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.

The bonds of cancer

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I was very ambivalent about being introduced to other women with the same disease. I wanted to find people I could relate to, yet each situation is also highly individual. Not to mention, most women with breast cancer are considerably older than I am and my set of issues are largely different from theirs.

I was also cautious of making “cancer friends”, as I knew it could mean potential heartbreak. When you and a friend both have cancer, there is always the possibility that one of you might make it, and one of you might not. Or both of you might, both of you might not. It’s entirely unpredictable. I worried about creating friendships where I would be forced to deal with cancer again and again, or compare my disease to someone else’s.

Eventually though, you realize that cancer is majorly lonely and that all your best friends have zero idea what you are going through, as much as they might try to understand and connect. Eventually you need to find others who have been through what you have, and truly understand all the emotions that come with cancer, and after cancer.

Awhile back, I connected with another young woman named Naomi, through my blog. She is a bit older than I am, but in her 30’s, and still very young in breast cancer terms. She has a husband and a little boy, and I learned that we were both at similar phases of our treatment, and being treated at the same hospital.

We bonded over our shitty luck and became friends quite quickly. It is easy to connect with someone when you’re both bald and have had your breasts removed and your life has become batshit crazy. Naomi is a beautiful, kind and generous person and I’m so grateful that we found each other, despite the reason.

Unfortunately, very recently, Naomi learned that her breast cancer had made its way up into her brain, forming another tumor that was causing her headaches. Of course, this was devastating news to hear. We had both just finished up with the worst of our treatment and wanted to celebrate together. This wasn’t supposed to happen, and definitely not so soon. But as I’ve said before, cancer doesn’t really care what you have planned, it just has a mind of its own. And Naomi’s cancer is a particularly nasty beeyotch who clearly needs to be put in its place.

When Naomi called to tell me her cancer had metastasized, she was immediately concerned with my emotional well-being and how that type of news might affect me personally. This is an example of how totally selfless and awesome Naomi is.

Last week, Naomi had brain surgery to remove her tumor and she of course rocked it like a rockstar, because that’s how us cancer galz roll. And now she has another scar to add to the lot, although this one is particularly bad-ass. Once you have staples in your head, you’re pretty much cooler than anyone else around.

I visited her in the hospital a couple times this week. Obviously this was not an easy task. Having cancer friends is complicated for this very reason. I am painfully aware that it could just as easily have been me lying in that bed. I know that that could be my future. A tumor in the brain, or bones, or lungs, or liver. All within the realm of possibility. This is what I have to wake up and face, every day. Every single day. And seeing my friend have to go through it is a pretty harsh reminder of the beast that is breast cancer and the giant question mark that is my future.

But with all that said, and the many emotions I have been forced to confront, I have no regrets over making cancer friends. Naomi popped into my life during a time where I really needed her. And now she needs me again, so I will be there. It is as simple as that. She is no longer just a cancer friend, she is a real friend and a part of my life. I will do what I can to ease her troubles, and I will be a shoulder to lean on. I will cry with her when things get tough and curse cancer for continually picking on us nice guys. And I will celebrate all of the good moments along with her, because I know there are still many to come.

Watch your step, cancer. You are totally messing with the wrong bitches.

 

The daily grind

So I think this is the longest I have gone without blogging since this all started. And that is because there hasn’t been much to say… which is good. Uneventful is good. I have had enough excitement to last for a long time, and I’m okay with boring and mundane for a bit.

Last week was my first official full-time week at work. It’s strange, because I work in a new environment, where I’m fairly certain many people aren’t aware of my history. Sometimes I want to respond to emails: Hi, I had cancer, and you should know, considering the effects of my treatment on my brain function and how extremely tired I feel all the time, it’s pretty amazing that I am managing to respond to you and give you even a half-coherent answer to your question, so please say “thank you” and give me a cookie for being awesome. But I would probably seem insane, or get fired, so I haven’t followed through with my urges to be “that crazy girl” just yet.


Speaking of being the crazy person at work, this guy is my hero.

There have been some days recently where I have felt so fatigued that I am convinced something is wrong. I no longer really know the difference between regular tired and cancer tired, because I have been cancer tired for so long and have not functioned in normal day-to-day life for quite some time. I can’t remember if this tiredness is just something average, healthy people feel from lack of sleep, or a long day at work. I guess eventually I will have to start trusting my body again and not think that every slight malfunction is a sign of the Big Bad Cancer. But my body broke that trust in a pretty major way, and I think it will be a very long time until I can forgive it and move on. I’m holding a bit of a grudge, you might say.

