If nothing else I got dressed today. A little over a week ago I lost my job due to the coronavirus. I’m not writing that sentence for sympathy or awareness of how its affecting everybody, I write it more for posterity sake. Its been a struggle today (and the past few days) but I eventually got myself out of bed and if nothing else I got dressed today.
Real fast and unedited. I’ve been trying lately to figure out “who I am” beyond cancer. Sometimes, I feel like its all that I am, a cancer survivor. I’m currently in a job that I don’t like and makes me feel less than great a majority of the time. I’m not a wife or mother. I don’t have a dog or house so those as a part of my identitiy are out.
Some of who I am consists of a daughter, a sister, and aunt, all pretty great things to be. I’m also a genetic mutant and a rare one at that so that’s cool minus all the tests and the anixenty those tests bring once or twice a year.
I’m also a reader and I like to read it all, from fiction to non-fiction, light and fluffy chick lit to self help books. I relectutanly say that I’m a runner. I mean if you get jealous when you see people running outside in the winter I’d say that makes me a runner. I’m also a dailyish mediatator. I’m not always good about meditating everyday but I try to do it a number of times a week because I find it keeps me present and from going to far down the rabbit hole of dark scary emotions and wondering what if. I’m also a fan of learning foreign languages, for seven years I’ve been perfecting my Spanish with Duolingo while attempting to also learn French and Italian.
Some other things that I hope to be outside of a cancer survivor include a blogger. I don’t necessarily want to be famous, I just want to more frequently but my thoughts out there in hopes that it might help somebody. I want to a be a world traveler because I think that’s been my dream since I was a child, dreaming of one day going to places like Morocco, Cuba, and Japan. Mostly, I just want to be more comfortable being me, I think that is going to be the best way to figure out who I am.
Self care has become one of those phrases that everyone uses. Usually, it seems like self care is all about doing a face mask or taking a yoga class. For me once a week my self care is to go to therapy for an hour.
It was about this time last year I noticed that mentally, I was struggling with a lot of things. There were some days at work where I just couldn’t make it through the day without crying, without feeling unappreciated, or just being plan angry at the situation. Add in to a frustrating career situation the lingering effects of cancer and reconstruction surgery and I was just discouraged and heading towards hopeless with everything.
I worked for many months with the social worker at the cancer center and eventually worked some way through my issues with cancer but the rest of my life still had stuff that was unresolved. She gave the name of psychiatrist in May and I was booked for an appointment in September. Thankfully, I moved up the waiting list and went to an appointment in June where we upped the dose of my anti-depressant that I was already on for hot flashes to a therapeutic dose to try and help my quickly growing depressive state. The medications helped but I still needed more, something more frequent than the cancer center social worker could offer.
So every week since August or so I’ve gone to talk therapy to work through a bunch of issues that had been bothering me or are bothering me, its helped tremendously. It is the one form of consistent self care that I have. I’ve worked at finding the deeper meanings of my anger towards such things like my work situation. I’ve learned not to worry about feeling so far behind in life because I don’t have things like a house or a good paying job or that life sometimes seemingly continues to deal me a bad hand. That with a little hope, faith, and a lot of action things will eventually begin to go my way.
Therapy helps me see the forest through the trees, that a lot of what was overwhelming and at sometimes feeling like it was crushing me is nothing that I can’t work through. It makes me realize that I need to take care of myself, to see the things in my life that I have and those that I want.
I keep seeing things about the tops of the year and the tops of the decade. I realized the other day that the decade thing is something that really upsets me. This decade has been long and hard and I’m not sad to see it go. Between cancer and it’s endless gifts there has been plenty of other crap in this decade I’m happy to forget.
Instead of dwelling on the negative I’m trying to think of the positive. I made a career transition where I have learned so much more about myself than I thought I could learn in a job. I went all over the state and got to see just how awesome Michigan is and why I don’t ever want to leave again. I made some friends and said good bye to some others.
Truth is though the tough times of the decade really outweigh the good times, so I’m ready to say good bye and embrace this new one. I’m ready to go after my dreams and live the life I’ve imagined.
