My fear of mice… and blogs

A mouse just ran across my kitchen floor while I was putting groceries away. I screamed “OHMYGAWWWWD NOOOOO!!!!” and ran down the hall shrieking and hyperventilating. There is almost nothing that gives me the heebie-jeebies more than mice. In fact, I’ve even had recurring dreams where I am being attacked by vicious mice. True story.

As I hid in my living room, with the door closed, I tried my usual mantra of calming myself down: You’ve had cancer. This isn’t so bad. It’s not cancer. It’s just a mouse. Nothing can scare you anymore.

As the kids these days say – EPIC FAIL.

As much as I try to employ this type of logic all the time now, it rarely ever works. As I have said before, I am still fundamentally the same person. Sure, I had cancer. But does this now mean I am not completely, irrationally petrified of a tiny little mouse? Have I been cured of all my pre-cancer phobias? Hellz no.

I just got a notification from WordPress congratulating me on blogging for one year. Happy anniversary, blog! What a pal you’ve been.

After I was diagnosed, I had thought of starting a blog where I could document what I was going through. But I put it off for a couple months. Not because I was afraid of exposing myself or revealing I had cancer. Not because I had nothing to write about. But because I was worried writing a blog would kill me.

I had been searching online for blogs written by young people with cancer, to find something I could relate to. But the more I searched and the more I read, the more it started to feel like everyone who wrote a blog about having cancer ended up dying. I can’t tell you how many blogs I found, particularly of young women with breast cancer, whose most recent entry was either about their cancer metasticizing, or an entry written by a loved one informing the readers that the writer of the blog had passed away. It seemed like for every one blog I could find where the person was alive and well, there were ten more where the opposite was true.

So I convinced myself that if I were to start a blog, I would be writing my own death sentence. That my blog would join the many other young adult cancer blogs, with a sudden, abrupt ending, letting down all those who stumbled upon it, looking for inspiration and hope, as I had with so many others. I felt like writing a blog, and having people read it, would somehow curse me, and set my fate in stone.

I’m not sure what changed, but eventually I realized this was a crazy way of thinking, and blogs do not have the power to kill you. At least I really, really hope they don’t.

Writing this blog has truly been a gift to me, connecting me with so many awesome and lovely people all over the world. It has given me a healthy dose of confidence, allowing me to feel both brave and vulnerable, and uninhibited in my self-expression. It has made me feel less alone and isolated during a very lonely time, being the dependable friend I so badly needed. It has forced me to confront some very deep and dark feelings. It has also turned me into some sort of writing machine, where I feel as though I can’t stop, and I won’t stop (to quote the very inspirational Miley Cyrus).

So, happy birthday dear blog, and thanks for all you have done. I will continue to update you and visit you as often as I can, as long as I have something to say. And you can return the favour by not killing me. And if it turns out you do possess some sort of mystical power to decide who lives and who dies, please choose the mouse. Thank you.

Sorry buddy, it's either me or you
Sorry buddy… it’s either me or you.

 

Today

List time.

Things I am pissed about today:

The wind
That I think about dying way too much
That I might die young
The pain in my hip
The pain around my implants
The lesion on my thyroid
The pelvic pain that landed me in emerg two days ago (I am fine)
The new cysts that were found all over my ovaries
Never having a CT/MRI/Ultrasound without something new/weird showing up
The recent death of a girl with breast cancer who I used to see every chemo session. She was nice. And pretty. And a few years older than me
Cancer, obviously
Post-traumatic stress
Not knowing what to do with my life
That I might never have a baby
That everyone around me is having babies
That my life’s plans were derailed
That any regular pain or ache might be bone/brain/lung/liver mets
That despite all the hell I put myself through, the drugs might not have done anything
My awkward, impossible to manage hair length
War
Mean people
Poor etiquette

Things I am happy about today:

Cereal
My family
My husband
My friends
The smell of fresh laundry
Being able to walk
The blue sky
Upcoming holidays
Canadian healthcare
Indoor heating
My blanket
The roof over my head
Writing
The Downton Abbey finale episode that awaits me
Vacation plans
Chocolate, always
That my hair grew back
That the drugs might have worked
That it might not always be cancer
This kid:

The happy cancer dance

Unless you are one of those people who doesn’t know how the internet works, you’ve likely seen this viral video circulating around social networking sites, where a woman who is about to undergo a mastectomy dances with her medical team prior to having her surgery.

