Cancer Perks

Most of you know that I am not the “cancer is a blessing” type of gal. I do not, in any way, believe that cancer is a good thing to happen to anyone. It stinks. I do not recommend it.

However, like with most things, there are a few silver linings and some good things that have come out of this whole mess. Of course, I’d gladly accept NOT having cancer and give back every single silver lining. But since that’s not an option, and I have spent so much time lamenting over all the things that cancer has taken away from me, I may as well also make a list of some of the good things that have come my way as a result.

So here it is: The Perks of Cancer.

1. Hair compliments. Actually, general appearance compliments. I can’t begin to tell you how common a conversation topic my hair has become. When you go from bald and sick-looking to having hair and healthy-looking, everyone goes NUTS and wants to shower you with compliments ALL the time. It is pretty nice. What’s even better is when I get compliments from people who have no idea that I ever had cancer, and they just tell me that they love my “hairstyle” and I look amazing. Because then I know they’re not giving me cancer pity, but they’re genuinely paying me a compliment. They like me, they really like me!

2. Making new friends. I have had some amazing people come into my life, whom I likely never would have met if not for having cancer. Some of these people have cancer, and some don’t but they have been connected to me through my blog and through cancer-y things. Having new friends is always a good thing, and having new great friends is always an even better thing.

3. Making old friends. Cancer allowed me to truly learn who the real friends were in my life. Although this perk has a painful opposite side (i.e. learning which friends maybe weren’t so great as you thought), it’s still a really nice upside when you realize (hopefully) how many amazing people you are surrounded by. Cancer definitely strengthened some of my relationships and there are certain people who I can now say will be my friends for life, 100%.

4. Appreciation for everything. I think I already had quite a lot of appreciation for most things pre-cancer, but now it is just intensified in a major way. I see things in new ways and I value every minute in a way that I don’t think most people do. I still have times when something strikes me, and I feel tears in my eyes, because I am just so overwhelmed that I am still alive. Being alive is AWESOME. I feel lucky every day.

5. New opportunities. I think it’s a pretty common sequence of events: Go through something hard/awful/challenging and then realize that that obstacle has actually pushed you in a positive direction. For me, this perk has been a pretty huge one. Cancer magically turned me into a writer. Okay, no. I was always a writer. But it gave me something to write about and it allowed me to find my voice and share it with other people. I’ve also found that I have a passion for helping others and for advocating for other cancer patients. It’s forced me to re-evaluate my career path and make new choices. Which is totally terrifying and overwhelming. But also really exciting.

6. Valuing health and my body. I’d always been pretty healthy pre-cancer and I probably took it for granted. Well, that certainly isn’t the case anymore. After putting my body through hell, I am so appreciative now of the little things it can do. My legs can carry me and my arms can lift things. I can run up the stairs, or take a long walk through the city with my husband. I have energy when I get up in the morning and I don’t need to take multiple naps to get through a day. It feels amazing to get your strength back after having it completely obliterated. Simply, amazing.

7. Inspiring others. If you have cancer, and especially if you’re young, you are automatically an inspiration to others. Sorry, but you are. May as well milk it and enjoy it. I am happy to inspire you, especially if it causes you to make positive changes in your life. But just know that as inspiring as you might think I am, I am usually covered in ice cream drippings, with my drawn-on eyebrows sweating off my face, limping down the sidewalk because I have blisters all over my ankles. But if that inspires you, then I’m just fine with that.

Can you spot the ice cream drippings?

Scattered thoughts

Some thoughts from my very tired mind:

  • Today I saw multiple incidents where strangers were yelling at each other and saying nasty things in the street. A streetcar rider mad at an automobile driver. A biker mad at a pedestrian. Everyone just mad at the world, at everyone, and everything. And you know what? These days, mad people are what make me… well, mad. Sometimes I wish I could just touch someone and they’d get a quick glimpse into the hell that has been much of the past year for me and my husband. And then maybe they would think, oh geez, this really isn’t worth getting that angry over. If you have your health, and you have at least one person in your life who wants to be around you at least some of the time, then as far as I’m concerned, you have it pretty good. Can we all just stop hating each other and hating the world for one second? Seriously. Stop. Life is good.

  • Yesterday I participated in a video that will be shown during the first night of the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers walk. After we were finished, I was asked if I would be the speaker at the closing ceremonies of the Walk at the Rogers Centre, and represent all the survivors. I was really honoured and said yes, and asked if instead of reading from a script, I could write it myself. I don’t really think reading someone else’s words will sound anything like me, or necessarily be what I would want to say. So now I’ll have to think of what I want to say. I am not worried about writing it. I love writing speeches. The thing I was most excited for about having a wedding was getting to write a speech (besides the whole getting married thing, I liked that too). So I should be okay in that area. I am mostly worried about being a huge sweaty mess and having my eyebrows melt off my face. Or going completely blank and just saying, “Breast cancer sucks!!!” and having everyone throw tomatoes at my head.
  • I’m thinking of writing a book. Just thinking about it. I have a lot of people really pushing me to do it. So I guess I’m in the early planning stages. In other words, I have written nothing. Well, besides this entire blog, which I guess is something. But there is so much more to say, and such a longer story to tell. I just don’t think I have the emotional stamina to deal with it right now, since I’m trying hard to NOT think about cancer as much as I can. So I might leave it alone for a bit, and tackle it when I’m ready. I’ve already imagined it being turned into a screenplay, and I’ve thought about what I would say in my Oscar acceptance speech. I realize this is jumping ahead a bit and I should probably attempt to write a sentence or two before buying a fancy gown. But go big or go home, right? Right.
  • I went back to work this week on a part-time schedule. It was a bit overwhelming as I had to try to absorb a lot of new information in a short amount of time. But I think I’ll get the hang of it again after a bit more time. I refuse to allow myself to get stressed, or to let anyone else’s stress rub off on me. I can’t really afford to be stressed. And I kind of have this new life perspective now, where it isn’t too difficult for me to separate what is truly worth getting in a panic over vs. what is not. Pretty much almost everything falls into the latter category.
  • I’ve been buying some clothes lately, because it felt necessary after wearing pretty much nothing but pajamas and sweatpants for a year. I remember after I was first diagnosed, I couldn’t bring myself to shop and didn’t want to buy any clothing. It felt pointless, like maybe I wouldn’t live long enough to wear the clothes or maybe I’d never have a need for regular clothes again, or never like the way I looked in anything. I didn’t want to be dead, with a bunch of new clothes, and have to leave my family to deal with getting rid of all them. Clearly, my mind was in a pretty dark state. But it ain’t there anymore. I love clothes. I want more. MORE MORE MORE.
  • Today I went to a check-up at the hospital, where three different people looked at and squished my boobs. While I was sitting in the waiting room, I saw so many scared women, clearly only at the beginning of their “journey”. You can usually tell by who has long hair. I remember being that scared girl those first few months, sitting in the waiting room, wanting to cry in the corner and be pretty much anywhere else. And I’d look at other ladies with short hair, who clearly had just finished their treatment, and I was in awe of them, wondering if I’d ever make it to that point. And as I sat there today, with my almost-pixie hair, feeling confident and healthy, I realized I was at that point. I am now the girl that others are staring at, wondering if they’ll make it over to the other side. Wondering how I survived. Truthfully, I don’t know how I did. But somehow I made it. I am part of the short-hair club. I am someone others look to for hope and inspiration. If they only knew that I laugh when people fall down, or when someone farts, then maybe they wouldn’t feel so inspired. But that can be our secret.