Hello from the other side

hello

Hey party people! I’m still alive, if you were wondering. (Although if you ever are actually wondering, it only takes a few clicks to verify that I’m still kicking.) I keep meaning to update ye olde blog but have not succeeded as of late. And it’s not for a lack of having anything to say. In fact, I have had lots of things to say, and my mind has been churning constantly with thoughts and feelings and all that fun stuff that I really should put down in words. But it seems it gets harder to share my innermost thoughts the further I get away from the cancer stuff. When I was living it every day, it was easy to write about, and almost expected. Of course I was thinking about cancer while my hair was falling out and my body was throbbing. But now as the years have thankfully started to pass (#blessed) and I shed my Cancer Girl persona, it seems almost jarring to bring it back into the conversation. Cancer? Really? You still have stuff to say about that crap?

I have less to say, definitely, but I’m not done just yet. Although less frequent, I still am prone to panicking over every new pain/bump/anomaly that presents itself and still have this unsettled feeling of a bomb about to go off. Every time I learn of another young woman who has become terminal 3/5/10 years out of original diagnosis, the world stops and I am crushed by the weight of my mortality. That could be me. I could be dead in a few years. Don’t get comfortable because this could all end soon.

That’s some heavy shit right there.

I was talking to someone recently about the potential for catastrophic disaster in my future and trying to accept that reality, but also embracing the more probable likelihood that everything will turn out okay. I told her that no matter how much I have learned to be comfortable with my situation and try my best not to let it affect me, I’m still pissed off that I have to deal with any of this in the first place. I’m annoyed more than anything. I have these competing voices constantly battling for my attention:

You’re so lucky to still be alive! Seize every moment! Stop watching The Bachelor and go save the world!

Be mindful. Be present. You’re here now and you’re okay and that’s all that matters.

Stop stressing! Get more sleep! Exercise more! Stop eating pizza! You might die!

My back hurts. Was that pain there before? No, that’s a new pain. The internet says my cancer has probably spread and I’m toast. Shit. I’m so sad I won’t be able to enjoy the bagels and lox at my funeral.

It’s exhausting.

And then I feel guilt. Guilt because everything is actually, really great right now and none of my fears have become a reality. Guilt because I have friends who are not so lucky and would trade places with me in a second. Guilt for feeling like I’m not doing enough with whatever extra years I have been given.

See? Annoying, right? It’s just plain and simple a pain in the butt that I have to think about any of these things and can’t walk around in blissful ignorance like a person should be doing at my age.

And I guess this is why I’ve been staying away for awhile. Because I don’t want anyone to worry about me, or think that I haven’t moved on. I have moved on and continue every day to do that in the best way I know how. But moving on doesn’t mean it goes away, or even that it gets any easier. It’s always hard. We all carry the scars of the past and we’re all headed toward an uncertain future. But I’m choosing to live in that space in between. Or trying my best, at least. And right now that space is filled with family, friends, tv marathons, delicious food and laughter. And singing. So much wonderful, terrible, embarrassing singing.

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.