Lately I think about cancer and recurrence a little less. I am too busy with so many other things. As I get further away from it, it seems more absurd to think about the cancer coming back. No way, that can’t happen. Look at me, I’m fine, I’m great, everything will be great. I feel these things more and more now.

But then just as quickly, I’m hit again with reality. Wait a second. There’s a total possibility that I’m not fine and that this possibility will be confirmed in the near future and that I’m really just a dead woman walking. Sometimes I feel like I’m fooling myself, like there’s no way this bit of normalcy is going to last. I go so far as to imagine my doctor giving me the news (again), yet this time, it would be paired with the whole cliche, “You have this many months/years to live” spiel. The fact that that could actually happen is really quite terrifying.

And then I snap out of it. Back to my life, where I have bills to pay, dinner to make, a job to do, people to see, places to go, and all that good stuff. Because you see, in a normal, boring life, there really isn’t much time to think of things like cancer and dying.

And that’s just fine by me.

The thunder theory

It’s pouring outside really hard right now and thundering loudly. Whenever it thunders, I think of how my mom used to tell me not to be scared, because it was the sound of my grandfather bowling in heaven. I would fall asleep, listening to the booming thunder, imagining my grandpa getting strike after strike. It is so wonderful to be a child, and believe that anything is possible. To be so easily comforted when you are scared. All you need is to hear a simple tale, a made up story, and the fear goes away, and you are safe again.

Yesterday, I did my radiation simulation. Since the radiation will be near my heart, I had to perform a breathing exercise to see if I could hold my breath long enough to move the heart out of the radiation field. This involved biting onto a plastic tube and having my nose plugged with a clip. While lying in the CT machine, I had to breathe in and hold my breath. The tube locks, and you are no longer able to breathe until it is released, or until you let go of the panic button.

At first I felt a bit claustrophobic and anxious, since I don’t like feeling confined to begin with, let alone with my ability to breathe stifled. But then I started imagining how I must look at that moment which amused me, and then it was over. It turns out I can hold my breath a lot longer than I thought, so I continued my streak as superstar cancer patient.

This isn’t me in the pic, but this is what it looks like

While lying down, the tech also gave me four tiny tattoos so that I can be lined up precisely with each treatment. I had read some people say they found this part painful, so I was a bit apprehensive. But it was nothing and I didn’t even flinch. Between that and my blood test via my port later that day, I had 5 needles, and I realized it didn’t even phase me. Something that used to petrify me is now just part of my normal routine.

Prior to my radiation training, while I was waiting in the reception area, I saw a little girl. Cute as a button, she looked to be around 7 years old. She was clutching her stuffed monkey. Her mom complimented my turban and asked the girl if she liked it, and she nodded bashfully in agreement. Your hair is still hanging on for now, the mom said to her daughter.

Shortly after, she went with her parents into one of the rooms that said “Caution: X-Ray Machines Inside” on the door. Since this was the area where you prepare for radiation treatments, I imagine that’s what she was doing. It didn’t take long before I heard the little girl crying and screaming from down the hall. Her mom left the room for a moment and paced the halls, clearly stressed, while her husband stayed with the girl. She continued to scream at the top of her lungs and I sat there helpless, listening, until my name was called.

My heart really ached for this girl and her parents. How confusing this must all be to a young child. I wish I could tell her a story like the thunder story. Give her some reason as to why this was all happening that makes it fun and makes all the pain go away. But cancer is not thunder. The threat is real. The pain is real. And the fear and confusion that comes with all of it is the same, whether you’re an old man, a 28 year old newlywed, or a 7 year old little girl.

Sometimes there are no magical answers. Sometimes it’s just that life is unfair, and some of us get dealt a really shitty hand, while others may not. I wish there was a better explanation than that, a story you could tell your children when they ask why bad things happen to good people. I wish things could be different.

But for now, I am comforted by the sound of the rain, and happy that I am alive to listen to the scary thunder.

Grandpa just got another strike.

