Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Aunt Flo

Well, it's Christmas time, a time that seemed so far away back in March. I didn't know if I was going to see winter and here I am celebrating Christmas. You here the words 'you have cancer' and everything becomes about the present and the future somewhat fads away. I was more worried about losing a breast and preparing for my next chemo that things like Christmas seemed insignificant. How things have changed.

There's this weird feeling you get once you're told that you are cancer-free and for me it wasn't joy or excitement or even relief, instead it was like a 'proceed with caution' feeling. It's almost like I'm afraid that if I tell too many people that I am cancer-free that my body is going to make a liar out of me. However, it seems as though every time I do let my guard down and accept my cancer-free results, my body reacts in a positive way. I smile more, I laugh harder, and apparently, I get my period.

Anyone who knows me knows that fertility has been a huge focus of mine ever since I found out that chemo may have robbed me of the opportunity to have children, something that I have been planning on since I was a child myself. Once you go through chemo, it can do so much damage to your body/ovaries that it can make you infertile and they have no way to determine if your period will return or not; some women are permanently in menopause and other women get their periods back.

I have always wanted children but I think as women, there's an expectation or at least an assumption that when you want children, you are able to have them and unfortunately, I'm not sure how easy that will be for me. I have a few friends trying to get pregnant right now and sometimes I will get a text that says 'Ugh, I got my period' and I usually text back 'Ugh, I haven't gotten mine'. We both want children but in their case having a period means they aren't pregnant, in my situation, having a period is a good thing.

Anyway, I will come back to my period in a minute...

I have never felt better. Cancer is just not a part of my every day vocabulary anymore, I don't feel like I live at the hospital, my hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows will all be present at the dinner table with me on Christmas day, I have really gotten involved in helping other young women going through cancer, and Keith and I, well I think we all know how I feel about Keith; we are better than ever. And, wouldn't you know it, I got my period this week. It seems as though, when my heart smiles, my ovaries smile along with it. Having a period doesn't necessarily mean I am ovulating but it sure is one step closer.

Speaking of one step closer, I just got off the phone with my plastic surgeon's office and I have a date for my surgery, it's January 12th. It's my surgery to get my expander removed and my implant put in. I joke that I'm like Pinocchio and my next surgery date is the day that I become a 'real girl' because I will have completed my reconstruction. The first thing I think about is of course the blood test at my pre-op and the disgusting IV that I'll need but January 13th is only one day past the 12th and that day will be needle free. While I'm on the topic of doctors, I never heard from my surgeon about my mammogram and they said if you don't hear from us in 4 or 5 days, you're clear. That was Dec 7th, so yahoo.

But before I jump into January and talk about my next surgery, I want to talk about the 'why' of cancer. A number of different people have asked me why I got cancer. They want a reason, maybe it's so they have something to blame, or maybe they hope that I'm predisposed to something that they are not predisposed to so they feel better about their chances of not getting it but regardless, knowing 'why' has never really been a concern of mine. My tumour was estrogen receptor positive (in my case, I think it just means I am more of a woman) but we don't know why I have an excess of estrogen. I guess I wonder, why does anyone ever get cancer?

If I could go back somehow and not have cancer, I would in a heart beat, who wouldn't, right? But, there are a few things that I have taken away from having cancer that I couldn't have learned otherwise. I think I got cancer because I could handle it, even though I didn't think I would be able to, I did it and did it with my head held high. I think I got cancer because it tried to pick on someone who may have given the impression of being weak but ended up being so strong. I think I got cancer because I was able to teach from it and use my experience to help people better understand cancer who've never had it and help those who have, better cope with it. Finally, I think I got cancer so it could teach me a lesson or two about what's important in life, about making a difference in the way I impact other's lives and about true friendship and support.

During this time of the year, I always get a little emotional (thank you for passing that gene down to me, Mom) because it's a time for family, a time to be thankful and a time for presents (just kidding). Christmas has always been my favourite time of the year because everything is magical and in my family, it always has been about giving. This year I wasn't sure if Christmas was going to be taken away from me but thanks to the support of my family, old friends and new friends, a few strangers, doctors, nurses, medical advancements, treatments and maybe a little bit of my own strength, this Christmas really is going to be the best yet.

Merry Christmas to my family, my friends (both old and new), from 25 year survivors to the newly diagnosed, to caregivers, to doctors and nurses, to everyone at the CCTFA (especially Sherry and Chantal), to everyone whose job it is to emotionally support cancer patients and lastly to my Aunt Flo (thanks for visiting - don't be a stranger).

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