5 things not to say to new moms

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People love to offer tidbits of wisdom when you’re a first time mom. For the most part, these folks mean well and think they’re helping. But there are a few phrases that almost never help and in fact, they can be quite harmful – especially to those of us dealing with postpartum depression. At first I was thinking of a “What Not to Say to a Mom with PPD” list, but then I realized that A) some of these sayings may cause stress and anxiety to any new mom, regardless of her mental health status, and B) you may not even know that the mom you’re speaking to has PPD in the first place since a lot of women don’t speak about it. So in conclusion, I’d say you’re safe to follow these tips with all new moms you might know. Better safe than sorry when it comes to rubbing a hormonal, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed young mother the wrong way.

And so, without further ado, here are my Five Things You Shouldn’t Say to a New Mom.

1. Enjoy every second.

A lot of people tack this sentiment onto their good wishes. “Congrats on your new addition. Enjoy every second!” Seems harmless, right? NOPE!

First off, if there’s a mom out there who enjoys every single second of being a new parent, I’d like to meet her. And then I’d like to hook her up to a lie detector and watch as the machine goes bananas, because SUCH A PERSON DOES NOT EXIST. Even if you’re having a generally swell time with your newborn, at some point, you’re not going to enjoy it. You’ll get barf in your hair and poop on your face. These things aren’t enjoyable.

For moms with postpartum depression, being told you should enjoy every second is like a knife through the heart. It hurts. You already feel miserable, and guilty that you feel so miserable. You don’t need everyone telling you you should be doing a happy dance every time your little one screams for you at 3AM. Which leads me to the next thing I often hear that gets under my skin…

2. They’re only little for so long. Enjoy the extra snuggles!

Whenever a mom cries out that she’s exhausted because her baby only wants to sleep on her and she can’t get any rest that way, well-meaning people love to jump in and tell her how precious this time is and to soak it all up because one day her kid will be an ungrateful teenager and she’ll long for those early days. GAH. Not helpful! If a mom is looking for advice on how to improve her situation, and you just tell her to enjoy it instead, you’re completely ignoring her request and plea for help. She knows that this chapter in her kid’s life won’t last forever and that baby snuggles are wonderful, in theory. But she wants some goddamn sleep.

Offer to hold her baby while she rests, or lend her your magical sleep-inducing baby swing, or say/do whatever you think will help her. But don’t make her feel like she’s a bad mom for wanting a moment here or there where she can roll onto her stomach. Or go to the bathroom. Or do absolutely anything without a human attached to her.

3. Stop worrying so much. The baby feeds off your emotions.

Telling someone with anxiety not to be anxious is of zero help. Can you tell someone with cancer not to have cancer, and then it just instantly disappears? If that were the case, my life would have been a hell of a lot easier. Postpartum depression and anxiety is a mental illness. You can’t just tell someone not to have it, or not to feel a certain way. It’s not that simple. Not only that, but telling a mom that her emotions are going to negatively affect her child is a bad idea. You mean on top of worrying about my sanity, I now have to worry about messing up my kid as well? Thanks for putting a cherry on top of my guilt-filled sundae.

4. Sleep when the baby sleeps.

If you’re a mom, you’ve definitely heard this one before. And sure, it makes sense. When your baby sleeps, you drop everything and sleep, because otherwise you’ll never sleep. Easy peasy. EXCEPT IT’S NOT. Because when your baby sleeps, there are a million trillion zillion things to do that you can’t do when you’re tending to your baby. This is often when the rest of life happens, like ordering useless shit on Amazon that you’ve decided you need, answering an email, going to the bathroom, making a sandwich, cleaning the dozens of baby bottles in your sink, and washing all the barf and poop out of the sheets. Not only that, but not everyone is able to just fall asleep at the drop of a hat, the instant the baby is asleep. I’m not. And being told I needed to sleep constantly, by everyone, only made my anxiety that much worse — which in turn, made it impossible for me to sleep. Moms know that they need to sleep at some point in order to stay alive. You don’t need to tell them this.

