The Ring of Fire

I received a really nice email last week, and hopefully this kind stranger doesn’t mind me posting her words here for you to read:

I’m sure you get many of these random stranger emails – oh a blog about BC! I had it too! now that makes us instant friends…LOL.
I just wanted to tell you that your posts are so refreshing to read. In an ocean of stories, yours has been the one that has finally made me think “hey, I’m not a crazy weirdo, this person thinks EXACTLY what I was thinking” – pretty hard to find let me tell you.
so, I just wanted to thank you for bringing a smile to another woman’s day struggling with all the BS around BC.
And great hair. Oh don’t get me started on the hair.

This email reminded me that people still read my blog and that it keeps existing for others, whether I update it or not. Somehow, people still find it and still connect, even as I continue on, living my life. The internet is a pretty groovy thing, n’est-ce pas?

For those who’ve been missing me, don’t forget to check out my monthly column over at ELLE. I’ve been giving all of the thoughts inside my brain to them (and they actually pay me real money to do so!), which is why I haven’t been as active around these parts.

But don’t despair, I’ll never disappear from here completely. This is still my favourite space to be. No deadlines, no edits, no caring about trying to impress anybody. My tiny little corner of the interwebs where I can do as I please. It’s swell.

You know what’s not so swell?

The dramatic return of my hot flashes.

Bleh. I thought I had cured them by switching up my medication brand, but that effect seemed to only last temporarily. I’m back to being a sweaty, burning mess, with the concept of sleeping through the night being nothing more than a fantasy. And if you keep up with your breast cancer news (which I’m sure many of you do not, you lucky ducks), you will know that Tamoxifen is now being recommended for ten years, instead of five. TEN YEARS of sleepless nights and melting madness.

But I am grateful. It could be worse. So much worse. Who needs eyebrows, breasts, sleep, comfort? I’m alive!

I’ve been fighting off a nasty sinus infection the past several days, that finally seems on its way out. I don’t know if this is normal for other people who’ve gone through cancer treatment, but I find that now when I’m sick, I have traumatic flashbacks to the chemo glory days. Lying in bed feeling ill brings back terrible memories of lying in bed feeling (more) ill. When my stomach gets sick now (which still happens from time to time, THANKS IBS), it reminds me of when I felt that way for days/weeks on end, so weak I had to cling to the sink to pull myself up from the toilet, and then lean against the wall as I walked back to my bedroom so I wouldn’t fall down on the way. That scenario felt like a never-ending cycle, for months.

I wish I could just get “normal” sick without having such hideous memories and anxiety attached to it. Maybe eventually, but for now, it still feels like a horrible nightmare I can’t forget. That feeling when you see a scary movie that creeps you out, and it pops into your head right before you go to sleep at night, plaguing your thoughts. It’s like that. Times a million. I play the scenes back in my head. My very own horror movie, and I’m the star.

I always did want to be a star.

But the difference between normal sick and cancer sick is it ends pretty quickly and you bounce right back from it and usually forget about it a few days later. You’re not likely to be tortured with thoughts about that time you had the sniffles and took some cold and sinus pills.

So that’s another thing to be grateful for. Being sick and not having it be cancer. That’s kind of cool. Although I’d rather just not be sick with anything, big or small, ever again, but I guess I’ll roll with the punches. I’ll blow my nose, feel aches in my body, cry because it reminds me of when my entire body ached from the inside out, cry that I might one day feel that pain again, wake up the next morning, and notice that I can breathe again; that the pain is gone and I’m standing on my own, with the past still visible in my rearview mirror, but the present staring at me, pressed right up against the windshield.

And I must say, the present is lookin’ pretty good. More joy than pain. More health than misfortune. More beauty than sorrow. More laughter than tears.

In fact, life is swell.

Except for the hot flashes.

Those can go to hell.


8 thoughts on “The Ring of Fire

  1. Love your writing style–I have humorous envy;-) I did not hear about the 10 years recommendation for tamoxifen:( My oncologist had mentioned there were two studies that would be more conclusive in 2-3 years about that. Can you tell me where the recommendation is coming from?

  2. Steph,interesting trivia for you,your uncle jack[john] the old prospector and bush pilot is very familiar with a new mining discovery in N Ontario,i know the people involved check ,.Ring of fire on computer Noront Mining. .The man who made the discovery had a favorite musician Johnny Cash..The geological shape of the ore body is in a circle ,hence ring of fire,one of the largest new mineral finds in Canada yet to be developed.Introduce yourself to him re email Richard Nemis at Noront mining ,maby a connection to have a donation to your cause.As always your Uncle Jack and Aunt Fran.We Love You.

  3. There is a scientific correlation between mood and health, and it seems like you are on the right side of that correlation. I know that since I’ve started becoming more positive I have had fewer instances of illness. Is it because of my changed attitude? I like to think so.

    Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m just starting, so any support is greatly appreciated.

  4. Being paid real life money is pretty awesome (writing for Elle is even awesomer, I think I may need to look through your reboot challenges for ideas for my list 🙂 ).

    I am glad to know I am not the only person that would get sick and it would make me depressed and remind me of treatment. Not just me… ❤ Hot flashes can go to hell.

  5. Such an awesome bit of honesty and humor about such a serious topic. You seem to have the ability to look beyond the typical trials and tribulations that normally pop up in a discussion about cancer. I think we all know how serious cancer is, and we all probably know someone who has had some form of cancer. The nights are long, sleepless, and typically full of anxiety and pain. It is important to bring those facts into light, but you’ve done it in a way that makes me feel compassionate without feeling like I need to cry.

    1. Wow, thank you for that very thoughtful comment – I really appreciate it! I am a big believer in making jokes out of the bad stuff in life. Doesn’t work for everyone, but it helps me cope. Too exhausting being serious all the time. Cancer is serious enough on its own, if I didn’t laugh about it, I’d probably lose my mind.

      Just checked out your blog – thanks for sharing so openly about what you’ve been going through. I’ll keep reading!

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