goes away soon, I know you’ve said you hate it! Maybe everything you are doing is all a distraction for that 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good questions!

      I think it has a positive spin most days. It’s always hard to hear about any setback for anyone (it could always be me next)…but they make it past the hurdles and move on. New normals. It’s great when I hear about people continuing to survive. I meet survivors every day. It gives hope. I think that there’s huge strength in knowing you’re not alone, that others have done it, continue to do it and they all relate exactly to the things I’m going through. That helps keep me from thinking I’m cray-cray.

      The feels…OMG! They come from everywhere and from nothingness. The oddest things make me cry. I cry from sadness, loss, grief, etc but I also cry for joyful and just overall touching moments too so there are good cries to be had!

      Sharing my story is actually the only thing I feel I excel at! It’s the one thing I know intimately, intricately and can share willingly!

      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  4. Just having discovered your blog and delighted to meet you virtually but truly, your no BS style and mine are similar in nature. Why cover it up like a cat in a litter box. Keep telling it like it is and just maybe one day our collective voices and energy will barrier those who have the uneducated gumption to say some pretty stupid crap and to get the oncology powers that be to finally and completely make the words “you don’t look like you have cancer” mean something real to us. Even though hairless might look pretty on some of us it’s not cool or fun and it’s not what we hoped we would grow up to have as part of our livelihood.

    💕
    Ilene

    Liked by 1 person

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