I started a job last month and it is the first one since cancer where no one knows that I ever had cancer. In a way it has been nice because I feel like my old self in a sense. In another way it feels like I’m hiding this part of me that I am afraid that someone is going to find out about. I know that if someone where to put things together I figure things out it would be no big deal. I just really like getting to know my co workers and getting to exist in a world where nothing about me is associated with cancer.
Thriving. This word is used a lot to describe life after cancer treatments. Somehow it is supposed to be better or more encompassing instead of survivor. Thriving, thrive, thriver – I hate these words, this concept that life after cancer means your thriving. I don’t know the dictonary definition of this word but for me it generates pressure and resentment.
The first two weeks of May I did a social media cleanse, not looking at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for two weeks. What I realized is that social media is kind of stupid. About myself though, I started to reallize more and more that I’m doing ok, but by no means to I think of myself as someone who I thriving post cancer. I know that life is precious and short and I need to be making the most of it. But that’s a lot of pressure. I feel like people sometimes think I should be going out and meeting all the new people I can, or that I should get a dog because it would be good for me and the dog. But right now, I still to afraid to go out there I figure out what it is that makes a thriver.
I’m out here trying to figure out what the hell makes a life and how to get some stability into my life. There’s so much that has happened in this past year alone that feels like there’s pressure to become someone who is thriving but damn it all I can do right now is survive.
I’m okay with being a survivor, because there’s a lot of stuff I’ve had to deal with and continue to deal with that comes with plenty of its own pressure. Thriver, thriving, thrive – those words are too loaded with pressure themselves that I can never use them in my vocabulary.
I was reading the results of a CT scan I had a few weeks ago to make sure my PE from September had cleared. It mentioned that there was scarring on the outer lobe of my left lung (or something like that). This makes sense because that is the side that went through radiation, basically where the large tumor was located. It got me thinking about all of the other scars that I have amassed throughout my life. On a deeper level it really got me thinking about the scars that aren’t visable.
Emotionally, I’m left with the scars of having my old life removed with the words you have cancer. I finally had found a job within my new career field, I thought maybe I would finally be able to move out on my own again. Then September 15, 2016 cancer went ahead and pissed in the punch. Suddenly, I worried about dying, what the future held and if I would be okay. And the truth is I’m still dealing with the emotional scars of losing the hopes and dreams before I had cancer because some of them now just seem impossible. I wonder if I’ll ever have a career or if it will always be more of a job because of all the ground that I feel like I’ve lost because of dealing with cancer. I wonder if I’ll ever have my own house and be on my own again because cancer and life after cancer is expensive.
Then there are mental scars. My mental scars are based in emotion but they feel different than emotional scars. Every time I have to get some sort of imaging or ultrasound done I have that anxiety that something is going to be found. The scanxiety used to be highly emotional but now it is more of an association that the imaging orders create this fear, it’s not something felt deep inside it is just the mental response to getting that piece of paper that says orders. (I think there’s some sort of technical term for this but my psychology class was at 8am and I don’t remember anything.)
The physical, emotional, and mental scarring that comes with cancer is such a mind fuck (I can’t think of a term). I’m glad that no one told me about this in the beginning. I’m also really thankful to mental health professionals that are helping to sort through all of these scars.
Numbers. Sometimes, cancer and all that comes with it seems to always come down to numbers. There are a lot of numbers involved in managing life during and after cancer. White Blood Cells, neutrophils during cancer, after cancer it is things like polyps, clots, and scans to be managed. The numbers leave me overwhelmed and angry sometimes. I have to concentrate really hard on not asking why me? But asking, “Why not me?”
As I was driving the other day and talking to myself I realized that my expectations are just perhaps to high. Or that so much discussion about things can create expectations that are going to do nothing but disappoint.
I’m not even talking about being disappointed about having cancer at 32 and life never returning to like it was before cancer. I’m talking about how I’ve been disappointed that I went to college, graduated but have yet to find the career and money that all of the educational professionals set up the expectation for if I went to college after high school. Or that if I join a group of people with similar experiences I will find and create lasting friendships.
I’m trying my best to find the positives in my life right now but my expectations are making it difficult because I keep ending up disappointed. Maybe it is better to not have outside expectations, just concentrate on the expectations that I have for myself.
Little life update a couple of weeks into 2021. On the fifth day of the month I got let go from my job. After the dumpster fire of 2020 this probably should have sent me into some sort of downward shame spiral. The truth is that I’ve been relieved since it happened. I’m excited to move past a situation that made me cry pretty much everyday and made me feel isolated and completely worthless. I’m excited to make a clean start with work and with the new year.
I’ve started running again but I’m not sure how I feel about running in the cold. It feels good to just move my body, empty my mind and honestly just concentrate on how much I want the running to be over 🙂 Overall, exercise has been harder because the gym closed but it always feels good to partake in some sort of physical activity.
I have started changing a lot of other routines in an effort to make 2021 better. I revamped my entire skincare routine. I’ve also started eating a more plant based diet. Honestly, it means that I’m just eating more salads.
Most important, I’m trying to say yes more this year. I realized towards the end of the last year all too often my first instinct is to say no do things. So this year I’m going to say yes. I’m going to say yes if I’m invited to go up north for the weekend. I’m going to say yes to going to parties. I’m going to say yes to trying foods that I don’t like. I just want to say yes so I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on anything.
