One of those days

Today was one of those days.

One of those days where I painted on my eyebrow gel to fill in the sparse areas between the stray hairs that managed to grow back after chemo.

One of those days where I sat in a breast cancer clinic waiting room, and received the typical “sad eyes” and confused stares from the others patients in the room.

One of those days where I filled out the standard self-assessment survey and rated my pain on a scale and realized I’ve never been able to fill in “zero – no pain at all” since this whole ordeal began and maybe never will.

One of those days where I wondered if I’ll ever not know my hospital patient ID number by heart, as if it’s my phone number.

One of those days where I changed into a gown five sizes too large for me.

One of those days where I met with my radiation oncologist and discussed bone pain and the possibility of that pain being cancer pain.

One of those days where my oncologist validated all my anxiety and confusion and empathized deeply with how difficult life can be for young people who’ve had cancer and how most people will never understand what that’s like.

One of those days where I had to think about balancing the effects of radiation from potentially needless scans with the mental effects of worrying that my cancer might have spread.

One of those days where I attempted to go shopping and try on cute dresses, only to have none of them fit my chest properly.

One of those days where I tried not to cry in a change-room for the umpteenth time.

One of those days where I saw pink ribbons in all the windows, on all the products, and pinned to salespeople’s shirts in department stores shouting out at me, begging to be noticed, forbidding me to ignore them.

One of those days where I unintentionally, while browsing greeting cards, picked up a birthday card that had a message inside that said something dumb about grandkids and reminded me that I don’t have a kid right now because I had cancer instead.

One of those days where I felt angry, and then angry at myself for feeling angry.

One of those days where I remembered I had breast cancer and it was hard, and it’s still hard.

Today was one of those days.

Who am I?

Lately, I’ve been starting to get a bit more of the “old me” back. Little by little, cancer is transforming from the star performer to a backup singer, ever so slowly fading into the background. This is obviously a good thing, and I know it’s what my doctors want me to do: to live my life.

The thing is, as much as it starts to become less of a key player in my life, the cancer is still there (not literally, I hope). I feel its presence and its impact, and I think about it every day. How can I not? Last night as I was squirming in bed, my ribs aching from lying on my implant, and my body dripping sweat from my drug-induced hot flashes, I wasn’t thinking of my to-do list or my summer plans. I was thinking of the stupid cancer that caused these issues and prevents me from sleeping. I am accepting of my reality, but I am still angry that it’s my reality, and that I will always feel the remnants of what cancer left behind.

All of this is causing a bit of an identity crisis, as I try to find my way back to my former reality. Slowly but surely, I am having conversations with people that have nothing to do with cancer (most having to do with television shows… obviously). I’m feeling interested in topics that have nothing to do with cancer. Last year, when cancer was my life 24/7, it was really hard to focus on anything else, or to feel like anything else was really that important. I had a lot of  trouble relating to people’s worries and daily concerns. Everything in my world felt so heavy and serious. But now, it is much less so.

There is the occasional doctor’s appointment, and the occasional pain that brings all the fears rushing back and makes me wonder if the cancer is still growing and traveling somewhere else. But it is no longer at the very front of my mind, at least not always. I am less interested in “cancer talk” and “cancer news” and increasingly more interested in all the things I loved before that I had put aside for a bit: exploring new restaurants, listening to new music, reading a good book, geeking out over new tv season trailers, going to the movies, analyzing the disaster that was The Bachelor finale, spending time with friends (usually while eating and/or watching TV… I’m starting to see a common theme here). All that good stuff. It feels great to find my way back to these things and to find joy in many of the same things I used to.

But then the “cancer side” pulls me back in, and I do feel this odd split in my personality, this feeling that I don’t exactly know how to define who I am anymore. Yes, I’ve heard about whatever pop culture thing people are tweeting about on most given days and yes, just like you, I’m annoyed with Rob Ford and annoyed with the shitty weather and complaining about all the same dumb crap most people are. But then I hear about another young cancer patient who died, or I see a link to a new study about breast cancer outcomes, or I get an email from someone newly diagnosed who wants my advice. And I’m pulled right back into that world, and it still feels very familiar, and somewhat natural. There is still that need to connect with people and reach out to people in the same boat, regardless if we have anything else in common — cancer is what connects us, and that’s all that’s needed, because it is such a huge, fundamental part of my history. And if I’m really being honest, it is still a dominant force in my present, and likely in my future.

As much as I adjust to my new reality and try to get things back to how they once were, there is no denying it — I am forever changed, and I view the world through a very different lens.

So, who am I?* I don’t really think it can be summed up in one clean definition. I am a 29 year-old woman. I’m a wife. I’m a daughter and sister and friend. I’m creative. I’m intelligent. I’m (sometimes) funny. I’m compassionate and loyal. I’m a writer. I’m a film/tv person. And one time, I also had cancer.

I guess that will have to do for now.

*After writing “who am I?” I totally can’t get this out of my head now. Sorry if the same thing happens to you.

All my drugs are packed, I’m ready to go

During chemo, all I dreamed about was going on a tropical vacation. Somewhere quiet, with sand and a beach. I was filled with envy, while everyone seemed to be hopping on planes and jetting off somewhere, as I sat in a ball on my couch trying to find the physical strength just to get up and make it to the bathroom.

And now, it’s my turn. And you all have my permission to be jealous.

See ya!