so, on tuesday my oncologist will be letting me know how many rounds of chemotherapy i have left. it’s as few as three and as many as six. done as early as september 4, or as late as the first week of october. and then i’ll also know when i start radiation, and when i’ll be done with treatment altogether. it feels so surreal. like, is this really happening? did this all really happen? was my life really flipped upside down by a cancer diagnosis? then i see the scars, remove my wig, and remind myself that yes, in fact, my life has been turned upside down.
i’ve felt every typical emotion that a person with cancer has felt. guilt. sadness. happiness. scared. thankful. helpless. empowered. embarrassed. confused. worried. hopeful. now that i am back at work and am winding down with my treatment, i am starting to get the weird feeling that many people who have also had cancer have felt: holy crap, what just happened, and am i really going to be ok?
the hardest feeling is guilt. feeling guilty for the burden this puts on my family and friends. the stress and worry it puts on those around me. it’s very hard for me to wrap my mind around how my diagnosis makes others feel. sometimes i can feel it in their facial expressions or their tears. one thing is for certain. i can feel all the support and well wishes and prayers.
i hate feeling helpless. being fairly independent, it is extremely hard to ask for help, admit when my physical limits have been pushed too far, or have to say no to things because i am too tired. i’ve had to learn to ask for help, pause for a minute to rest, or stay home and chill out because i just can’t push myself any further. i try to remind myself that this is temporary. that in a few months, i will be myself again. that i’ll have the energy of a “healthy” 31 year old woman.
the worst feelings are confused and scared. will i make it to 35? to 40? to 100? will this come back? will i end up in hospice at a young age? having cancer can sometimes take you to a really dark place. i try to never go there, but the truth is, if i never went there, then i wouldn’t fully be accepting the reality that is receiving a cancer diagnosis. have i fully accepted the fact that i’ll never be pregnant? probably not. do i sometimes feel sad (for myself and whoever may one day be my future spouse) that i likely cannot have biological children? of course. thankfully i live in a city full of commitment-phobes so i don’t really have to deal with this right now. as painful as it is to think about the days ahead when i do have to face my fertility problems, i also know that it means i will have made it that long. that even though i’ll be feeling the pain of my reality, the fact is that i will be thankful to be living and breathing and able to feel that pain.
sometimes i hope i can make it long enough to experience certain things. sometimes when my mind goes to this dark place, i think to myself—i hope i live long enough to see this or that day. i hope i live long enough to see derek jeter try and break pete rose’s record. i hope i live long enough to attend derek jeter’s last game at yankee stadium. i hope i live long enough to see derek jeter make his induction speech in cooperstown. when i am really feeling greedy, i hope i live long enough to have a family and send kids off to college or even have grandchildren. perhaps i have a warped idea of what’s important, but these are things which make me happy and what i personally look forward to.
so this particular post doesn’t freak anyone out, my doctors have never given me a reason to feel like i need to worry right now. on one morning a few months ago, i was feeling sorry for myself about going to chemotherapy, and i bluntly told my oncologist i was having a bad day. i told her i didn’t want to die. her response: “i really like you. i don’t want you to die either.” i went from feeling sad to laughing out loud. my oncologist has a knack for what to say and when to say it. i am thankful she is my doctor, because i feel like she gets me.
why am i writing this? why am i admitting all these terrible feelings? because it’s the truth. i truly appreciate when people tell me they admire my strength and positive attitude. but the truth is, it can be exhausting to always be strong. sometimes i just want to sit around and cry and be scared. and i think that’s ok too. because 90% of the time, i am optimistic and hopeful and i live life. i see my family and friends, i go to parties and celebrate, i go to baseball games and cheer (and sometimes boo), i go to the beach and wear spf 1 million, i go to the movies and laugh, i ride the subway and complain, and i go to work and put in 100%.
to everyone in my life who has been there for me, thank you. all of you have made this experience so much easier. you know who you are. and i’ll be forever thankful.