That’s my life update so far into 2021. Everyday it’s making progress towards the steps of a fresh start in 2021.
This was supposed to be my year, where things could really start moving in a favorable direction. But you proved to be a formidable opponent, one really insistent on raining on my parade and that of everyone else.
You’ve made me question my self worth more times than I’ve ever done before. I’ve learned to say I’m lonely because of you and that is never easy to say. I’ve learned to say that I need help because you brought me to the precipice of losing all hope. Because of you I’ve learned that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
But your lessons haven’t all been bad. I learned that stuff I liked to do as a little kid is still fun as an adult. I learned that my family is always there and always loves me. Travel is fun and something I am destined to do more of. Perhaps most importantly, I’m learning to believe in the idea that things take time but eventually I’ll get to where I’m supposed to be.
So 2020 I’m glad to see you go and I can only hope the new year gets better because after you there’s really no direction to go but up.
I was listening to a podcast this morning and the host asked the guest if they were happy with their life. Heavy question for the guest, heavy question to hear on a Monday, and a heavy question for me to think about myself. I spent all day thinking about this question and my answer is that I am not happy with my life. That’s a really hard sentence to write, I’ve never said it out loud.
The even harder part of not being happy with my life is trying to figure out what would make me happy with my life. I’ve been working on this a lot in therapy and I’ve been trying to get back to things I liked to do as a kid. I plan to try cross country skiing if there’s enough snow this winter because I loved playing in the snow as a kid. I also might here about fashion type things because that was another thing I loved as a kid, fashion and all the glamorous things like Barbie had, different outfits for each occasion.
But will these things make me happy with my life? I have no clue. All I know is that I’m trying to figure it out because I don’t want to regret things. I don’t want to look back and think I should have lived more.
The other day I saw an Instagram post about finding someone who you can share all your baggage that has resulted from cancer or some sort of genetic mutation and it got me thinking. First, I got to thinking about the Instagram “cancer influencers” that I found and followed on and off for a couple of years. Second, I got to thinking about all of the reasons that being single right now is pretty awesome.
A lot of the cancer influencers I have found fit an easy to describe mold. They are usually married and were married before their cancer diagnosis. Then they are skinny and fit, comfortable showing their scars naked or in a swimsuit. Perhaps most the best way to describe it is that in the Cancer High School for Young Survivors they would be the popular cheerleader types. I can’t think of anybody I’ve found who has some sort of similarity to my story. I was single before, during, and after cancer. I’m not skinny and fit where I would feel comfortable showing my scars to anyone let alone the whole of Instagram. I don’t even like wearing a bathing suit without putting my long sleeved rash guard over top. (The rashguard is also skin cancer prevention, but I digress.) I don’t want kids, never have wanted kids, and now can’t have kids, which is hard for my fellow “breasties” to understand. What I’m getting at is I have a lot of ducking baggage that I can’t handle sometimes and continues to impact me still, so how the hell am I going to worry about finding a potential partner who is willing to help with my baggage? I know this person’s post meant well but it was really a reminder of how different people’s journeys can be sometimes.
It also got me thinking of all the reasons why being is awesome.
- I get the whole darn bed to myself, if I want to lay diagonally across the bed then that’s what I am going to do.
- I don’t have to worry about how much money I spend. If I want a $99 eye cream then I’m going to buy it, I don’t have to worry about anyone else. Well except for future me who gets the AMEX bill and might yell at past me for spending too much on eye cream.
- Maybe the biggest reason being single is awesome is I get to figure out who I am on my own before finding someone who might want to hold some of my baggage.
Cancer is a battle, if it was easy it wouldn’t be such a bitch. Life after cancer can be of a bitch as well. Because of this I’m not really concerned about finding someone to help with my baggage. I also need to stop paying attention to the cancer influencers because they’re nothing like me and it is a good thing.
It seems that in medicine everything gets shortened to some sort of acronym. Earlier this month I got to add PE and DVT to the alphabet soup of my medical history.
I had gone in for a routine CT Scan to make sure I was still NED or no evidence of disease (again the shortening of terms). On a Thursday night, the oncologist called asking if I was experiencing any sort of pain or shortness of breath. I said no and was trying not to freak out the oncologist was calling at 7:30. He explained that a blood clot showed up on my CT in my lung and I needed to go to the emergency room right away. So off I went and didn’t return home until Monday afternoon. Long story short I spent the weekend hooked to an IV receiving blood thinner and feeling healthy other than the blood clot in my lung (the PE) and the one found in my leg (the DVT). I was sent home with a prescription blood thinner that I get to take for as long as I am on my cancer drug Anastrozole.
What I have realized in the days since my weird hospital stay is that I can feel sorry for myself and ask why me? Or I can ask why not me? There were a lot of events that led up to the finding of my blood clot that at the time seemed like shitty life blows. But those things that sucked helped in the best way to find the blood clots early on and keep it from becoming a potentially life threatening situation. So PE and DVT join the alphabet soup of DIEP, HER2, ER/PR and others. Also, I’m still in a steady relationship with NED!