Thursday, September 16, 2010
powering through is circumstantial
I will be turning 27 in less than a week. Someone had posted my blog to their facebook and said something to the effect of "you should be worrying about turning 30, not worrying if you are going to see 30" which puts the totality of breast cancer in perspective. I am aware that I will be a survivor for life--there isn't a lucky 5 year mark, or an "all clear" celebration--cells can continue to mutate and breast cancer can sneak into other parts of the body. I already had the scare where they thought it was in my femur, which would have put me at Stage 4 instead of 3...scary stuff. But it is a reality and all I can do is be proactive and vigilant--the rest is out of my hands. I refuse to live scared, not now and not in the future. I have never been one to back down from a fight, and cancer is no exception.
So with my 27th birthday approaching I am aware of my own mortality--I have never thought of birthdays as "one year closer to death" though this cynical approach has encroached more lately than ever before. My birthday is one more year that I have lived, that I have been loved and that I was able to grow as a human being. Scott and I have accomplished a lot this past year even though lately it has been tough to remain positive because I have been so sick. It is hard to see the other side when you are forced to look fear in the face and make a choice. I chose to say "fuck you cancer" and power through--dragging Scott and you all along for the ride.
Powering through is circumstantial. I have had break downs where I wanted to hit the nice nurse because she had to take my height again for the 5th day in a row, a panic attack when my conscious sedation didn't work when I was getting my port inserted, not receiving care following my bilateral mastectomy until 45 minutes after I was brought to a room alone, where I was stubborn and refused to go to the ER because I didn't want to face a blood clot, where all I can do is scream and yell and cry because there just aren't words to express my frustration, I've stumbled into walls from exhaustion and meds, I've sat in bed and cried for hours because it just feels necessary, I've smashed watermelons and drank wine, I've withheld feelings and pain, I am terrified of hospitals and had to make one my home for 5 days. I power through nightmares, cold sweats, loneliness, lab tests, nurses who forget their manners, that bitch at the Fred Meyer customer service, walking to the mail box bald in my neighborhood for the first time, being weak and unable to get out of bed and fists full of pills to help minimize side effects of chemo.
So as I near my 27th birthday I fight fire with fire. I will go and get pumped full of chemo--let it ravage my body, dehydrate me, knock out my white cells, leave me as a lump on the bathroom floor, a pill popper, bed ridden, voiceless, hospitalized, bald, sore and in pain. I will embrace the rhythm of chemo and the cycles--I will continue to mentally remain healthy though physically my body is deteriorating. All this so that on my 28th birthday, I will have earned the title 'survivor.'
Each day is one more day closer to the end of my chemo and the beginning of overall health. It is hard to feel healthy when I am receiving chemo so I have framed it internally as something I have to go through prior to changing other things in my life. It is a detox of sorts.....getting rid of the cancer cells. (Yes I know it is killing good cells as well--but mentally I am working on positivity....however it is still a work in progress)
I am getting a chance to really focus on what I want my life to be, and how I want things to change once I finish with chemo and have my strength back. It is fascinating to think of how much I have changed already, having been diagnosed only a few short months ago. I am looking forward to taking care of myself better and adapting a healthier and more fit lifestyle. (Scott is super excited--for those of you who don't know he has turned into a crazy runner type and would love for my fat ass to join him).
Scott and I were trying to get pregnant when all of this started. My tumors were HER2positive which means when I finish my 6 cycles of chemo I will continue to have Herceptin (given in an IV) every 3 weeks for 6 more months (so a total of one year) and because my tumors were estrogen positive I will take a pill to block estrogen for a total of 5 years. Then after the 5 years we can revisit having a baby. We had embryos frozen because it's a crap-shoot on what chemo does to the ovaries of a 26 year old. As a result Scott and I were handed another 5 years together before having children. The decision was taken out of our hands in regards to starting a family, so we are forced to make other plans. At first I was very upset, but have adapted--5 years gives us more time to strengthen who we are both individually and as a couple. We both have changed so much since my diagnosis and really have re prioritized our time and our relationship.
When I feel like this is all too much, Scott is there to catch me before I fall............literally.
So there you have it. My plan. I will write all about chemo and cancer and recovery and surviving and then when treatment is finished I will write about getting back to a normal lifestyle, incorporating activities I couldn't do before, transforming physically from the bloated/depleted me of now to someone healthy and proud of their body, write about getting healthy and what that looks like, write about having embryos frozen/hormone treatments and having a high-risk pregnancy as a result, write about and train people to be Cancer Doulas, write for magazines, write on my blog, write, write and write some more. Cancer has brought me back to writing, something I have always been passionate about but never seemed to have the time to sit down and write.......hell, that is really all I have now. I spend a lot of time in bed, and my lap top is right there next to me just in case I have the energy to throw something together.
The best part? Knowing that when I do write, when I reach out and express something so raw, personal, and gritty that there are people crying just as hard when they read it as I am when I write it....
"You walk through the darkness with us, not because you are ill and have to, but because you choose to. We were drafted, but you enlisted. We recognize and appreciate the difference more than words can ever say." -V. Girard