Tree And Storm 2 by George Hodan
Tree And Storm 2 by George Hodan

Looking in the mirror

Last week I think I hit a new low of sheer misery. The fatigue that comes with chemotherapy is truly cumulative, and with each new treatment, it is growing increasingly difficult to do any of the things I once enjoyed. Such as taking a walk. Or lifting my laptop. Or lifting my head. The tiniest things we all take for granted have become incomprehensible to me. Memories of the past. Of a life I once lived, where my body would do whatever I asked of it, with ease. I feel as though I have been thrust into old age almost overnight. My bones ache when I try to move them. My body cries out for rest after walking up a few stairs. I wake up at night with hot flashes, my cheeks burning, thanks to the menopausal effects of chemo. Creases are starting to form on the outer corners of my eyes. My stomach and face are bloated constantly from all the drugs, making me look like I am five months pregnant. I can’t follow a basic conversation without losing focus, or feeling like I need to shut my eyes. I am an old lady. At the ripe age of 28.

Chillin with my Goodnight Moon bunny in bed, where I spent all of last week. I am looking super cancer-y these days. Yikes.

It has been difficult for me to look in the mirror lately. I don’t like what I see. A bald, puffy face, with red patches all over my cheeks and glossy eyes. Is that really me? It is hard to feel healthy or strong, when the image reflected back at me is anything but. Lately I am starting to feel as though I will never get my old self back. I can’t imagine having life in my face again. Or having hair. It seems like appearance should be relatively low on the list of things to feel bad about, when you’re dealing with all the crap that comes with a cancer diagnosis. But it is proving to be one of the biggest challenges for me. Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re already feeling just about as low as a human can feel, it really does add insult to injury.

It is hard for me to look at pre-cancer photos of myself now. I feel very disconnected from the girl I see. She’s pretty, and healthy, and happy, and completely unaware of what is about to happen to her. It’s as though I am looking at someone else’s life, even though I know she is me. Did I really do all those things at one time? Did I really look like that? Did I really have hair? I want to go back into those photos, just for one minute, just to remember what it’s like, to be happy and pretty. To soak up those moments. Because they are starting to slip away from me.


I hope that eventually I can start feeling better about what I see in the mirror. View my reflection as an image of a brave warrior, rather than one of a sick cancer patient whose body has been continuously cut, poked, and poisoned. I don’t want to be that girl who cries when she looks in the mirror. I have never been that girl. I refuse to let her win. And anyone who knows me knows I always get my way.

Living in the moment. For now.

Me, without a care in the world. Ah, to be young again...
Me, without a care in the world. Ah, to be young again…

For as long as I can remember, I have been an obsessive planner. I love to make plans, to organize, to prepare. And I’m quite good at it, too. Long-term goals, schedules. These are things I like. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants girl, I am not.

With my cancer diagnosis, a lot of things came crashing down around me, and one of them was my ability to plan for the future. You might say that for everyone, cancer or no cancer, life is unpredictable and full of uncertainties. And you would be correct. None of us knows what the future holds, or what tomorrow holds, for that matter. However, in my case, things are a bit more unpredictable than they might be for the average 28 year-old. Or at least, I am more familiar with the fragility of life and forced to confront it in a way most young people do not have to.

Before, there were plans. Plans for family, houses, jobs, vacations. Regular things that regular people hope for and work toward and often take for granted. I was headed down a particular path, and things were going quite swimmingly. I had a very bright future, one which I took as a given. And why wouldn’t I? I was young, healthy, and had a lot going for me. I even remember thinking to myself, Life is going so well, I hope nothing bad happens. And then something bad happened. And I stopped making plans and thinking about the future, for the first time in my life. As someone who is not so great at the whole live-in-the-moment thing, I was suddenly thrust into that mode of thinking, without much choice.

People say things like when you have your own kids someday or when you’re retired someday and I nod and smile, allowing them to imagine such narratives, but I no longer let myself actually envision those scenarios anymore. I can’t. This doesn’t mean I don’t believe I have a future, or that I don’t wish to have many wonderful years ahead of me. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a positive attitude, or that I’ve given up. It means I have cancer. And it’s scary shit. And it’s unbelievably, excruciatingly difficult to acknowledge that there is the possibility that my plans for the future will be cut short. So for me, at this moment, it is just easier not to think about it at all. I can think about today and I can think about next week. I can plan for my treatments and organize my medical schedule for the next several months. That, I can do. But anything beyond that, I can’t plan for right now. I can’t see it. I hope that at some point, I will be a planner again. That I will allow myself to dream of all the things I used to and view them as real possibilities, within my grasp.

I don’t know what next year will hold for me. Or the year after that. I won’t be making any plans just yet.

But I will hope.

At least I haven’t lost my ability to do that.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Are you the person who sent me these sweet strawberries in the mail? You forgot to sign your name, but thank you, mystery person.

