I haven't posted anything for a few weeks because I was in a really bad place last week. I couldn't see the good side of anything and I was incredibly emotional. I didn't want to publish anything at that point, not because I didn't want anyone to know that I was feeling like that but because I wanted to be on 'the other side' of the negativity before I wrote about it. Acknowledging it is different than dwelling on it.
In March, before I even had surgery, a friend of mine that I have known for 22 of my 26 years called and said she was throwing a benefit for me. I think I had known that I had cancer for only 13 days and she was already planning a benefit. I hadn't even bought a mastectomy bra yet and she was already planning! That benefit is this weekend and I will never be able to repay her for what she has done. INCREDIBLE! Not too long after that, a group of 4 or 5 bands were asked to play at a local hall to expose the 'young crowd' to this particular venue. I was still recovering from surgery so I didn't go but I had many friends who did. The next day, one of the band members dropped off an envelop to one of my friends for me. The bands decided that instead of getting paid for playing that night, they would donate the money to me because I wasn't working. AMAZING. This past Saturday, on Facebook, I noticed that a co-worker had thanked a few people from work for their efforts with a 50/50 draw and a bake sale. I made a comment that I was jealous that I missed a bake sale at work to find out that the proceeds of the bake sale and 50/50 draw were for me. UNREAL! Yesterday, we had a family reunion for Keith's mom's side. I walked into the back yard where everyone (and I mean everyone) was wearing a pink shirt. Keith's entire family wore pink to their family reunion to show their support for me. I felt like I was in a movie, it was one of the most thoughtful things anyone (or entire group) has ever done for me. FAMILY!
For the past week, it has been so easy to feel sorry for myself. It has been so easy to worry and cry and ENVY the lives of my other 26 year old friends. It has been so easy for me to want to have ANY other life. When I look back at what people have done for me, I realize how hard it is going to be to ever repay any of these people. Maybe the most amazing part is that none of these people want thanks, they are thankful that they can help. I have no way of expressing my gratitude for coming together and doing things that I only hope that I would do for them if roles were reversed.
I'm half way through. I've made it through 3 chemo treatments and have 3 to go. This one wasn't as bad as the last one when it comes to the puking, the anxiety, the restlessness, and the overall nausea. I got a refill of 2 of my anti-nausea meds this time and didn't end up on an IV drip.
In saying that, and at the cost of being Debbie Downer, being half way through means that I have to do what I've already done, all over again. This treatment played a bit of a psychological game with me. On Wednesday, things set in a bit. I have cancer! It still seems like I am lying when I say that, but it's true, I'm 26 and have cancer. Yep, it could be worse. I could be four years old and have cancer, it could be terminal, it could have spread to more of my lymph nodes, so I am thankful but some days it's pretty consuming. Some days, I worry about the next day and the nausea and other days I worry about getting through the next 53 days of chemo while other days I worry about getting cancer again before I'm 30.
The 13th was my oldest brother's birthday. I got out a 'Happy birthday' on the phone and it only took a 'How are you?' from him before I was crying. He's four hours away, having his birthday dinner and I'm by myself, apologizing for crying about cancer on his birthday. The week following chemo is not one of positivity or inspiration. It is a week of being weak, fragile, emotional, down, and fearful. I have come to expect that now. I wake up and spend my day waiting to go to bed. I want the days to end so the next one can start and I feel this way for about a week post-chemo. I look forward to helping others in the future, I look forward to being someone who can be there for others when they are facing cancer alone, but currently, I look forward to not waking up thinking about cancer, not having to contemplate leaving the house because of nausea, not worrying about being bald. Like a wise woman said to me recently, 'this will all be a memory one day' and I try to tell myself that every day. Some days I wonder though, 'Is this as good as it gets? Is there life beyond cancer?"
I envy the days when I worried about other things than having my PICC line dressing changed, when my next doctor's appointment is, and cancer ruling my life. I expect people to ask how I am feeling every time I see them but boy, do I miss the days when people asked about me and not my cancer. I have watched A LOT of television in the past week; a lot of reality garbage (L.A. this, and Beverly Hills that). I look at these women who are 'so stressed' because their new fragrance isn't going to have the right shaped bottle or one of their sister's got pregnant before they did. I wonder what these women would do if they had cancer.
I think I better understand the expression 'alone in a crowd' than I ever have before. I have so many people around me who care for me, who send me love, positivity and prayers and I can safely say, I'm honestly not sure if I've ever felt so alone. I got out of the shower the other night and laid in bed for about 25 minutes just thinking. I just stared at the wall thinking 'I have cancer, I've had a mastectomy (mastectomy, like chemo, is no longer just a word once you've gone through it), I feel sick because of the cocktail that is flowing through my veins, I'm having increased hot flashes, and I'm 26'. No one can understand what it's like unless they've been through it, understandably, but do I ever feel too young to deal with this. I can imagine that at 62, I would also feel too young to deal with cancer.
I think I am past the point where I wonder why I got cancer. It could be from genetics, medication (including birth control), environment, diet, or a mixture of any of them. I will never know so I try not to focus on it. Mind you, every time I microwave something, I wonder if I am increasing my chances for reoccurence. Every time I drink out of the tap, I wonder what I'm drinking that I can't see. And then every now and again, I'm able to form the thought, 'You could also get hit by a bus tomorrow. Quit worrying and keep living.' It's like I'm continually arguing with myself. I can worry about getting cancer again by the age of 30 and die of old age or I can attempt living in the moment and see where that leads me. Worrying isn't going to prevent cancer from coming back. I say that and I'm not sure who I'm trying to convince, me or you.
I try to allow myself some 'down' days without feeling too much guilt otherwise I would go crazy. Sometimes, I fear that I am worrying others when I tell them I am scared about dying from cancer, when I say I don't want to have cancer twice before the age of 30, when the thought of going through chemo again or having my left breast removed deflates me of every ounce of hope that I have.
I wanted to keep the illusion alive that I was positive all the time, and that even though it's tough, with a great support system you can get through anything. After talking with Keith's aunt and cousin and the importance of being authentic, I decided it was important to write about both sides of the coin. Yes, I have been very lucky and have learned more than I thought possible but that doesn't mean that chemo is any easier or the nausea is any less. I'm sure I'm not the first person to face these obstacles or feel defeated so why not write about them? Thank you to everyone who has gotten me through my awful weeks of chemo; chemo will soon be a memory but you will be with me forever. I continue to fight the effects and look forward to my chemo graduation day (53 days and counting).