You know, I've been reading a lot of blogs about people who have dealt with cancer. It's been interesting, and I know that everyone deals with catastrophe quite differently. I've never understood it when people have talked about my strength or my bravery. Point blank and simple, I felt as if I was playing the hand that life had dealt me the very best way that I knew how. I hope that no one takes this as a criticism, because it is not meant to be, not at all, merely an observation.
I've heard people talk about the indignity of cancer. I suppose. I never really thought about it. I'm a private person, and having my breasts on display was a bit embarrassing at first, but I had breast cancer. I figured that I had better get used to flashing my boob and a half. And so I did.
Other people go on about their fear of needles. I never liked shots. Who does? But between chemos, and daily neupogen shots, blood work, radiactive contrast medium, etc. I got used to it. I told a nurse that I really felt as if I did not have the luxury of indulging my fears. Simply put. I was focused on bigger issues, and at the end, I was giving myself my own shots in the stomach.
I've heard talk about all the horrible tests, and the agony of mammograms. The tests were not fun. Being in a tube listening to banging and clanging as you listen to Vivaldi through headphones was not my idea of a really good time, but I also learned that I can 'put myself', mentally speaking, somewhere else. It sounds strange, but Hal's quote from Madeline L'Engle - 'You never lose the other ages you've been' was a huge comfort to me. During long tests, I was able to put myself in some of those other ages and it was a very gratifying (and wondrous) discovery for me. The 'agony' of mammograms seemed like small potatoes compared to the other stuff that was going on. It's uncomfortable, but it has a beginning and it has an end, and really, the two points are not far removed. It was simply something that I endured, and in the big picture, was a very minor thing.
There are many who get teary eyed at the idea that their cancer might return. They are very fearful about that. I would be a liar if I said that this thing did not concern me, as well. Finding out that my tumor was inclined to 'break off' and enter the blood stream, metasticizing in other parts of the body was a shock. A big shock. Reading that the average life expectancy of a person with metatastic breast cancer is 2 years was also very shocking. I reeled from the news. After about a week of pondering it, I came to this conclusion. I have the comfort of a good husband. That relationship has been strengthened by this ordeal. I have children who are learning about life, and wisdom during this time. I have a job that I love, something that gets me outside every single day, giving me 8 hours of solitary contemplation and hard work. I write, and that has made me a local celebrity of sorts. Since the cancer, people have reached out in a very wonderful way. I have a good church family. I have an intact faith. All these things, I have. What a treasure this is. Some people never have these things in their lives. I am blessed. Whatever happens, happens. I have to trust that my life is unfolding just as it is meant to unfold. I think about it. Sometimes, in the dark, I worry, but mostly, I have used this as motivation to really see the world around me, really 'be in the moment', savor relationships. It is what it is.
I'm an emotional person. I am a sap. My children will laugh hysterically about the fact that I cried during 'Ice Age'. I will tell you that the wooly mammoth had suffered great loss. Although I had some really disconcerting mood swings at the end of the chemos, it seemed to be more of a drug reaction thing. As those drugs left my system, I got a handle on my emotions, and I settled down again. For the most part, I felt as if I were facing something very large and very scary, and I put all my efforts into fighting my best fight. Nothing else mattered but that. Nothing. Reading other people's blogs, I see that other people handled things differently. That is not to say that they are wrong. Not at all. For the first time, though, it occurred to me. I am strong. I am brave. I hadn't noticed before. I have come through a hard time. I've no idea what the future holds, but I know that I am strong enough to handle it, that I am brave enough to look it in the face.