I thought I should post something because I’ve ignored several messages this week and don’t want everyone to think I’m dead, seeing as it’s Valentine’s Day and all. So I’m here to let you know I am still alive. I’m not sure if I should regale you with the thrilling details of my week. It was not a pretty one. I don’t think I would wish what I have been going through on my worst enemy. Well, maybe Hitler, if he were still hanging around. But everyone else, I think I would spare. (Sorry for talking about Hitler on Valentine’s Day. I believe that must be some sort of faux pas.)

The agony and pain I have felt since the weekend has been nothing short of nightmarish. I had read many horror stories about the drug I was given prior to my treatment, and knew of the possible effects, but I believed maybe I would be spared. I had to, or else I wouldn’t have let them hook me up to the poison so willingly. A lot of people believe that as long as you think positive thoughts, good things will happen, and you can get through anything. But sadly, here I am, the Valentine’s Grinch, to tell you that chemo doesn’t give a poop about warm, fuzzy, happy thoughts. It doesn’t care if you’ve had a horrendous six months of terrible crap thrown your way and really need a vacation. It will kick you on your ass until your jaw throbs, your muscles seize, your taste-buds disappear, your bones spasm, your heads spins and your nose bleeds.  It’s one sick, ugly bastard.

I threatened to give up again this week. I said I wouldn’t do anymore treatments. This makes me feel like I have an ounce of control over what is happening to me, even though I know I really do not. Right now, the idea of putting myself through this again in two weeks seems like something only a severely mentally unstable person would entertain. I can currently sit up and walk through my apartment without screaming and crying, which is a marked improvement over a day ago. The fact that I’m typing right now seems like some sort of miracle, actually. Hopefully this means I am on the mend and will have an almost complete recovery by the next round. Because I need enough days to go by that I can wipe this week from my memory in order to do it all over again. And if that doesn’t work, I need one of you to hit me over the head and knock me unconscious and hook me up to the drugs yourself. Just remember to wake me up when it’s over, or that kind of defeats the whole purpose.

So it’s Valentine’s Day. The day of love. Valentine’s Day itself makes me a tiny bit queasy, but a lot of it is about chocolate, so for that reason, I can get behind it. And I suppose it’s also about love, and I am happy to say that I experienced a lot of that this week. From my dad’s cookies, my mom’s back-rubs, my brother’s drug stash, my sister’s hugs. My poor family had to sit by and watch as I cried out in pain and threatened to jump out the window, which I imagine must have been quite upsetting. And of course, my #1 Valentine, my husband, who sits with me in bed at night while I cry and says It will all be over soon. This is love. This is what matters. Giving chocolates and roses and expensive things is very, very easy. But this kind of love is the hard kind. And it doesn’t come often. And if you are fortunate enough to have it, you should thank your lucky stars. I do. I am the luckiest unlucky girl in the world.

The gifts of cancer

Not long after my most recent chemo treatment, I felt pretty awful. I, again, wanted to cut off my legs and arms. I took many, many drugs (I have a nice little pharmacy by my bedside these days) in an attempt to stop the pain and nausea spreading through my body. I felt so weak that I needed my husband to help keep me balanced while I walked from my couch to my bathroom. I nearly passed out while trying to get groceries with my mother. I thought, once again, this will never end. I will feel like this forever. I will never go outside again or see my friends again. I will never want to touch food again. I will never stop crying. Life stinks.

And then it passed. And I saw my friends. And I was laughing and running around (well, not running, but walking at a normal, non-zombie-like pace). And I was eating enough to feed a 300-pound man (which, as many people know, is how I eat under normal circumstances). I began to make plans and do things that didn’t involve lying in my bed all day with the shutters closed. I put on pants that didn’t have the word “sweat” in their name. I went out to a restaurant. I planned a spontaneous getaway with my husband to my grandfather’s place up in the country, in an attempt to escape from my surroundings for a bit and pretend that I even have the option to go on any type of vacation right now, like everyone else.

After I’ve been cooped up inside for a while, I find the sun blinds me. I believe I might be turning into a vampire, which wouldn’t be too bad.
After I’ve been cooped up inside for a while, I find the sun blinds me. I believe I might be turning into a vampire, which wouldn’t be too bad.
I got to hang out with my sister over her holidays. She’s pretty and she’s going to be a doctor.
I got to hang out with my sister over her holidays. She’s pretty and she’s going to be a doctor.

