This week was full of ups and downs, highs and lows. For one my aunt passed away of cancer on Monday. She was a very special person who gave a lot of herself to others as she struggled through her own challenging life, never failing to tell the people close to her that she loved them very much. Her daughter stood up and touchingly said ‘she was my hero’. I feel this way too, hero is a very fitting word to describe my aunt. RIP ma tante.
Something I have adopted in the last year is that I tell my family and friends as often as I can how much I love them. We are put on this earth to love others and be loved, to treat each other with kindness, to validate, to support, to listen, to not judge, to forgive, to be patient, to have open minds, to speak up, to embrace. I feel like my life has been condensed, like I want to do everything – NOW – cramming in as much as possible and loving even more. Time is of the essence and I live life unafraid and conscientiously. People say ‘cancer’ is a gift. I do not partake in that ideology – but – if cancer gave me the gift of living life as Oprah and other wise, smart people would say ‘in the moment’ then I’m all in. Is that a gift that cancer gave me? Maybe. But really, come on, cancer is cancer and it sucks. Another thing I’ve come to realize is that I cannot change the past, regrets, make rights of my wrongs, repair relationships that are broken or lost forever, make people LIKE me. I’m grateful for all the people I’ve met in my life, times shared together, memories made. These things are so important. Simple. Irreplaceable. It is freeing to not care what other people think of me. I think women are people pleasers by nature, and so we are constantly trying to ‘keep the peace’, and compromising ourselves in hopes that everyone around us is happy. Seems we’re endlessly scrutinizing ourselves and each other as wives, friends, mothers, sisters, daughters, employee’s, school/hockey/soccer moms – pointing fingers, comparing, trying to make ourselves feel better and having others like us all at once. It’s exhausting and unnecessary. The things I used to think about all the time, the worry, the why’s and what if’s, and the guilt are gone. Ok, I’m just going to say it – I feed my kids WHITE bread…so what, sue me. See – I don’t care what you think. ha.
The high of this week was travelling to Toronto to see Drake on Tuesday with one of my closest friends. How can I describe his concert?! The vibe was intoxicating. The excitement was palpable. I was astonished at his level of talent, and how engaged his hometown audience was. They sang every lyric to every song! Everyone stood and danced for over 90 minutes. I’ve never been to a concert where the crowd was as entertaining as the main event – so awesome, responsive, cool and laidback which made the experience so much better. I really didn’t have any expectations so I was blissfully surprised as the show went on. Wow, glad I went. check.
I’ve been wanting to share a poem written by Lisa Bonchek Adam. She inspired me to write a blog, to share my story. Sadly, she died in March of this year of metastatic breast cancer. She gained notoriety on social media as she was criticized by a Guardian and New York Post reporters for oversharing about her terminal disease and death. People were pissed and the backlash they received was well deserved. She was a fierce advocate for the importance of metastatic breast cancer research. I loved her writing, she wrote with intelligence and honesty, which of course I love and admire. The way she captured what patients experience and feel is brilliant….
“I think so too”
That chair you’re sitting in? I’ve sat in it too. In waiting rooms. Chemo rooms. Prep rooms. For tests. Surgeries. Procedures. Radiation. Inpatient. Outpatient. Emergency visits. Routine visits. Urgent visits. To see generalists. Specialists. Surgeons. Alone. With friends. With family members. As a new patient. Established patient. Good news. Bad news. I’ve left with new scars. Prescriptions. Appointments. Words of wisdom. Theories. Guesses. Opinions. Statistics. Charts. Plans. Tests. Words of assurance. More bloodwork. Nothing new. Nothing gained. Nothing but a bill.
That feeling you’re having? I’ve had it too. Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Numbness. Sadness. Resignation. Confusion. Consternation. Curiosity. Determination. Dread. Anxiety. Guilt. Regret. Loss. Pain. Emptiness. Embarrassment. Shame. Loneliness.
That day you’re dreading? I’ve dreaded it too. The first time you speak the words, “I have cancer.” The first time you hear “Mommy has cancer.” Anniversary day. Chemo day. Surgery day. PET scan day. Decision day. Baldness day. The day the options run out.
Those reactions you’re getting? I’ve had them too. Stares. Questions. Pity. Blank looks. Insensitivity. Jaw-dropping comments. Tears. Avoidance.
Those side effects you dread? I’ve dreaded them too. Nausea. Vomiting. Pain. Broken bones. Weakened heart. Baldness. Hair loss. Everywhere. Unrelenting runny nose. Fatigue. Depression. Hot flashes. Insomnia. Night sweats. Migraines. Loss of appetite. Loss of libido. Loss of breasts. Phantom pain. Infection. Fluid accumulation. Bone pain. Neuropathy. Numbness. Joint pain. Taste changes. Weight gain. Weight loss. Mouth sores. Fevers. Anemia.
That embarrassment you’re feeling? I’ve felt it too. Buying a swimsuit. Getting a tight-fitting shirt stuck on my body in the dressing room. Having a child say “You don’t have any eyebrows, do you?” Asking the grocery line folks to “make the bags light, please.” Wearing a scarf. Day after day. Wondering about wearing a wig because it’s windy outside and it might not stay on. Holding on to the bannister for dear life. Passing out in public.
That fear you’re suppressing? I’ve squelched it too. Will this kill me? When? How bad is chemo going to be? How am I going to manage 3 kids and get through it? Will my cancer come back and take me away from my life? Will it make the quality of life I have left so bad I won’t want to be here anymore? Is this pain in my back a recurrence? Do I need to call a doctor? What is worse: the disease or the treatment?
That day you’re yearning for? I’ve celebrated it too. “Your counts are good” day. “Your x-ray is clear” day. “Now you can go longer between appointments” day. “See you in a year” day. First-sign-of-hair day. First-day-without-covering-your-head day. First taste of food day. First Monday chemo-isn’t-in-the-calendar day. Expanders-out, implants-in day. First walk-without-being-tired day. First game-of-catch-with-the-kids day. First day out for lunch with friends day. First haircut day. “Hey, I went a whole day without thinking about cancer” day. “Someone asked me how I’m doing, I said ‘fine’ and I meant it” day.
That hope you have?
I have it too: More research. Easier access. Targeted therapy. Effective treatments. Better quality of life. More options. Longer life. Less toxicity. Fewer guesses.
Ultimately, someday, for my children or grandchildren perhaps: a cure.
Don’t you think that would be amazing? I think so too.