I have no issues with this woman and her dance party. I liked watching the video and it made me smile. I love a good dance party and I totally danced at odd times throughout my cancer treatment. When the urge strikes, I say go for it. Her display of joy does not bother me in the least.

What bothers me, however, is people’s reactions to this video. The video went viral because people LOVE seeing patients who have fun with their cancer. Patients who subvert expectations of being a cancer patient and who defy convention. These types of stories are the ones that spread like wildfire because we find them to be inspirational and uplifting. Thousands of people shared and commented on the video: She is so awesome! Wow, she is brave! What amazing courage this woman has! I wish I could be like her!

Okay, fair enough.

But I’ll tell you a secret: EVERYONE who gets their boobs lopped off possesses courage. We just all choose to do it in different ways. Sure, no one wants to see the video of the young mom being wheeled in her hospital bed, into the operating room, with tears running down her face, hopped-up on anxiety meds. Fine. You don’t have to see it. But all these women are no less courageous and no less awesome and no less worthy of being celebrated.

Our society loves showing the lighter side of cancer, and the people who laugh in its face. We need to perpetuate this “happy cancer” myth so that we feel we have some sort of control. If I get cancer, I will dance too, and I will be okayCancer’s not that bad.

But the truth is, most people aren’t dancing. Most people are scared as hell, and isolated and anxious, which is how I feel most days. I can tell you, as someone who loves to dance and loves giving the big EFF YOU to cancer, I most definitely was not dancing the day of my mastectomy. I cried. And I cried for many days after.

I still cry.

I am no less brave.

And neither are you.

Adventures in book writing

I am writing from my favourite library in the city, staring out the large window at the grey and rainy day outside. I have been leaving the comfort of my home every day, exploring different spaces to write, and it seems the most obvious of them all, the library, really does beat any other option. No pressure to buy a beverage or overpriced pastry, several empty electrical outlets, and a general understanding that silence is golden. Not to mention, being surrounded by books, which makes for a pleasant atmosphere when attempting to write a book. Three cheers for libraries.

Although I have been writing every day, I have written very little, considering how quickly words tend to flow out of me. I’m finding it difficult to really tell “my story” as a proper story. To know where to start, what to include, what’s interesting and what’s a complete bore.

I also get a bit discouraged when I realize how many cancer memoirs are out there. It seems it’s extremely common for people with cancer, specifically women with breast cancer, to write a book about their experience. But what keeps me motivated are a few things:

A lot of these books aren’t written well. There, I said it. Sorry, but just because you had cancer does not mean you are now a writer.

A lot of these books are written like survival or “how-to” guides. How to get through chemo, how to tell your kids, etc. etc. And while that’s all great, I don’t see myself writing any such guide, or telling anyone how to deal with his/her cancer. All I want to do is simply tell a story. My story.

A lot of these books are written by older men and women. Even some of the ones I found by younger authors were still written by people older than I am.

A lot of these books seriously lack humour, and conversely, some are so lighthearted that to me, they don’t really show the full picture of what it is to live with cancer. There are lots of female-centered cancer memoirs that try to emulate a Sex and the City vibe. Cancer can be sexy! I kept my feisty, feminine spirit the whole time! Cancer has nothing on me! If you’ve been reading along, you will know that I am not that person… at all. Cancer is shit, especially when you’re a young adult, and I have no intention of shielding anyone from its realities. I think there’s a way to be dark, and truthful, and humourous. And I don’t believe there are too many people who have managed to do this.

And lastly, what I keep telling myself is this: My story is uniquely mine and no one else’s. It doesn’t matter if a million people have chronicled their disease. No one is me, inside my head. As much as there are many commonalities, we all experience life and its struggles very differently. What if JK Rowling had said to herself, “There have been too many books about wizards and magic, it’s all been done before.” You guys, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter. And a world without Harry Potter is just not a world I want to live in.

So, that’s my pep talk for the day. Maybe it will inspire you to do something you’re not sure you’ll be any good at. Or maybe it will just inspire you to buy my book, some day, a long time from now, when it is complete. And I’d be okay with that; if there’s anything you can infer from the fact that I am in a library, it’s that I’d welcome a little financial boost in my life. And then maybe instead of the one bagel I purchased, I would go wild and purchase two bagels. TWO BAGELS.

Dream big, friends.