5. You’ll know exactly what your baby needs. You’re their mama!

New moms are often told that they’ll know what their baby wants because they have a sixth sense built in that gives them an innate understanding of their child’s needs. I remember hearing/reading things like, “Your baby might be crying because he’s hungry, or tired, or sick. You know your baby best. Trust your gut!”

So you’re telling me I’ve known this thing for 24 hours, and I’m supposed to be able to tell the difference between a “I want more milk” cry versus a “I’m sick please take me to the nearest hospital” cry? THIS MAKES NO SENSE. And assumes that a mother is instantly bonded to her baby, which puts a lot of pressure on new moms who are raging with hormones and might not be feeling all that connected just yet.

My son is 14 months old, and I still often don’t know what he wants/needs/feels. Telling a mom that her spidey sense will kick in and she’ll instantly know all the answers is a load of poo-poo (yes, I only speak in baby terms now).

And there you have it! Five things not to say to the new mothers in your life. So what should you say? Try:

Congratulations!
That’s the cutest baby I’ve ever seen! (note: it’s okay to lie for this one.)
Being a mom is hard. You’re doing a great job.
Hang in there. It gets easier.
I’m here if you want to talk.
I’d love to come for a quick visit. Let me know when you’re ready.
Can I pick up some groceries for you?
I’m happy to wash all those dishes sitting in your sink.

And if all else fails, cook her a meal, or bake her a treat, and leave it at the door because chances are she has no time to fend for herself when she’s so busy enjoying every minute and sleeping when her baby sleeps.

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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.

 

Helping a friend in need

I’ve often thought of sharing a list of “what not to say to someone who has cancer.” However, I’ve seen many of these lists before and I know they can be somewhat harsh and make people feel like there is not a single thing they can do that is right when someone they care about is sick. So instead, I think it might be more productive to do a “how to help someone who has cancer” list.

1. PRESENTS

Anyone who has been following along since the beginning of the blog knows that I loooooved getting gifts while undergoing cancer treatment. Presents are awesome even when you’re feeling great, but they’re extra awesome when you’re feeling lousy. Sometimes the only thing that would make me smile on a terrible day was hearing the doorbell ring and seeing a box waiting for me. There was one day when I had multiple delivery trucks lined up in front of my house, and I felt extremely important. It didn’t even matter what the gift was, if it was something small or large, useful or just entertaining. It was the thought, and the unexpected surprise on an otherwise gloomy day.

Nothing sweeter than the sight and sound of that magical brown truck.
Nothing sweeter than the sight and sound of that magical brown truck.

So if you know someone who is dealing with an illness, send them something. Show them you’re thinking of them. Oh, but don’t expect a thank you card, because they have cancer, and don’t have the energy to deal with rules of etiquette.

2. CALL/WRITE/TEXT/MAIL

I know some people feel like they don’t want to burden someone who has cancer and sometimes they think that leaving them alone is the best strategy. I can tell you that in most cases, this is not true. Sure, you might occasionally say the wrong thing, or you might write an email or leave a voicemail that never gets read or heard because the person is ill and exhausted and can’t keep track of anything. But I will tell you that silence or absence from a friend is a lot more hurtful than any dumb thing you could possibly say or do.

That about sums it up.
That about sums it up.

So send your friend a message to tell them they’re on your mind, and that they don’t need to respond. And don’t only reach out at the very beginning when you’re initially reacting to the shock of it all. Show that you’re still there, weeks, months later. Because that’s when it gets really hard. And really lonely. A cancer patient can never have too many friends.

3. SEND FOOD

There were many, many days where I simply did not have it in me to get groceries or make a half-decent meal. There were many days I couldn’t stand up for more than a minute, and standing is really helpful when grocery shopping or cooking. Apart from physical limitations, I also did not have the mental capacity to think about food and putting ingredients together.

