Being a wannabe writer sometimes makes blogging difficult. It makes you think about the delivery as just as important as the actual message. I’ve been struggling with what to write for this post. I kind of know what I want to convey, but I just can’t figure how to convey it. So if you’ll pardon me, I’m just going to write. I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but hopefully I’ll get my message out.
As anybody who has visited this website knows by now, these blog contributors are a bunch of incredible moms. We each have very different stories to tell – different cancer, different treatment, different prognosis, different stages of parenting. But we all have the commonality of an insidious, life-threatening disease.
I’ve always considered myself a minimalist. What I mean by that is I tend to minimize my situation. I always know there is someone worse off than I am. How can I complain about running out of hot water in the shower when there are millions of people without clean water to even drink? How can I complain about my dry, overcooked chicken when there are millions of people without food every day? How can I complain about having cancer when there are thousands of women with much worse prognoses than me? But I do complain. About the cold water, about the less than tasty dinner, and about my woes as a cancer patient and survivor. And sometimes I feel guilty.
I read Andrea’s latest post today and it broke my heart. I don’t know her, but I see such a gentle spirit and such a graceful soul when I read her posts. And such bravery! She truly sees the end of her mortal life and she’s okay with it. Those around her – not as much. I’ve always thought I’m not afraid to die, but I didn’t want to hurt those who love me. That’s always been a thought or a concept, but for Andrea it’s become a reality. How can I lament what I’ve been through when she’s going through the worst case scenario right now?
And yet what I’ve been through was hard. I’ve had a lot of residual issues since completing two rounds of chemotherapy in November of 2005. I’ve had inexplicable rashes and blisters; insane estrogen levels resulting in painful Zoladex injections and ultimately a total hysterectomy; a 40 pound weight gain due to chemo steroids, high dose steroids for the rashes, the Zoladex – which all worked to give me munchies to rival a Cheech and Chong doobie bender – and the changes in metabolism from a hysterectomy. I’ve had the pleasure of going through menopause not once, but twice. My tongue swells up every time my white count gets too low, which is still a fairly regular occurrence, and I occasionally get thrush from that. I have considerable stiffness in my joints and muscles – a common side effect of the Taxotere I was given. My oncologist told me it could last up to five years after my last treatment. Then she said it may never go away. And just last night I wistfully wished I could lay sprawled on my stomach like I used to, but since the reconstruction it’s just too uncomfortable.
It all sounds so petty and ridiculous when up against a real life and death situation. But I’ve learned it’s all relative. Just like with my kids. They’re good kids, but they’re still kids. On the one hand I’m thrilled they’re not getting into trouble and drinking or smoking or robbing convenience stores. On the other hand getting an “F” in high school band is totally unacceptable. I mean, if you’re going to get an “F” get it in something like calculus, not band for cryin’ out loud! Especially if you’re a fairly accomplished musician. Know what I’m sayin’? (I am happy to say he brought it up to a final grade of B. Lucky for him!)
I don’t say that to minimize the harsher realities of cancer and recurrence and mets. However difficult my life has been made from cancer, there are others whose lives I can’t begin to imagine. But the fact remains my life has been forever altered because of the cancer. While some of the changes may possibly be reversed, others are permanent – my new normal.
The lives of my husband and my children have been changed forever as well. They have a comparatively healthy wife and mom, but there was a loss of innocence that they’ll never get back. There’s now the knowledge that it really can happen to us. Are the rashes a type of cancer? Is the excessive bleeding due to cancer? Is the high estrogen level an indication of cancer? Every time something new and strange comes up that’s everyone’s first thought. Most of the time unspoken, but it’s there.
The intent of this post is not to say, “See! I deserve sympathy, too!” I’m past the rough stuff and it’s time to make my experience count for something. I guess what I’m trying to get across is that if you are dealing with cancer of any kind but have a great prognosis, don’t minimize it. It is your reality right now. You can pretty much be assured that somebody somewhere is going through something much worse. But that doesn’t make what you’re going through easy. Get sad, get mad, cry, whine, let people take care of you. Then do the best you can. But know you’ll go through the emotions again. And that’s okay.