The end of a not-so-great era

Today I had my LAST treatment. Halle-friggin-lujah.

I rang the bell and celebrated with my friends and family and drank a huge milkshake. It was quite the fun party. I got lots of nice presents. Everyone knows that my favourite part about cancer is the presents. That’s the only thing I like about it, really. But it’s a pretty sweet perk.

Dad hugs post-bell-ringing
Dad hugs post-bell-ringing

 

I have all these confusing, mixed-up emotions. I’m scared of saying bye to all the nurses. I feel like I still need them. I’m scared of saying bye to my drugs. I worry what could happen to me once they’re out of my system. I’m scared of getting too comfortable, and ending up back in that chemo room. It’s hard to say it’s my last treatment without adding on “here’s hoping!” But I really want to believe it’s over. I want this to be the end. Please, please, please, let it be.

I am so over the whole cancer thing. Time for a new thing.

Here’s hoping.

 

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The cancer club

Have you noticed my posts have become less frequent? Sorry to the new subscribers who have signed up for the blog. I don’t wish to disappoint you. However, you can usually safely assume that in my case, no news is good news. The less I have to say/write about cancer,  the more I am focusing on other things. Important things. Like getting caught up on Season 3 of Scandal. Very important. (P.S. no spoilers, please. Seriously.)

I recently attended a support group of sorts. It wasn’t technically labeled a support group, but it was a group of cancer patients, in a room, talking about issues surrounding a cancer diagnosis. It was kind of a lecture with some discussion thrown in here and there.

I didn’t attend one support group while I was undergoing chemo and radiation. I know these groups are really helpful to many people. For me, my support group was my family, my friends, and the many wonderful people I met through writing this blog. I’m fortunate that I had a large network of people I could talk to and who offered to listen.

I decided to attend this session because the topic at hand interested me and I figured it might be a good experiment, and might even help me in this whole “healing” and “recovery” process.

To be honest, I didn’t get a whole lot out of the session. Everyone sitting in the circle was more than twice my age, and although we might have this cancer thing in common, that’s not really enough to make me feel connected to a bunch of senior citizens. (No offence to the many seniors who read this blog. I love old people and would love to sit around with you and play card games and yell at punk teenagers from the porch and do other old-people-things.) Being around a bunch of old people with cancer just reminds me of my crappy luck to have cancer in my 20’s and how much I just don’t belong and don’t want to be part of this particular group. The Cancer Club.

As much as I can empathize with anyone who has cancer regardless of age, when I listened to this group talk about their experiences and feelings, I couldn’t help but think, You have lived long enough to have kids, and grandkids and a career. You’ve had an entire life that I have not lived. If someone told me I could have waited until I was 70 to get stuck with cancer, I would be jumping up and down and doing cartwheels. It’s almost like I am jealous of old people with cancer. Because as much as it is still awful, an old person with cancer just isn’t the same as a young person with cancer. It just ain’t.

Besides that, the “teachings” in the session also felt very “Intro to Dealing With Cancer/Coping 101” kind of stuff. And as you might have noticed, I’m not exactly a cancer novice anymore. I suppose I was looking for something with a little more depth. A new way of thinking, or a different way of approaching things. The ideas and advice given were not new to me. It was all stuff I’ve heard before. However, it seemed that a lot of the folks in the group were really engaged and likely learned something new. I assume most of them were/are a lot less likely to use the internet to search for answers or to connect with others, so there is a much stronger need to have these types of group sessions. I think I was mostly alone in my feelings of I don’t belong here/get me out of here/why aren’t any snacks being offered to me right now/when can I go home and eat a snack.

I’m happy the other patients could get this kind of much needed support. But unfortunately, for me, in a strange way, I just ended up feeling more alone, as if I had accidentally walked into the wrong room. A foreigner in a strange country. But really, that’s what it is to have cancer in your 20’s. It shouldn’t feel normal, because it is not normal. Young people shouldn’t be sick. They shouldn’t have to be part of a peer group where the majority of members have white hair (or no hair… although that part, I can relate to a bit more). But whether I like it or not, and whether I want to join them in their circle, or not — I do have this link to them, this bond that ties us all together. Regardless of age, we’re all scared, and we all want to escape the awful realities of a cancer diagnosis. And we’re all searching for a way to make sense of it all.

I am still searching.

In the meantime, though, maybe it’s time to teach myself Canasta. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

Cancer break

Lately I’m finding it very difficult to write about cancer stuff. I sit down at my computer, almost every day, feeling inspired to write a blog post or work on this “book” that I haven’t touched or really thought about in a long time. And then quickly, the motivation goes right out the door. I put on another episode of Scandal and instantly forget about whatever it was that I felt I needed to get down on paper (and by “paper” I mean “computer”… but that obviously sounds way less romantic and writer-ish).

I’m not sure why this has been happening, but I think much of it is due to the fact that I am majorly cancer’d out. I have not had one day where I haven’t had to think or speak about cancer in a very long time. It is exhausting thinking and talking about such heavy things all the time.

I keep trying to have a day where I don’t think about cancer once the entire day, but I have not come close to succeeding. People say that eventually the day comes where you realize, “Hey, I haven’t thought about cancer in a week!” Honestly, I can’t imagine that really happening. I might think about it less on certain days than others, but the idea of it being entirely absent from my thoughts just seems impossible right now. It is such a major part of my life. I didn’t invite it in, but there it is, and its presence is constant.

I read up on the “cancer news” all the time. It might not be the best idea, but I really can’t help it. This is my universe. You might work in marketing, or finance, and you probably keep track of what is going on in those sectors so you can stay up to date and feel in the loop. Well, it is the same for me. My world just happens to be a bit less flashy and a bit less “something to talk about around the water cooler.” But I like to keep informed. I want to know what’s going on. This is my life, and my health, after all.

Cancer is not just something I had, or something that is in the past. It has become a huge part of my life. I used to get emails from people asking me for movie or music recommendations. Now I get emails asking for advice about getting through chemo and radiation. This has become my new area of expertise. When people have a friend who is diagnosed, they send them to me. The cancer guru. The Dear Abby of planet cancer.

And really, I’m okay with it. I love helping people, however I can. I like reading about clinical trials and drug advancements and understanding a very complex world that until recently, I knew very little about. I am a passionate person and I become highly invested in whatever it is I am currently working on or learning about. And, as unfortunate as it may be, my “job” and my “work” has been cancer for over a year now. I am drawn to books and movies about cancer. I like talking to people about their own experiences with cancer. I suppose, like anyone, I want to feel like I belong. And as much as I want to just be a “normal” young woman, thinking about things like work, and social events, and all that regular-people stuff… that is not my life. It is part of my life, sure. But so is cancer. There it is, and there it will always be.

But all that to say that sometimes, I just need a break. Sometimes I am literally so tired from thinking about it and writing about it, living and breathing it, that I need to lie down and take a nap. Sometimes I just need to turn my brain off, from the research, the statistics, the drugs, the fear, and the reality. Sometimes I just need to turn on the TV and watch The Bachelor, which is pretty much the opposite of thinking about cancer. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to watch The Bachelor premiere (and you should too, so we can talk about it) and I’m going to give myself a whole hour, free from cancer, free from the heavy stuff. You might need a break from your screaming baby. Or your beeping Blackberry. Or your cancer. Whatever it is… sometimes, we all just need a little break.

Oh lordy, now I really wish I had a Kit Kat.
Oh lordy, now I really wish I had a Kit Kat.