Life for me and my husband was filled with stress 24/7 and there wasn’t a single second where we weren’t completely exhausted. People who sent us food were literally our life savers. We had some friends and family who would make complete meals that we could keep in the fridge and live off for an entire week. We had other friends send us gift cards for a food delivery service where we could order several flash-frozen meals and serve them up whenever we needed to. So if your friend is ill, send them food. Don’t ask what you can do. Don’t ask if they need anything. Don’t make them think. Just do it. Send food. And they will eat all of it. And they will love you forever.

This bib is kind of offensive, but also kind of awesome, no?
This bib is kind of offensive, but also kind of awesome, no?

4. LET THEM BE A BIG, WHINY, CRYING BABY

When I was feeling like I wanted to die, it was very helpful to be around people who let me feel that way. People who would let me cry, let me scream, let me blubber this is so unfaaaaair, I hate my liiiiiiiiiife, I hate everyoneeee, waaaaaaah JUST KILL ME NOWWWWW! I had a lot of these moments, and they were not my finest, but that’s just the kind of mood I was in while I was sitting around, bald, trying not to puke, staring out the window. The last thing I wanted to be told was to cheer up or keep a positive attitude or any of that bullshit. The best thing you can say is “this really sucks and I hate that you’re going through this.” Nothing you can say or do can make anything better. The best thing you can do is let your friend scream and cry and feel all the feelings they need to until they finally pass out from exhaustion.

I feel ya, Johnny, I really do.
I feel ya, Johnny, I really do.

I know, it’s not really fun being friends with someone who has cancer, right? But having cancer is actually worse, so suck it up, be a pal, and sit with your friend while she drips snot all down her face and makes morbid comments about death and funerals. Yay friendship!

5. DON’T OVERSTAY YOUR WELCOME

This one is pretty simple, and you would think obvious. But for some people, it’s not, so I think it’s worth mentioning. When I was stuck at home for what felt like a million years, it was nice having friends and family visit. But it would take about ten minutes of socializing for me to feel like I needed a nap most days. I never want to tell anyone to leave, because it makes me feel like an ungrateful person. So don’t make me say it. Just leave!

The best friends are the ones who come (only after asking if it’s OK first), say hi, stay for a short visit, and then say “you should rest, I’m going to go now” without making me say it. Because truthfully, no one undergoing chemo is listening to more than 1/4 of anything you are saying to them. For me, I spent most of my social encounters thinking, How long until I can crawl back under my blanket and watch Marry Poppins while I cry without anyone seeing me?

Know your friend’s limits and respect them. Or, if you’re my brother and his girlfriend, you can just wait until I scream, GET THE HELL OUT OF MY HOUSE, which happened on more than one occasion. But we’re all still friends. I think.

 

Like me? Hate cancer? Read on.

Thanks everyone for all of your excitement over my last post. Indeed, it was happy news and I was glad to share it with all of you. In other happy news, I have just begun my final week of radiation. Now that my burn is progressing and getting more uncomfortable, I am very eager to say farewell to radiation and my daily hospital routine. The next few weeks will be my “recovery” period, which I’m very much looking forward to, since I haven’t really had one of those since all of this began. I am feeling quite exhausted (which has been exacerbated by not having a functional A/C unit during an unfortunate heat wave), so it will be nice to have some time to relax and enjoy, without the familiar looming of a new phase of treatment quickly approaching.

One thing I am looking forward to is the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers 60KM walk in September. This walk benefits research, clinical improvements, and survivorship initiatives at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, which is where I have been receiving my treatment and care. The folks at Princess Margaret do amazing things with the money raised from this walk. As someone who has personally benefited from these amazing things, it is important for me to try to give back.

There are many things that are needed to facilitate cancer research initiatives, but the main thing that’s needed? Money. Lots of money. And maybe you have some money. And maybe you’re angry that young women like me are getting breast cancer. Or maybe you’re angry that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, meaning you will likely be closely connected to someone who has to deal with this craptastic disease. Maybe you want to play some small part in fighting back and making a difference. Maybe you want to pat yourself on the back, knowing you could be helping to improve or even save the lives of your friends, your sisters, your daughters. Me. You.

