A Perspective Change on Cancer
It's been a while since I've written and I'm not really sure the reason why. Maybe I am just busy, covid, kids-ya know, life. I've been dancing with NED for a few months now and it's been truly surreal. I do feel as thoughI got a bit of my life back, almost like I feel alive again. Does that mean I don't think about cancer and what it's done to me the past 8 years? Absofuckinglutly not. The reality is that it still looms in the background. Through this ridiculous pandemic that's going on, (no hate, I know it's a thing), I just took it a different way because ya know-Cancer is still part of my life. I found myself thinking “screw you covid- I had cancer, I sure as fuck am not going to let covid kill me”. I think a lot of us in the cancer world found ourselves saying that. But I started to think what the hell has happened these past 8 years. So much has happened and truthfully it is all on cancer.
It all hit me last night when I had a headache. I've always had headaches. I haven't had a brain MRI in a long time and it doesn't usually stress me out but for some reason last night did. What people don't realize is when you have a PET scan it is from your neck to about your upper thigh -it does not hit your brain. So I started to freak out if they missed my brain and it's headache is really brain METS. Now two things here: first of all, I know that many people find their brain METS this way. I totally get it, that's not what this post is about though. This is about the fact that every ache or pain will always be “could it be cancer coming back”. Every single pain, I don't care if it's a hangnail or you stub your toe, and all of sudden you have extreme pain in your foot. After being diagnosed with cancer, the fear of it coming back never goes away.
Maybe I'm feeling this way because my 8-year anniversary is coming up. Next week will be 8 years since my lumpectomy and when they told me “it's nothing, don't stress about it”. So I went to that doctor's appointment by myself to get the results. I remember it like it was yesterday, seeing my doctor walking in the door and saying I wish you weren't my first appointment. I knew right away what was going to happen so I looked at her and said “why because it's cancer?”. Funny, because we all have that feeling whether we have a biopsy or test that it could be cancer but no matter what you think, maybe it is just nothing. But deep down you know. After hearing those words, the rest is like a big nasty fucking dream. You hope you're going to wake up from that nasty dream but then you realise, nope it's here to stay. I remember having the attitude that I will j get this shit over with and I can get on with my life. How freaking naive I was. I now know that cancer does not leave you but you can learn to live with the stupid dumb fool. My perspective has changed so much.
I realize that being strong is about getting help.
My very close friends know I'm a worrier, it's just how I am. The funny thing is that I worry more about other people. I just worry about others, it's truly who I am. I don't necessarily worry about myself. Part of that is because I have faced death so many times that I just don't think about it. Living with depression and suicidal thoughts I had many moments where I was thinking "ok cancer just kill me and let’s be done". That way people would not have to worry about me. I had a hard time letting my friends and family worry about me during my diagnosis. I was typically the worrier who took care of them. I didn't like it being flipped onto me. It was very hard for me to let them take care of me. After all, how many times did they tell me how strong I was? This isn't a dig, it is just hard to be taken care of when you are “strong”. I realize that being strong is about getting help. Again my perspective changed.
I learned that every emotion is valid and ok for you to have.
Cancer affects you physically, there is no doubt, we can see it. They forgot to send the memo about cancer and the mind fuck it does to you. Self body image is screwed up, depression/anxiety is peaked, PTSD is no joke, anger mixed with happiness is confusing- just to name a few of the challenges. Cancer is scary as hell and there is no rule book about it. I learned that every emotion is valid and ok for you to have. I went and got therapy, support groups and kept my Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer (SDBC) site going. SDBC is just as much my therapy as it is for those asking questions. I started to see those “cancer free” moments and I held onto them. The times when I am laughing, singing, cooking and there is not one single cancer thought in my head. I had to change my perspective and embrace these moments.
Now one thing remained the same. This tiara has never left me. Maybe it needed polishing or to be straightened but it remains. I am not any stronger or braver than anyone else going through this. I am just a North Side, Italian girl who has changed her perspective, but is bringing herself back-tiara, stilettos and all.
Photo courtesy of author.