Nature
Nature
Creepily following my husband with my new fancy camera
Creepily following my husband with my new fancy camera

Couch-hanging. I've gotten really good at doing this
Couch-hanging. I’ve gotten really good at doing this

My grandma's rocking chair <3
My grandma’s rocking chair ❤
Don't mess with this guy while he's drinking wine and reading the Sunday Times
Don’t mess with this guy while he’s drinking wine and reading the Sunday Times

Some people like to talk of the “gifts” that cancer has given them. New perspectives on life, love, family. Realizing what is truly important in this world. During these nice moments over the past week or so, I did feel very grateful. To be feeling good, and happy, and loved. Feeling the sun on my face or the warmth of the fireplace. Spending time with my husband away from distractions, and away from the hospital. When you know what it feels like to feel like you are at death’s door, you tend to appreciate the moments when you feel good and healthy a lot more than the average person might.

That being said, you will never catch me talking about cancer as a “gift”. Sure, there are quite literally gifts, like this package that arrived from my friend Lily today.

A bunch of fun things, including an awesome polka dot scarf which will be perfect for my head. I love polka dots. Thanks Lil!!
A bunch of fun things, including an awesome polka dot scarf which will be perfect for my head. I love polka dots. Thanks Lil!!

I love getting stuff in the mail. It is one of the few things that really excites me these days and I appreciate everything you kind people have sent me.

However, cancer itself – NOT a gift. And to be honest, I kind of want to smack people who refer to it as such. I read a comment on an article I was reading, where a woman talked about all the blessings cancer had given her, and said she wouldn’t change anything if she had the chance, because she had been given these “gifts” as a result of her cancer.

Barf. That’s what I say to that.

I appreciated everything in my life pre-cancer. I have an amazing husband, family, and group of friends. I knew what I wanted out of life. My priorities were straight. I didn’t need cancer to “show me the way” or teach me the value of life. Sure, I might have a deeper appreciation for many things now than a lot of people do. But I’d much prefer not to have cancer, and to have my regular level of appreciation be restored. I am 28 years old. I don’t want to feel that each day is a blessing, because who knows how many days I/we all have left. I want to have many days left. And I want to be able to take that for granted. I am 28.

Cancer is not a gift. It’s an ugly, humiliating, miserable, frightening disease. There are nice moments throughout and small silver linings here and there. But this is no blessing. And if I had the opportunity to change it all and go back to being a regular boring person whom none of you would ever care to read about, would I? Hell yes.

But since I can’t do that, I will continue through this bizarre cycle of feeling like death and then coming back to life yet again.

And, of course, I will continue to accept your gifts, in the mail. Gladly. Because if cancer has taught me anything, it’s that getting presents is awesome.

Hair, there, everywhere

Honeymoon hair, in all its natural glory. Sigh.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. As a child, before I learned of the brilliant invention that is the flat-iron, my hair was huge, frizzy, and unruly. I would break into a sweat while I attempted to blow-dry my thick, wavy hair into a sleek, straight mane, usually unsuccessfully, while developing cramping sensations in my arm.  I would ask hairdressers to thin it out as much as possible. I was always envious of girls who could just wash their hair and walk out the door, without looking like a bird’s nest had landed on top of their head.

Over time, I have come to appreciate my hair. With the right tools, I can wear it smooth and straight. I can also wear it wavy, or with more of a curl. I’ve learned that thick hair is, in fact, a good thing, and something many women desire. I receive compliments on my hair constantly, and somehow, it has become a huge part of my identity, and one of my favourite features.

And in a short time, I am going to lose it. It will thin, it will fall out, and then it will be gone. Be careful what you wish for.

A lot of people say that losing one’s hair is the most difficult part of the whole cancer ordeal. Because that’s when you finally start to look sick and when it all becomes very real. I don’t want it to become real. I want to run away and hide in a corner and wrap myself up in my precious hair and stay like that forever. But alas, in two days, I must go murder some cancer cells, so unfortunately I do not have that option.

I have been trying to prepare for the inevitable hair loss. I like to be prepared. I like to be in control. (Note: Control freaks and cancer do not play well together.) I cut off a great deal of my hair, in hopes that it would make the transition a bit easier. I’ve looked at some wigs and will eventually buy one, but am not thrilled about the prospect. Sure, it’s fun to try on different hairstyles and accessories. But ultimately, it’s a wig. Or a scarf. Or whatever. And I will be bald under it. And there’s not much fun about that.