Did my guilt trip work there? Excellent. Now it’s time to pay up.

Everyone who participates in the 2-day walk has to raise a minimum of $2000. Obviously I’d like to raise even more than that. I’d like to raise a million. A trillion. A centillion. But we’ll start small. For now.

If you’d like to donate, you can do so on my personal page by clicking this link. Click the “donate online now” button, and follow the instructions. Anything you can give, big or small, is very appreciated. (But obviously bigger is better. Always better.)

(You can also check out my husband’s page and if you are his friend or family member, or a simple admirer, please donate to his page as he needs to raise the funds as well.)

Usually I really don’t like asking people for money. It makes me a bit uncomfortable. But this year, I have no problem with it. We can all play a small part in fighting cancer. I tried fighting it by torturing my body for the good part of a year. You can try fighting it by throwing a bit of cash at the problem.

If you ask me, I’d say you got the better deal.

The beginning of the Weekend walk last year. Waiting to hear my cancer diagnosis, but still managing to smile for the camera.
The beginning of the Weekend walk last year. One of the last photos taken of me pre-cancer diagnosis.

To my mother

Today is Mother’s Day, so it seems fitting to write about the woman I call Mom. (Actually, I call her “Mommy” because no one ever told me or my siblings that adults usually drop the extra “my“, until it was far too late for us to break that habit.)

This is my mom:

She still pretty much looks like this

I have always had a great relationship with my mom. I am lucky. Growing up, all my friends loved her and wanted to be around her. She was funny and kind of weird, in a good way. She was the “cool” mom. Of course, she embarrassed me from time to time, and still does. As all good mothers should.

My siblings and I are, and always have been, completely spoiled by my mother. There is no denying this. She will always drop whatever she is doing to help us with even the tiniest task. If we realize we are in need of something, she will likely show up with it the next day at our doorstep. She loves making us happy and doing things for us, even when we are all now (somewhat) capable adults. I have never known anyone as selfless as my mother, and I am fairly confident that most people who know her would agree with that statement.

The day I found out about the big fat C, I called my dad and told him to call my mom. I couldn’t stand to tell her myself, to give her that news that no parent expects to hear. To make her world fall apart, yet again, after dealing with so many health crises in my family over the past several years.

In typical mom fashion, she immediately started doing what she does best: taking care of me.

Throughout this whole ordeal, she has been there. Buying me a pretty notebook to bring to my appointments. Buying me an iPad upon realizing I needed way more than a notebook. Bringing us endless amounts of groceries and household supplies. Getting me fancy designer button-down pajamas to make it a little less depressing that I couldn’t raise my arms. Helping me get dressed. Holding my hair back while I threw up in the hospital. Sleeping on my couch after my surgery. Cooking dinner for us when we weren’t able to. Driving me all over the city. Listening to me agonize over decisions that could affect my survival. Rubbing my back and sitting by me while I cried in pain. And even today, bringing me some sort of futuristic cooling pillow to help with the hot flashes that keep me up all night.

My mom took me to one of my chemo treatments a few months ago for the first time. I didn’t think much about it because I had already been several times, and was used to the routine. It wasn’t until after that I thought to myself how strong my mother is. How hard it must be to sit and watch your daughter get hooked up to machines and witness as she slowly gets sick in front of your eyes. I think a lot of people would crumble in that situation. But not my mom. She got me settled, gave me lunch, refilled my water, talked when I wanted to and went silent when I didn’t. She did everything I needed her to do, putting all my needs ahead of hers. As she always has, for the past 28 years.

My mom is truly a wonder woman. It might take Mother’s Day for me to publicly express how wonderful she is. But I hope she knows that I am thankful for her each and every day, and always was, long before this cancer crept into our lives and gave us something new to tackle together.

I love you Mommy.

