Flashbacks and feelings

Yawn. I am tired. That could be the theme of the past year, really: I am tired. It turns out that getting back into the swing of things is exhausting. People had warned me it might be. My oncologist said, take it slow. But I was all, whatever, I feel great, I have more energy than all of these fools, yahoo! I may have overestimated myself a tad, while underestimating the cumulative effects of the crazy-ass things that have happened to me in a very short span of time. Oops. My mistake.

I am still working part-time, slowly increasing my days and hours each week. Working is strange. I think it would be strange for anyone, after an extended absence, especially because my role at work has changed, so it’s an even larger adjustment. But my absence was so intense and surreal, that I believe it might feel extra strange for me. It is like I was asleep for a year, stuck in some crazy nightmare, and then I woke up and immediately returned to my old life. Yet it is hard to remember that old life, or feel like it is truly mine. I don’t feel part of that world anymore, not yet at least. I feel more at home in the hospital than I do almost anywhere else. More familiarity with my doctors and nurses than with old colleagues.

I feel very much like an impostor.

Yesterday I saw my surgeon, the wonderful man who removed my butt-ugly tumor. He said to me, I bet you’re getting pretty close to forgetting all about us. But I don’t think I am. I don’t think I will ever forget. Maybe think about it all a bit less, sure. But forgetting – doubtful.

Sometimes I find myself having flashbacks, like a soldier with PTSD. I’ll remember how it felt to lose my hair. How I couldn’t move my arms after my surgery. How my ears rang and my heart sped and my bones throbbed while I lay under my blanket, wondering if death was on its way. Sometimes there are triggers. The smell of the bubbles for my bath now reminds me of pain, when I was forced to take baths to ease my sore muscles and joints. A piece of ice floating in my cup makes me gag, reminding me of the terrible feeling that would wash over me as the chemo dripped into my veins, while I sucked on ice chips to prevent mouth sores.

Just a couple days ago, I was hit with a vivid flashback of the day I was diagnosed, sitting in my doctor’s office, hearing “cancer” for the first time. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it still upsets me, still shocks me right down to my core. I had cancer? What? Who? Me? No way. Not possible. My breasts were removed? My hair fell out? WHAT?! Did that seriously all happen to me? There must have been some kind of mistake.

Imagine? Oops, sorry young lady, the cancer thing was all a big mix-up. Never happened. Snap your fingers and you can go back in time and forget the whole mess.

Ha. Ok. Clearly I need a nap.

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.