You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream.
– C. S. Lewis
On Sunday, I mark two years since my initial diagnosis.
June 1st is my second cancerversary – a/k/a out out damn lump day.
In 3 years and a couple of months I will be finished with Tamoxifen.
What a long strange (yet wonderful) trip it has been. Well not wonderful all of the time. Let’s be honest. Having and recovering from breast cancer requires a LOT of emotional energy along with everything else.
I will admit that recently I have had a bit of a struggle. I haven’t wanted to whine about it up here lest some of you think I was a big baby or ungrateful or whatever.
The Tamoxifen has been hard on me again. Where I was sleeping better, it started another round of sleepus interruptus with me. Also some wicked hot flashes and night sweats……which are most unpleasant. And when you don’t sleep, the emotional component is every little thing becomes a general pain in the ass.
Yes, I actually did the stare down with my Tamoxifen bottle recently. I would never play Russian Roulette with my life and just stop taking it, but it has given me pause lately.
Yet when Tamoxifen gives me pause, I remember that I can hack it and look how far I have come.
Lately too I have discovered some new critics of my writing. One person in particular because I said I did not like their blog. This blogger totally went overboard. The irony is I have never met this woman, wouldn’t know her if I tripped over her.
But hey, when you write in the public eye, you take the good with the bad, even I know that. One of the things this woman seemed to obsess over is that as per her calculation (because she knows me, right?) I had not worked in a year. Yeah o.k., right I missed the memo where anyone had the right to judge me for resigning an incredibly stressful job post breast cancer. LOL, it’s not like I hid the truthfully hard decision to do this from anyone. I wrote about it! What was the most odd is how she threw it at me in some “a-ha!” moment like I was ashamed of it or something. I now know who she is, and suffice it to say, she is lucky I am not as mean or as angry as she is. But that is one of the gifts of breast cancer, and I am not being sarcastic, either – you actually can let things go a little more easily once you have had to face your own mortality.
The past year I have marched to the beat of my drummer and no one else’s. I have worked my whole life, and continue to do so. I am just more low-key, adding in a lot of what I want to do into the equation. Because of my sweet man I am able to do this. And we continue to build our lives together – and I love that man more every day. If anyone had told me in high school some day I would fall in love with a boy I was just friends with in high school I would not have believed them. But oh my, how lucky I am to have him!
Hitting pause and slowing it down has been the best thing I could do for myself. When I hit that wall of exhaustion I had to stop and reevaluate. So here I am.
Am I the same person or a different person from when I began this journey? A little bit of both. I am me just different. This experience has indeed altered my reality.
I chose a very public way of dealing with this by writing a blog. I have even become part of a book of survivor stories. ( See The Pink Moon Lovelies: Empowering Stories of Survival on Amazon.com) I also chose to be positive, and that has been a chore some weeks – it is not as easy as it sounds, but at the end of the day I am very, very lucky thus far and have no business being anything BUT positive.
Other things – I have tried to reduce chemicals and stuff in my life so I decided to stop coloring my hair – the chemicals going on my head skeeved me out a little when I thought about it. I hadn’t been coloring for that long anyway, so it wasn’t so hard. My hair is slightly threaded with gray, but not that much. I will say I have noticed some women who haven’t seen me in a while looking at my hair like I am crazy, which is rather amusing.
I hold my breath every time I have to take a test, but I know I am not alone with this. I have met other breast cancer gals who like me had issue with the whole “survivor” word. One woman I know quipped recently that she doesn’t consider herself a survivor that she just did what the doctors recommended.
Again, can I say I know I am one of the lucky ones. I know I am. I know other women who have had a much harder time getting on and getting through, and I know some incredibly fabulous women who have had recurrences. I am blessed.
I am blessed in other ways too. Today I received a note from a woman who reduced me to a puddle of tears. I was just that touched by what she had to say. I am going to share:
I have spent the last week reading your entire blog from the first post to the last post. I felt somewhat sad last night as I finished the last post–like ending a good book, but missing the experience. We are so much alike it is scary–from liking old houses, to calling people on their rude crappy behavior, living in the Philadelphia area, writers, profound thinkers, love of the countryside, a tween stepchild (I just got married Oct 2011), having been dumped by an ex a few years ago, almost the same age, having a wonderful man–‘sweet man” as you say : ) , and breast cancer. I guess the one notable difference is that you are a survivor, and I am just beginning the process–I rec’d the diagnosis on March 22.
I was really ready to just lay down and die (seriously), however, when I found your blog, I was able to see more clearly. A lot of other sources I read were frightening in the way that I felt a horrific dread from them and a lifetime of pink bizarre stuff. I feel better about the Tamoxifen after reading your experience.
The past month has been a bizarre arena of Dr.’s appointments, and a blur of “who am I? What is my name? When will I wake up from this dream?” Surgery is scheduled for May 14th. Chemo, Radiation, and Tamoxifen to follow. I feel like someone has gone: “Duck, Duck, GOOSE” and I was the goose who got the cancer. No family history save for 1-cousin who is younger than I (she is stage 4, aggressive tumor…in remission and doing ok). I am somewhere between. a stage 1 and 2–no one will know for sure until the surgery. It’s a low risk tumor. While I want the surgery immediately (like yesterday), I am still frightened to death over it….. I’m sure you understand this feeling
I also had to laugh over your post about the oncotyping….hehe…I read your post about it last Thursday, and then Friday, I rec’d a similar call. 24-hours earlier I had no idea what the hell an “oncotype” is—sounds like a pair of shoes for seniors.
Facing one’s mortality is the creepiest thing I have ever experienced. Anyway, I was hoping we could share more over the next few months. You have helped me tremendously–so much so that I could barely function until I started to read your words. I hope I can follow in your path. Amazing the support from strangers… and how “friends” can just sort disappear…. Going thru cancer is much the same as when you are going through a divorce/break-up. There are some people that think it’s viral and that they will catch it just by being around you. Then there are the others that think you are going to die tomorrow. I know people react differently to this type of information–I do get that, but some people just act like clods.
Anyway, sorry for the length. I would have emailed privately, but I could not find an email address, so I hope me sending you this note/post this way is ok.
Melinda is her name, and she has her surgery on May 14th….my 49th birthday. This woman, who doesn’t know me at all, made me realize I did do the right thing by starting this blog. Here e-mail is like this crazy life affirmation to me that more women than not are connected by something.
Melinda – baby steps and you will get through. Don’t be afraid to laugh and cry and raise a little hell. If people can’t handle what you have to say, that is on them, don’t bring it on yourself. Melinda, I can’t thank you enough for writing to me. People like you make baring all this drivel out loud worth while.
I will be thinking of you on May 14th and am asking my other BC gals to throw up a prayer or two and positive thoughts into the universe.