A few small steps

I just went for a walk to get a sub. It took about 20 minutes total and my legs are burning as if I just ran across the country. When I think back about how far I used to walk, I can’t even imagine it now, but hopefully I will be able to build up some strength again eventually since my current physical state is probably close to that of a 90 year-old woman. All in good time. For now, I’m pretty impressed that I made it there and back and am still alive to tell the tale. Gold star for me.

I have been watching a bunch of TV, which is a good sign, because when I am at my worst, I don’t even have enough energy to to watch television. Which shows how much chemo destroys your ability to do even the laziest possible activity. I’m all caught up on The Vampire Diaries after falling behind for a bit and losing track of which ancient vampire was trying to kill which modern-day hybrid werewolf. I am aware that I am definitely older than the target demographic for this show, but lately all I want to watch are teen shows. I’m sure a psychologist would say it’s some sort of regression/coping mechanism, to avoid all of the very grown-up stuff I have to deal with daily. But I don’t think so. I just love shows made for 14 year-old girls. I have also been watching a ton of Felicity on DVD (thanks, Nicole!) since I somehow missed out on watching it as an actual teen. Very riveting stuff.

Felicity's big haircut.. such a dramatic moment in TV history
Felicity’s big haircut.. such a dramatic moment in TV history

I wanted to reply to each of the comments on my last couple of posts because they were all so thoughtful, but I felt anything I could say would not do justice to the kind words you left for me. I couldn’t believe all the love I got after sharing the sad state I was in. Honestly, if you are feeling down about humans and their ability to show compassion for each other, I urge you to go back and read through all the comments people leave here. I am so lucky to have so much support coming at me.

I am starting to feel better again, in terms of my mood and body pains and fatigue. Unfortunately, I just can’t seem to really catch a break, and my eye troubles have not let up. In fact, today, I counted seven little styes on one of my eyelids. I’ve lost count of how many I have had now since last week. I am not sure why it is happening as it does not seem to be a common cancer thing. I also have permanent teary eyes so it is hard for me to see most of the time. I have walked into a few walls. In short, I look like a mess. I am seeing an ophthalmologist on Friday so we’ll see what that brings. If they try to put anything in my eye, you will likely hear my screams wherever you are. After everything I have been through, I still feel squeamish at the idea of anyone or anything getting near my eye.

So with the eye troubles, I believe I have had every part of my body have some sort of issue. But it’s okay guys, it could be worse. I mean, my head could fall off. There’s always that.

My mom gave me this button.
My mom gave me this button.

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.

FAQs

As part of this whole cancer thing, I get asked a lot of questions. It can be tiring repeating the same thing over and over, so I’ve decided to make a list of some FAQs with answers.

How did you find the lump in your boob?

I was sitting on my couch, alone, and touched my boob. I was not doing any sort of self-exam. I just touched it, and felt it, and knew. Moral of the story: start getting gropey with your breasts.

You’re so young to have cancer! Do you know how young you are? How do you have cancer?! You’re so young! Are you aware that you’re young?

I have never, in my life, been more aware that I am not an old person. Young people get cancer. Sadly, I am not the only one. It’s a very crappy fact about life, but nonetheless, there it is.

But at least since you’re young, you’ll definitely be fine.

I really like this idea. But unfortunately, that is not how it works. In fact, cancers tend to be more aggressive in younger people, which is the case with me. But don’t worry. I’m pretty aggressive myself.

How did you get your cancer?

I don’t know. No one knows. That’s not really how cancer works. It is caused by cells dividing abnormally. I didn’t tell my cells to do that, they just did.

But surely you must have done something? Eaten something? Stepped in something?

Some people want to believe that cancer patients caused their cancer in some way, so that they feel it will never happen to them. Did you know that there are vegan, all-star athletes out there with cancer? And that there are people who smoke a pack a day and eat burgers all day and do not have cancer? Although there are certain risk factors for certain cancers, it is often random and unfair. Two risk factors for breast cancer are being overweight and drinking alcohol. I am a pretty far cry from obese, and do not drink. Ever. How do ya like them apples? In fact, the largest risk factor for breast cancer is simply being a woman. Didn’t have much choice with that one.

