The number eleven means different things to different people; there's Sept 11th, making a wish at 11:11, there are 11 points on the maple leaf on the Canadian flag, and lately the eleventh hour has become too much of a reality. Eleven is significant in my life because March 11th is the anniversary of my diagnosis.
Now, I've dealt with this whole breast cancer thing like a rockstar and at every new milestone (if you can call them that), although nervous, I seem to pull through with a smile on my face. Chemo was tough but I still found a way to laugh through it and being down one breast has opened up a whole new world of humour (let's just say Beyoncé's, 'All the Single Ladies' has an entirely new meaning).
I could write a book about how grateful I am or how lucky I feel, for a variety of reasons and very often I can see the positive side of things. Every time someone would tell me 'It's not fair that you have cancer', I would reply 'Well, at least it's a breast and not my liver' or 'Well, at least I'm 26 and not 3 years old' or even 'Well, at least I can one day be deemed cancer-free instead of having to live with cancer for the rest of my life'.
I'm telling you, I've been annoyingly positive about this whole thing but every now and again, I have a dark day, a day when I don't want anyone to 'fix' anything, a day when I need to vent without someone telling me how lucky I am. How lucky did you feel when you got cancer? I can pull myself out of these 'funks' but sometimes I need to be left in them. Some days I need to say how shitty it was and how shitty I still feel in order to move past it.
I wasn't sure how I was going to handle my first cancer anniversary; would I cry, would I need retail therapy, would I want to go out for drinks and celebrate or would I want to hide under the covers for the whole day? I felt like there was an expectation for me to celebrate and although I have managed to see the bright side of every situation since the beginning, I struggled with the bright side of having a cancer anniversary at 27 years old.
One of the annoying things is that every time I feel like this, I feel like either I am being super negative (rather than just not positive) or that I feel like I need to apologize for not putting a positive spin on things. I think a lot of the time I am positive for other people as well, to make them feel comfortable. People don't know what to do if I start crying or tell them I am scared that I won't see 30 years old but as soon as I crack a joke or make light of the situation, it puts them at ease. It doesn't really seem fair when I think about it that way, but I can't handle anymore tilted-head, teary eyed, mouth slightly opened looks when people hear that I had breast cancer. I'd rather say 'Keith doesn't like two breasted women anyway, so it all worked out' just to see a smile instead of that damn tilted head look.
I was lucky enough to be with 3 of my good girlfriends on Sunday so I didn't have the opportunity to hide under the covers all day, which ended up being a good thing because I think that's what I would have done had I been alone. I missed Keith a lot on Sunday because he seems to know when I need to hear something positive in order to get me back on track and when I just need him to listen to me. He knows I'll get myself out of the dark hole that I find myself in every now and again but until then, he knows he can't fix anything and I love that about him.
March 11th ended up being a day I wanted to get through, not a day I wanted to celebrate. I realized that my pre-cancer life is slowly getting farther away and now it's been over a year since I've had cancer which makes it feel more real for some reason. I wanted to forget and erase the day and I didn't consider it a blessing. I'm assuming that will change one day and maybe I will want to celebrate being alive, but for now, I feel a little jaded about being expected to be so grateful when really this past year has sucked.
I've heard people refer to cancer as 'a gift' and for those of you who have never had cancer, yes, you read that correctly, a gift. I think that stems from having a new perspective on life, taking fewer things for granted, treating life as precious as it is, etc. And, I think I am the first to say that I have been given a lot of opportunity since I've had cancer and yes, I do have a new perspective on life. I have made many friends, been given some incredible opportunities, (for example, next week, I get to do a photoshoot for a magazine where I even have my own stylist), I have been flown from here to there, I have spoken in front of hundreds of people, I've been given gifts, been in newspapers, magazines and on national t.v., I mean, if anyone understands the positive side of cancer it's me but in saying that, I would give it all back to not have had cancer. In my pre-cancer life, I may have been more ignorant, less perceptive, less equipped to deal with the real issues in the world and may not have amounted to a whole heck of a lot but damn a life without cancer sure does beat this. Even knowing that I would have remained the same naive, ignorant girl whose life was touched by cancer but who never really understood what it meant to go through it, I would gladly go back to March 10th and rewrite the future if I could, just to stop cancer's continual hold on my life. I hate that I will forever have an oncologist, I will always fear cancer's sequel and my right breast will always be missing.
Sometimes I just feel like I need to justify why I didn't spring out of bed with a huge smile on my face, thrilled to be alive. Most days I do wake up pretty happy to be alive, and I don't play the victim card that often but on the days when I wake up crying, and those days are so few and far between, I don't want to have to apologize, I don't want to consider myself lucky and I don't want to be grateful. On those days, I don't feel like a cancer rockstar, on those days I feel more like a one-breasted, emotionally overwhelmed, cancer victim.