~ the Police.
My birthday and my 2 year 'cancerversary', much like the month of July here in Michigan, came and went without much fanfare.
However, they were all very UNLIKE the previous 2 years in myriad of ways.
This year, I decided that I was NOT going to celebrate my birthday. Overtly, that is. I'm not saying I'm in denial that I am having another birthday, I don't mind getting another year older (especially when people tell me they can't believe my actual age). What I wanted was a quiet day, a Friday, too! where I didn't have to plan, worry, anticipate, be disappointed, be upset, etc. etc. I have had a small number of really great birthday celebrations, and much of that is due to my wonderful husband, but I have also had more than a share of real doozies, of which I won't recall here.
Needless to say, I just wanted to have a DAY, where if you knew it was my birthday, you could wish me a happy one, if not, then, no big whoop.
I woke up to my hubs wishing me a happy birthday and a kiss. Nice. Exactly what I wanted.
Since I'm a contractor, no one at work had my birthday on the department calendar, so with the exception of a mutual coworker/FB friend, no one was the wiser - flew under the radar on that one - no group of people who don't really even know your last name ringing me in a circle to sing (gasp) and the ones who only show up for the treats. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but again, I've had some history.
My mother proposed we come to her house for dinner on Sunday to celebrate my birthday. I told her politely, no thanks, I'm not celebrating this year. Another reason not to make a big to-do, though I realize that is what mothers are for, and some actually love doing it. I didn't want to put anyone through any stress on my behalf. I just wanted me and the people around to enjoy the fact that I was still on this earth, and not have to worry if the oven needs preheating, or if it's going to be too hot to even use the oven (no such luck THIS year).
Instead, I invited THEM over for post lunch/pre dinner snacks on the deck, under the pergola the hubs built last year, The west and south side thickly covered in grapevine (exactly as we had envisioned the 9 years before the pergola actual got built!). It was, in Holly Golightly's words, loverly.
Exactly a week later, and I got to celebrate my 2 year cancer free date. I prefer to use 'cancerversary' for the day I had IT removed from my body, since that is most easy to remember - one week after my 40th birthday.
So, 2 years cancer-free. So different than last year's day. or the one before..WOW that was a real doozy- waking up with body parts missing-! Not an experience I'd recommend to anyone, even if it does mean saving your life. Try and avoid it if you can.
How has my life changed in those two years? Dramatically, and then slowly its's faded back to normal. Sort of the opposite of that quote I just read somewhere by someone famous I should recall....oh wait!...I remember.. from the Great Gatsby I think...how did he go bankrupt? "Slowly, than all at once".
(ahhh...and here is the most annoying part of post cancer treatment - I've lost my mind. Not like that, though there are days I feel like I have. No, I've lost something that used to be very precious to me- my ability to remember and recall all sorts of things. "chemo brain", though I can just as easily blame it on the blonde :), or the "chemo-pause". Add up all three, and you have a terrible triumvirate of factors that leads me to grasp at words, names of people I know, movies I've seen, etc. If I think on it hard enough, I can sometimes bring it back, but then there are times I just give up and figure, it's really NOT that important if I can remember the botanical and at least one, if not multiple, common names of all the plants I have in my yard. But this is a loss to me, still, a small one that points out how different my life is two years hence.)
One of the reasons my blog has been pretty stagnant lately is that 1. I'm usually too brain dead from my job during the week I have no energy to find an unoccupied computer to write down my thoughts. 2. Nothing that interesting is really happening to me once the main excitement of HAVING CANCER has died down. 3. TOO many things are happening around me to get them all down, and are they really that interesting to write about, or only interesting to me? 4. I have so much to write that when I think about sitting down to write about just ONE thing, I can't pick one, so I just don't do anything. Sort of like this lovely little blog post my hubs sent me, from a lovely little blog: http://tinybuddha.com/blog/
There is a reason I subtitled my blog as I did; I wanted to be able to write about what life was like AFTER the big C and how it changed me. Obviously, physically, I'm changed, though, I find it interesting that people tell me how beautiful I look, how thin I am, how lovely my blonde corkscrew curls are-are surprised when I tell them it's from the chemo, 'oh yes, I had breast cancer'...the shock, the doubt as to what to say. I want people to know THIS is what cancer looks like, too. I don't do it to make people uncomfortable, but to bring light onto this horrible disease that has killed too many and will kill too many more; to let people know I am a survivor of it and a warrior.
I frequently 'analyze' (my hubs might use the synonym 'complain') my altered image. Robo-boob is dead, the lotus breast has replaced it. My hubs, my wonderful hubs, tells me he loves all that it is- plastic, silicone, and ink- because my having it means that I am alive and cancer free these past two years.
To him, he sees what most people see. I am a woman, enviably skinny (foolproof diet I tell people who lament their weight- it's called 'the cancer/chemo diet' -Guaranteed to make you thinner. Most people aren't all that interested in it, for some reason). And I guess that is ok, because people don't want to feel sorry for you forever. They want to see that the cancer is gone and it's never coming back (god forbid), and this woman is standing here as proof that there is no monster under MY bed tonight.
But I live on the other side. The side where, yes, in clothes and even a bikini, my body looks wonderful, healthy, fit. I appreciate that I was spared the horror that I see other cancer friends endure- permanent disfigurement, essential organs removed, incurable metastasis. I'm so grateful for that. I really am. But I still live with a body that is partly not my own. I am reminded everyday as I get dressed, do I wear a comfortable bra that doesn't lie about what's real and what isn't? or do I wear one of my 'boob' bras, the uncomfortable ones that make the girls look FANTASTIC, and symmetrical, but as one of my girls frequently said...."It's all smoke and mirrors"? This is the part I think people DON'T want to know about. It's minor, I agree, it could be worse. But it's certainly not a picnic in the park either.
Worse for me is the doubt. Yes, they removed all my cancer on that day over 2 years ago. There is no more on that side. However, as my doctor pointed out. Anyone with breasts is at risk of getting breast cancer. I chose to keep one. I wanted to keep every thing I could at that time. I felt like I was losing enough, and the thought of taking one perfectly healthy breast off for the 'what if' of tomorrow or 5 or 10 years from now was not an option. But today, that sentence my surgeon uttered is always in the back of my mind, reminding me......Every cough, lump, bump, weird symptom, I worry, has it come back? Has it gone somewhere else? Will I have the strength to fight again if the enemy ever comes back to my shores?
I don't know the answer. I don't think anyone does. I didn't think I would have the strength to fight the first time, and somehow I managed. I didn't think I could run a 5K- to prove to myself that I was indeed a warrior, but also to do it because others I knew could not, they were too busy fighting their own battles. I walked 12 hours this year at Relay for Life, to celebrate the cancer free diagnosis of my girl Victoria, and to remember the friends I had lost this past year. Though I hadn't planned it, I'm running the Komen 5k AGAIN this year, and hope to beat last year's time, not because I love running (I don't, I actually hate it), but because I have to do it for my girl who cannot THIS year. And, I suppose, unfortunately, I will always find another person to add to my growing collection of luminary bags for Relay, and I will always have another friend fighting a battle that will inspire me to run another 5K in their honor, as much as it pains me to do it- physically, emotionally, mentally.
Or, I will do it just because I can, for as long as I can.
Peace, light and love to all ~ Namaste