Did you know that if you drink this special tea, or go to this website, or jump up and down 3 times, you can cure your cancer?

I didn’t know that! What a dum dum I must be. I will definitely consider stopping my treatment and ignoring the opinions of my doctors and decades of medical research and evidence, in favour of the advice from some website full of grammar mistakes and sex ads. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Did you know that sugar will cause your cancer to spread and kill you? Stop eating cupcakes, fatty!

There are several myths about cancer that circle the internet, which are completely unfounded, and only serve to stress the shit out of poor souls like myself. What each person chooses to believe, is his or her right. It is also my right to eat or do whatever I want, without having to justify it to anybody. Please know that I am extremely well-informed and not actively doing anything to harm myself. You can trust that no one wants me to stay alive as much as I do. For those who are truly concerned, I can promise you I am not shoving my face full of cupcakes all day. Although I could sure use one right now.

Did you get my message/voicemail/email/text/comment/card?

Yes, I did! I get a lot of messages every day, which I love. It makes everything a bit more bearable. I don’t always write back. Sometimes I forget. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I have nothing new to say. But I read everything and often share your nice words with my husband, and we’re both very grateful for so much support. As someone who loves getting snail mail, it is so fun to open all the cards I get. When a crisis happens in your life, you learn who your true friends are. Who will really be there for you. You also learn that you have a bunch of family you’ve never met who are really awesome. And that there are strangers all over the world who are caring and kind. People are, generally, pretty great. I can attest to this, wholeheartedly.

Are you a writer for a living?

Nope. I was published in the Toronto Star when I was 10 years old, and figured I hit my peak. But I have always written, for fun, and been encouraged by others to do so. Because of this blog, I now have many people encouraging me to write a book. So maybe I’ll do that. Stay tuned.

What does chemo feel like?

I’m not sure if anyone has actually asked this, but I know people wonder. And I don’t know how to explain it. Just thinking about describing it makes me feel nauseous. It’s not pleasant, to say the least. One thing that is difficult to describe is the fatigue. Everyone knows that chemo causes fatigue, which often lingers after treatment is completed. I remember thinking, being tired isn’t so bad, I’ll just sleep, I like sleeping. But it is impossible to compare the feeling to being “tired”. It is more an overwhelming sensation of weakness, spread across my entire body. Simple things, like boiling a pot of water, become really difficult. And often, sleep doesn’t make it better. As someone who really likes words, I can’t think of a better one right now than “yucky”. Chemo is really yucky. That’s about the best way to describe it.

When will you be done with chemo? And then is that it? You are cured?

A lot of people think that cancer treatment is simple. You pump yourself full of some drugs, and then you’re cured, and you move on with your life. For some people, this may be the case, but for most, it simply isn’t so. Each type of cancer is different and requires different types of treatments to keep it under control. Once the treatments are finished, you pray and hope that they worked and that the cancer will not return. In my case, I will hopefully be finishing chemo in two months. But because of my subtype of breast cancer, I will still need to get drug infusions every three weeks at the hospital, for a year. During this time, I will also be part of a medical trial. Then I will be on a different kind of drug, with its own fun side effects, for many years after that, to try to keep the cancer at bay. Somewhere in between, I will have at least one more major surgery. I will also spend the next however many years fearing the recurrence of my cancer, as much as I will try to block it out. It is most likely to recur in the next two years and the anxiety over that, at least for me, is a very real and difficult part of the struggle. So in summary: it is very hard for me to answer when people ask when I’ll be “done”. There will be milestones, most definitely, and I will try my very best to enjoy and celebrate each one. I’ve already conquered a few. But the road is a long one for me. Hopefully one paved with many cupcakes, now that you have learned that they will not cause my demise.