Remission: Take 2
Two years ago I had my first colonoscopy revealing a very large tumor. What did they say? The size of a golf ball? I’ve forgotten these details after all the brain-fog from chemo and the general stress-induced memory loss. I remember the tumor was big and would require immediate attention. I took oral chemo, I had radiation, I had surgery, and then 8 rounds of IV chemo. It looked like things were going well after I finished treatment, and then I went in for my follow up colonoscopy the following year, almost to the day, after my initial screening. They found more polyps, and I would have to wait a week for a biopsy. I was grateful things weren’t worse, but still I was left feeling the ache of a worry that wouldn’t go away.
My results came back, and it wasn’t cancer, but it wasn’t all-clear either. They were “pre-cancerous”. If they hadn’t been removed, they would have grown into cancer. I thought about how they had been growing in my intestines while I was still on chemo. I worried over whether they would grow faster this year since I was not being treated. I didn’t just have this to worry about, I had what is now being widely studied and noticed in youth with cancer: PTSD. I had my first anxiety attack. I had my first panic attack. Every itchy throat, every tingle in my leg, every pain and every discomfort was a sign of cancer. I experienced survivors guilt, I experienced the disappointment in the eyes of people who wanted to celebrate with me and I just wasn’t feeling it.
Through it all, I never felt like I was doing anything wrong. I was feeling what I had to feel. I’m not one to fight with my emotions or try to run from them. This, I learned from my therapist, is not common. I was surprised to learn this. I thought everyone felt deeply and just didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Nope. Most people do not allow themselves to feel any emotions they aren’t comfortable with. Wow. For me, this was step 1 in my path to recovery. Step 2 was also thanks to my therapist. She taught me a lot about how people project. I was familiar with the concept, and I’ve been able to see when I do it (another thing she pointed out was not common), but I had not understood the extent to which everyone projects. Learning these two things helped me breathe. I was still feeling cancer anxieties, but at least my anxieties about people weren’t an extra weight. My panic attacks stopped immediately after exploring and understanding how I was different. Not unique, just different than the majority. It’s empowering to understand these things. I know where I stand, and I feel a newly found comfort in being able to understand the difference between when I’ve done something wrong and when someone is just upset with themselves and projecting that on to me. (The answer is: most of the time people are projecting, and all this time I’ve been taking it personally and internalizing it and worrying about what a jerk I was.) It has nothing to do with cancer, but it’s had everything to do with giving me the specific tools I needed to push on after cancer.
After a 48-hour all-liquid diet and only 3 hours of sleep between laxative preps (I say hoping you’ll forgive all my grammatical errors), I had my second colonoscopy. Today was the big day, two years after the cancer was found, and one year after they found pre-cancerous polyps. I went in feeling calm and excited to get it over with and at least have the relief of knowing the polyps hadn’t yet grown into cancer. Whatever worries or fears I had left as fast as they came. After a year of letting myself feel everything, I was finding myself in a zen state of mind. I thought about riding the wave and not resisting whatever came at me, and I felt ready for whatever might come. To my surprise, the news was so much better than I had anticipated. I had no polyps, no inflammation, just healthy and happy intestines. They look so healthy that instead of coming back next year, I get to wait two years for another colonoscopy. This news felt amazing. After not allowing myself to consider the possibility that the news might be that good, it became overwhelming to take it all in. I’ve cried happy tears of relief and gratitude several times today. Year two of remission is going to be a lot better. Time has helped me grieve. Therapy has helped me move forward. A polyp-free screening has given me an extra boost of confidence that I don’t have to worry as much about the nasty threat of cancer. I’m ready to rock.
This year I will have my first solo booth at a holiday bizarre. I hope that you’ll come stop by for a free hug!
WHEN: 9am-4pm Saturday December 7th (the day after my birthday)
WHERE: Garden Home Rec Center – 7475 SW Oleson Rd, Portland, OR 97223
WHAT’S FOR SALE: Crochet creations! Unicorns, Mermaids, owls, jellyfish, and more unicorns. Also crocheted roses on adjustable rings, purses, dice bags, soap savers, coffee cozies, coasters and more. I also have buttons/magnets and I’m hoping I also have time to create more perler bead projects (those were popular and sold out last year!) Check out my instagram account to see all of my crochet creations as they are finished @kaminakapow If you don’t have an instagram account I think you can use this link to view my account on the web… http://statigr.am/viewer.php#/user/31754825/