Monday, August 15, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Every time I start to write, I consider a few things. First, I think about what is currently affecting me, is it chemo, side effects, reactions to others' reactions to me, the thought of having cancer at 27, etc, etc, etc,. Then I consider how my writing may be able to help someone who is going through a similar 'journey' or at least experiencing similar feelings, situations, reactions as I am. Finally, I wonder if anyone will find what I am writing about interesting.

So, I hope that what I am about to write falls under all of these categories.

After treatment #3, I was, there's no better word than, consumed. I felt awful, I still had another 3 treatments left, I felt sorry for myself, I was envious of any one who didn't have cancer, I felt alone (even with so much support), and I started thinking about recurrence and even death. These feelings were rather foreign to me but for some reason, I was stuck in this valley of pessimism.

I came 'home' and stayed with my mom for a week (unfortunately Keith couldn't get the time off, so I made the trip solo). I packed my schedule so that every day I got to see family and friends that I don't always get to see when we come home for the weekend. Well, if that didn't get me out of my funk! I felt like myself again (not quite 'normal', whatever that even means anymore but I was definitely myself). I was positive, I was full of laughter and life. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was Katie and not my cancer.

After treatment #4, I was nervous that I may dip back into that dark place because chemo can play some pretty mean tricks on you but to my delight, I stayed on top. My treatment was on the Friday and my mom came to visit on Wednesday (I'm completely stir crazy by Wednesday) then we drove 'home' on Friday (again, Keith had to stay because of work). I got to spend the weekend with friends and family. On Sunday, I got to see my niece and nephew all day (they are 4 and 6) and by the end of the day I felt like I could take on the world! Those two kids are the light of my life. 'Auntie Katie has cancer, and so what'; they treat it the same way as if I had brown hair and coloured it blond, it makes no difference. They don't judge me for being bald or having cancer (like many strangers do with looks of sympathy) and it makes them so much fun to be around.

Side Note; On the topic of being bald, I did purchase a wig but have yet to wear it because it is so HOT. I also rarely wear a head cover anymore either (I'm sure to wear sunscreen). 95% of the time, I leave the house with my bald head totally uncovered. I get stared at a lot, particularly by older people, but I am totally comfortable walking around with a bald head. It's not a choice, I am going through chemo and that's what happens. Actually, I kind of wear it like a badge of honour and I want others to know that when you are diagnosed with cancer and going through treatment, it doesn't mean that you are confined to your bed for 4 months; I can go grocery shopping and to the gym and out for dinner just like everyone else. However, the following words words have been said to me since the start of chemo, "Wow, you're not vain at all, eh, just walking around with your bald head." ????????????? What does that even mean? I'm not going to walk around apologizing for having cancer to make you feel comfortable! The person who said that followed it up with "What do you do if you have to go to a wedding?", "Uh, show up" I said. What do you mean what do I do? Should I be apologizing to every one there for having to look at my head? Should I cover up because you feel awkward or am I missing something and am I supposed to be embarrassed?

I also heard someone talking about the need to cover up with a wig because of society's stigma of women needing to look a certain way. Again, I'm sorry, maybe I'm from the 'new' school of thinking, but I am trying to break that stigma, not feed into it. I think wigs are a fantastic alternative when you lose your hair but some women don't have coverage and they are expensive (mine was $655), and they are hot and itchy and while we experience severe hot flashes, wearing a wig in the middle of August is not always ideal. Okay, I am done my rant, thank you for listening, back on topic.....

I had dinner with 2 of my aunts and 2 of my uncles, my mom, 2 cousins, 2 second cousins, my cousin's sister and her 2 kids on Tuesday night. My uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer 2 months ago (he goes in for surgery today) my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years ago and went through surgery, chemo and radiation, and of course I am in the middle of chemo. That night at dinner we spent more time laughing than anything else. It makes me jealous that I live so far away. At one point in the night, 11 of us were sitting in the living room and my cousin said 'you know, not to be morbid but three out of 11 of us have or have had cancer.' Isn't that crazy? I think the craziest part is, we were all so happy. That's what family does, picks you up when you need it and makes you laugh so hard that you wonder if you'll ever be able to stop.

I realized that what I needed to stay positive is family and friends. I feed off their energy then in turn they feed off mine. If I am moping around all day, then they will be sympathetic and tip toe around me like I am sick, but if I am my optimistic, energetic, full of life, regular self then they will reflect that in their behaviour. It is infectious.

Listen, there are a lot of crappy things about cancer (understatement of the year) but I am not my cancer. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, an aunt, and a girlfriend. I'm kind and thoughtful and fun to be around and cancer isn't ALLOWED to take that away from me. I fell victim to cancer's power a few weeks ago and it was draining and daunting and I really don't want that to happen again. I am glad I blogged about how I was feeling because it was honest (and scary for me) but I hope I don't go there again.

Wednesday, I was lucky enough to go to a Look Good Feel Better workshop. For those of you who have not heard of this workshop or are contemplating going, GO! It is a two hour long workshop and the goal is, get this, to look good and feel better and boy does it live up to its name ( You get a kit of goodies that range from sunscreen, to eye brow pencils (I had eye brows Wednesday for the first time in months), to serums to rehydrate your chemo-induced dry face to a cap to wear at night for when your hair is falling out. I was the only one there who had lost her hair so I was the 'model' to show how to draw on eyebrows and how to make it look like you have eyelashes and how to tie scarves in different ways, etc. This workshop is free and I really encourage you to go if you haven't already. I feel kind of awkward saying this, but Wednesday was the first time I felt kind of 'pretty' in a long time. Thank you to all the volunteers for all that you do!

So, I think the purpose of me telling you about all these events that have turned me back around and facing the right way is that I am a true believer in positive thinking. I think two people can be going through similar situations and one can have a positive outlook and the other can have a negative outlook. The one with the positive outlook has a better chance of healing not only quicker but more completely. I think the positive person hits more 'milestones' and the 'things' the positive patient is told are impossible often times become possible. In saying all of this, on Monday afternoon, I got my period after not having it for five months. Not only was I told that it may take up to a year to come back, I was also told that it may never come back and instead my body said 'screw you cancer' and I got my period in the middle of chemo. Now, I realize that doesn't necessarily mean I can have children but it is one step closer and it means my ovaries are working. Keith and I are ecstatic. I've never been so excited to have my period. I even told my dad and brothers (and we just don't talk about periods, haha).

It's a good day! And it was my birthday yesterday, could this week get any better?

\'Count On Me\' by Default
The thread 'Music Monday' on the Forum inspired me to post this video. I swear Keith could have written this song. I am so lucky to have him and the support of so many....

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