I don’t have cancer. I have had cancer. I maybe will have cancer, and I maybe will have had cancer.
In the end, I may die of cancer. Even if I don’t, I’ll still be what they call a cancer survivor.
I guess when I was diagnosed about a year ago (the day before my birthday, which COME ON UNIVERSE, REALLY?), I didn’t think about how intimately cancer would be entwined with my identity.
And the thing is, my cancer (<– see how it’s “my cancer,” not “the cancer”) is one of the easily treatable ones (<– there is no such thing as an “easily treatable cancer”). I had two tumors, one on each side, both tiny, both non-aggressive, both hormone positive. And I’m BRCA negative.
At first, I was just going to have a lumpectomy, radiation, and 5-10 years of the hormone blocker tamoxifen. Then after some genetic testing, my oncologist recommended chemo as well.
“During the lumpectomy,” my oncologist said, “in addition to the tumors, we also found some ductal carcinoma in situ.”
“Oh?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said. “Basically, you have busy breasts.”
It’s okay, you can laugh at that. I did. She did. We laughed like crazy.
So I went through chemo, as well, which is a whole other set of stories.
The thing is, I’m here on the other side of it, and while I try to let my body rest and recuperate, my brain seems to be constantly working to make sense of what happened. How did I go in for a routine mammogram, with no suspicion of anything out of the ordinary, to where I am today: fatigued, scared, and to be honest the teeniest bit paranoid?
What the hell just happened?
And while my survival-centered lizard brain tries to make sense of that, the rational part of my brain scolds me, reminds me that I’m crazy lucky, that it could have been so much worse, that I’m blessed, privileged, fortunate. And I am. God, yes, I am.
I’m not complaining, really. I’m just trying to make it make sense.
I read about cancer survivors running 5ks within months of finishing chemo.
That ain’t happening.
Any cancer-related internet search is filled with medical advice to stay positive, to eat well, to exercise—I know this because I Google while lying on the couch eating an ice-cream sandwich.
The positivity message is good and wise and helpful. But I’m so damn tired. A long walk today means two days of muscle pain and fatigue tomorrow.
And I’m just so freaking sick of hearing myself whine about it. And yet I can’t stop whining about it.
And that’s it. That’s where I’m at. It is, as they say, what it is.
There you go, brain—I gave you space and time and words to think through this. Now I guess I’ll get up off my bum and go for a walk.
Thanks for writing this. Made me frown, made me smile. How it becomes part of your identity, in spite of yourself. Didn’t realize taking a walk makes you pay for two days. Keep on processing. I’m always here for you!
Thank you, my friend! You’ve been so steadfast and supportive, and I appreciate you SO MUCH!
I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Well written!