Yesterday, on two occasions, I was told by strangers that I reminded them of Anne Hathaway. One woman said I should do a pixie cut style like Anne has been sporting as of late. I didn’t tell her that I likely would be forced to go that route eventually. Not because I have any choice. Not because I’m getting paid to star in an epic movie musical. But because I have cancer. And cancer doesn’t give, but it sure does take. It takes your plans. It takes your dreams. It takes your peace of mind. It takes your health. And it takes your hair. Your beautiful, flowing, thick hair.

Cancer sure is a greedy bitch.

But I will grin and bear it. I will make jokes. I will attempt to be the most badass bald girl you’ve ever seen. I will pretend like this was all part of my master plan, ever since I was a little girl and threatened to shave off my wild hair. Because when cancer kicks me, I will just kick it back. Harder. Right where it hurts.

A day in the life

People often ask me what my day was like, and I usually say something like, “Had an appointment, eating dinner now” because it can be tiring to actually go over all the details of each day, with each person. But I know some people are genuinely curious as to what happens when I go to all these exciting appointments. So here was my day today:

I drank a huge, disgusting cup of barium sulfate. This was in preparation for a CT scan later in the day. It was orange flavoured, the type of flavour that tastes nothing like an actual orange, but you know that that is what it’s trying to be. Not very pleasant.

My brother shows up. Then my mom shows up, not knowing my brother is over, and I make him jump out of the shadows and scare her. She screams a good horror movie scream. This was by far the highlight of the day, although I’m really hopeful no permanent damage to my mother was done.

Off to the hospital where I take a number to do some blood work. Then over to put my name on a waiting list for an ECG so I can wait for that at the same time I wait for the blood work, because I’m sneaky like that. A nurse in the ECG area tells me she can just do my blood right there. I say OK, although I feel a bit uneasy about this weird change of events. Should I trust her to take my blood, even though she’s not from the blood lab? Is this against protocol? Will the blood lab people come yell at me for letting her do it, like a child taking candy from a stranger?

She takes my blood. She pokes around a bit and has some trouble and makes comments about the small size of my veins. She pokes some more and takes her sweet time and keeps commenting about the difficulties she is having. After she finally finishes, she asks me if they know what’s wrong with me. Yes, breast cancer. She shakes her head and looks sad and mentions how young I am. She means well, but I don’t appreciate those types of reactions. I move on to the ECG.

I lay down and get a bunch of electrodes attached to my skin. I feel like I am in some sci-fi movie, although I can’t remember which one. The technician does something and prints out a piece of paper and it’s done. No pain involved, which makes me very happy. We chat for a bit, and he is nice. I can tell he feels bad for me, but it doesn’t bother me as much. Probably because he didn’t prick me a bunch of times with a sharp needle.

I wander around with my mom for a bit. We go meet my study nurse and I fill out some forms about how much pain I’ve been having, what kind of pain, and many other questions of the sort. I realize I have been feeling pretty good. I also feel a bit sad over the realization that my answers will likely be a bit different the next time I answer those exact same questions.

I check in for my CT scan and drink the second half of the pasty liquid. I change into a hospital gown. I loathe hospital gowns because I instantly feel like just another sick person when I put one on. I go into the room for the scan, and the technician tells me I will need an injection. More pokes. I tell him it has to be in the same side I just gave blood from, as I have had lymph nodes removed on my other side, and therefore should avoid any injury to that arm. He tries to insert the needle in a new spot. He fiddles around for awhile, and I think the injection is over. That was easy, I think. Wrong! He missed the vein. Poked the wrong spot. It hasn’t even happened. I am getting tired. And a bit frustrated. And my arm is starting to swell.

He eventually gets it right and I do the scans. The injection puts a metallic taste in my mouth. I hear a calming robot woman’s voice: Hold breath. Breathe normally. Hold breath. Breathe normally. I wonder if I will receive some sort of award for my excellent ability to hold my breath, and then breathe normally.

I don’t receive any such award. Instead I bring my arms back down, and see blood all over. Is that normal? I ask. I’m pretty sure that is not normal. I’m pretty sure I will try to get a different technician the next time around.

I meet my mom in the waiting room, and we are both unhappy to see the blue bruising beginning on my arm. It hurts, a lot. I go home and hold some frozen carrots on it to ease the swelling. These carrots have been sitting in my freezer for ages. I have no idea where the frozen carrots came from or how they got there, but today they finally seemed to serve a purpose.

And there you have it! Always exciting, never dull. The life of a cancer patient.