Thursday, September 15, 2011

My New 'Normal'

I did it, I have completed six treatments and survived the scariest adventure I've ever been on. I feel as though a huge chapter has just closed and now I wonder what I should write about. The past 4 months of entries have been kind of chemo driven and now I'm on the 'other side'.

I'm still dealing with some of the side effects of Friday's chemo; my bowels are still confused, my bones are sore and today the thrush is the worst its been, but the end is in sight. Next week will be the first week that I can focus on healing for the future, not just healing 'well enough' until my next chemo. I'm looking forward to going to see my co-workers, some friends, maybe going to a mall and just walking around (I was an avid shoppers prior to my diagnosis), oh, and getting a pedicure (I've only ever had 2 in my life but I was pretty annoyed to find out I couldn't get them while I was in chemo because of the risk of infection) and being involved in society again. I think every one around me is looking forward to having things go back to 'normal' because although I was the only one who had cancer, I wasn't the only one diagnosed.

Although I was the one physical enduring surgery, recovery, treatment and all the tests and procedures that come along with a cancer diagnosis, my family and friends endured a lot of the psychological side of cancer. Keith knows more about breast cancer than any 34 year old man should. Last night for example, he walked out of the bedroom (where I was laying down) and I started to cry because I was 'hurt'. By something he said? No. By something he did? No. Do I have any idea? No. I don't know if it is the chemo, the emotions that come along with cancer, or just being a woman but I was crying and I was hurt and I'll be damned if he was getting off the hook for it. He came back in the room, sat down beside me and frustratingly tried to figure out what he had done. We never solved the mystery and I realize on days like yesterday, how lucky I am to have him by my side. He has dealt with many different aspects of cancer and unfortunately has had to deal with the emotional girlfriend that he inherited on March 11th, too. I look forward to when "how are you feeling" is a question he asks during my pregnancy and not my chemo.

So now that six months have passed, and I have one less breast, 7 fewer lymph nodes, a whole lot less cancer, and a wealth of knowledge, what do I do? Well, medically, I see my oncologist on the fourth of October, I get set up with Hormone Replacement Therapy, ride the wave of those side effects, heal, and have my implant switcheroo surgery in December or January (oh, and fight the insurance company while I'm at it). And, mentally, I continue to surround myself with great people and keep the love and support close to my heart.

I would love to write a book, the same book that I was looking for when I was diagnosed; a book about cancer in your 20s, although no harder than cancer in your 50s, it's different. When I was first diagnosed, any literature devoted to breast cancer seemed to be geared towards women in their 50s or at the earliest 40s. I want to write about losing a breast in your 20s and when it's so much a part of your sexuality, fertility options and how we made our decision, about not having the option to breast feed if I am ever given the opportunity, about positivity and hope, about support and encouragement and how even the small things make a world of difference in the life of someone dealing with cancer. I have some pretty amazing friends who have done some pretty amazing things and I would love to pass on some stories and maybe be the positive person in someone else's life.

I have listed some of the incredible things that have been done for me in the past 6 months between Team Katie at the Relay for Life, the benefit that was thrown for me, and the family reunion where everyone wore pink in my honour, but one friend in particular has taught me so much about friendship and selflessness. I hadn't spoken to her in years but she was sure to have flowers waiting in my hospital room after surgery. She sent me cards, and constantly sent me words of encouragement along the way. She baked me cookies, and visited me while I was recovering. She has been that person who exemplifies 'that one person' who stands by you when you need it the most. One of her most recent 'acts' was an "Encouragement Jar" that has over 30 pieces of coloured paper folded up inside of it. Each piece has something written on it that has made me smile or cry, and has encouraged me along the way. One of the most recent ones said "Remember when we drove to Quebec and sang Little Mermaid songs the whole way? 'I wanna be where the people are...'" That made me smile, no, that made me laugh out loud. Others had inspirational quotes on them, while others are still unread as I know I will need encouragement along the way (even though it is so tempting to read them all at once). I want to pass some of her kindness onto others.

I would LOVE to be a motivational speaker. I don't know how you exactly apply for that job. Who do I send a resume to? Oh hi, my name is Katie, I've had cancer and was really positive during the whole process, would you like to fund a 'tour' across Canada so that I can talk to people/students/women about (life, cancer, education, motivation, encouragement, positivity, etc.)? None the less, I would love to do that...

So what is my new normal? I have no idea. I might be able to answer that in a couple of years. This next year is going to be a whole lot of firsts; first October without a breast, first Christmas post-cancer, first anniversary after my diagnosis, etc. and along with those firsts will come more lessons and more learning. As much as I would like to go back to my 'old normal', I'm kind of looking forward to my new one.

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