The one true vacation I took in 2014 and my day at the beach
Almost a year ago I had my DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction surgery. The main surgery was an experience in itself. The year that’s followed as been its own crazy journey to try and conquer.
The cool thing about surgery is the time travel you experience when you are the patient. My major surgery where part of my abdomen was just to reconstruct breasts was something like six hours, for me it was like the blink of an eye. Being sliced open from hip to hip really hurts. My abdomen hurt, my chest hurt, my head hurt and think all of me hurt. The worst when was I vomited, twice never before have I experienced such pain. Five days later I left the hospital and started the recovery phase of my surgery.
Eight weeks later, I went back to work and quickly scheduled the next phase of my reconstruction. Revisions. Basically, I think of revisions as the nip and tuck portion of the reconstruction. We cleaned up some shapes and scar lines. Recovery was pretty easy, honestly the drugs are really what took their toll. It was hard though to once again get used to a changing shape of my body, suddenly my muffin top from surgery was gone and the shape of things was a little different.
Three months later because both myself and my plastic surgeon weren’t quite pleased with the results I had some fat grafting done (basically its liposuction or moving fat from one place to the other). This is surgery number three in the whole diep flap reconstruction process for me. What I thought was going to be tough with bruising and pain was easy, I barely bruised at all.
I thought maybe I would be done after surgery number three but I still wasn’t quite satisfed. So three months after fat grafting I went back in for another revision surgery. My plastic surgeon is some sort of sorcerss because she really fixed what I wasn’t liking.
So in a year since the major surgery, my diep flap reconstruction has included three more surgeries, its been a journey to adjust to an ever changing body and accept that I continue to put myself through so many surgeries. I wonder sometimes when I’ll reach a point of satisfaction. Thankfully, I don’t ever have to go through the major surgery again. Most important is that overall, I’m so incredibly happy with the results. I know I made the right choice.
Today is National Cancer Survivors Day. I don’t know who made this declaration but I’m ok with it, I like that it’s for all survivors not just one type of cancer. It does make me think about those who have not survived this awful disease because survivor’s guilt is real but I think a little recognition of survivorship isn’t a bad thing.
Because sometimes I think surviving cancer is a bit harder than having cancer. For me surviving cancer has been trying to figure out what the hell my new normal is supposed to be. Surviving cancer and life afterwards is the one part of cancer they don’t seem to have a piece of literature on like they do with everything else that cancer has to offer.
Survivorship has come with periods of depression and agonizing self doubt. I feel as if my life has been on hold since September 15, 2016 and I struggling to find a way to make it move forward because there still seems to some surgery or doctor’s appointment lurking around the corner that makes me think I can move jobs just yet or take a vacation.
But there are positives that come with having survived cancer. I mean the first is obviously that I survived. Others include that I am much braver than I ever thought, I’ve done things like learning to share my story both in person and on this blog for all to possibly read. I’ve met fellow survivors in places where I didn’t know a soul. I’ve learned to make tough decisions and speak up for myself.
At times being a cancer survivor is tough but only because I now know how fast everything in my life can change. But in many ways being a cancer survivor has given me so many more positives to add to my life.
In effort to jump start any sort of creativity I have going and make use of this blog plan that I have paid money for I’m just going to list some of my favorite things.
- Podcasts – I can’t remember which one said to just write and creativity will come but that’s the idea that I’m following. Some of my favorite podcasts are: Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Men in Blazers, Terrible Thanks for Asking, and Natch Beaut. They’re a great way to pass time such as during my hour commute home from work everyday.
- Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap – All Natural, smells good and multi tasking what’s not to like?! I’ve used this stuff for years even way before I ever had cancer.
- My car – I have a Buick Encore and I love it. It’s the first new car that I have bought and it always makes me smile. It has also my work commute so much more enjoyable.
- Candles – It’s not really about the smell. I like the light a candle provides. I like the soothing flickering light. Sometimes, I’ll splurge and get a really fancy candle but usually its just a soy candle that I get from Target that I like to burn.
- Ginger Ale – So I quit drinking caffeine during chemo. Since then I have suffered through some less than desirable side effects and ginger ale became my go to drink. Sometimes, I like it because its soothing and sometimes I like it because its refreshing.
And those are a few of my favorite things 🙂