To do or not to do

This is how I'd look right now, if I were a cartoon dwarf.
Oh, Grumpy. I feel ya, pal.

Many people believe that when it comes to cancer, things are fairly clear-cut. You have this type of cancer, you follow this type of treatment, and you do whatever the doctors tell you to do. Unfortunately, this is very rarely the case, although it sure sounds nice. Cancer is all about unknowns and grey areas. This can be especially true when you are a young patient, as many of the studies and numbers do not necessarily reflect people of a younger age, who are often “high-risk” – the fabulous term with which I have been labeled by doctors. Of course, there have been many advances in cancer research and treatment. But even so, sometimes there is not enough data and information to work with, and ultimately, the patient is the one who has to decide what they feel most comfortable with and how they want to proceed in many areas of their cancer treatment.

As a control-freak, you would think it would thrill me to get to make choices and not be told what to do in a given situation. But no, my friends. That is not the case. You see, when it comes to making decisions that can affect your ability to be alive, it’s not such a great feeling to be in control. In fact, it’s quite a lot of pressure, and frankly, a pain in the ass.

Throughout my cancer “journey” (barf… someone find me a better word for “journey”), I have had to make many impossible decisions. Decisions that affect my body, my health, my chance of survival, among other things. This past week, I have been confronted with yet another huge decision in regards to (what feels like) my never-ending treatment. And again, doctors can give me the facts, but not advise. It is in my hands. My stupid, sweaty-palmed hands.

As a young girl, I was an excellent student. Straight A’s all the way, occasionally referred to as “The Brain” or “Brainer” by my schoolmates (not the coolest nickname one could possess, but I suppose there are worse). I would ace a test or get accolades from my teacher for a story I wrote, without putting in a great deal of effort. This continued throughout university, where my roommates would get frustrated at my ability to write an essay or finish an exam at a dizzying pace, while they would still be trying to come up with a thesis statement.

The student inside me, who has been locked away for years, has returned as a result of my new current interest: curing my cancer. I spend endless hours reading studies that I really have no business reading, in that I usually have to google every other word to make sense of the terminology. I read articles, message boards, books, trying to stay on top of all the current and relevant info pertaining to my particular case. Trying to search for the answer to whatever question I am currently faced with.

But unfortunately, unlike school where I could essentially bullshit my way into getting a great mark (one teacher in high school actually told me I did that and I took it as a very high compliment), I can’t do that here. I can’t make the answers appear. I can’t pretend that I know them all. Because no one does. Most of it is just a crap-shoot, where you make a decision, pray it was the right one, and move on the best you can. If you can.

Today I feel tired of making these big decisions and trying to be the all-star cancer student. I feel over it. The Brain can only handle so much. As my mother said to me earlier, I should be making decisions about what colour nail polish to wear, not trying to figure out whether X or Y may or may not kill me. (Note to self: must paint nails.)

So, all this to say, I’m feeling a bit grumpy today. Grumpiness is another unfortunate side effect of cancer. And, as the cherry on top, tomorrow I get to do chemo #3. They better have a good stock of popsicles this time. Although hopefully I won’t have to make a choice between flavours. I don’t need anything else on my plate right now.


9 thoughts on “To do or not to do

  1. Oh Stephanie the whole thing just sucks! You have every RIGHT to be grumpy! It is all consuming and overwhelming! I’m so sorry you are going through this…I wish I could make everything perfect for you! I’m praying for you everyday (especially tomorrow) !!!! Your writing and your strength are inspiration…let me know if I can do anything for you from my corner of the world!

  2. Stephanie,
    I had no idea bout your decision load. As if chemo wasn’t bad enough. Best to you on #3.

    As for alternative descriptors for the, uh, journey, may I offer:
    Cancer Fn Journey. Cancer Suckin Journey. Cancer Sick Fest. Cancer sucks fest.

    Can Sir Joy?
    Can sear gurney.
    Can’t see her joy?!
    Canned sur join.

  3. Steph- Love your writing! It is everything I have thought for the past 8 months! I too am a
    ‘control freak’ and researched my type of breast cancer til my eyeballs fell out! I did find that the more reading I did the worse I felt (It was hard to avoid statistics that probably didn’t apply to me but I was sure they did). I choose now to read blogs like yours, people who are going through the worst time in their lives but manage to turn it around by making others laugh. Cancer does suck and you are much too young to be going through this (I keep you in my thoughts and prayers, really I do it is not just a cliche’). You are permitted to be grumpy and lay in bed for days if that is what you choose to do! And although I had never taken a drug in my life before cancer, occasionally I take an Ativan when I feel like I am being swallowed up by the whole thing! ( A friend who had cancer said I should ask the doctor, she couldn’t live without it). I will follow you on your ‘quest’ for good health! Kathy

  4. I remember those days of straight A’s and me losing focus on the exam at hand because all I could think was, “How the F did that girl finish the 2-hr exam in 25 min????”
    Love you and hope you’re enjoying some delicious popsicles as I type this..xoxxx

  5. I think we are secret siblings, Stuff. Our school strategies seem identical.

    And let’s see here. My Cancer Slamdunk? My Cancer Jive? My Cancer Explosion? My Cancer Scuttle? My Cancer Marathon? My Cancer Shittyshitshit? My Cancer Sneak Attack? My Cancer Crossbow?

    I’ve got literally hundreds more.

  6. 1) Go get a manicure – let someone else do the work for you ❤
    2) "journey" = Ordeal? Saga? Adventure? Nightmare? Tribulation?

    Sending you lots of big hugs, strength, clarity, and bravery for all the big decisions. Love you very much, Steph!

  7. think pink baby… that is to say, pink healthy tissue! That always helped me through the day, when I envisioned my insides being pink and healthy and full of life. I know it sounds trite but somehow it helped to make me feel that I was doing something, (albeit a bit fantastical). Sometimes the science and too much information only makes the yukkiness worse, you just need good “pink” energy to get you through the day – and a great nail polish color! I am sending you strong positive energy your way, sort of like a layman’s m’sherbayach (prayer of healing).

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