Five Years After Cancer
It’s time for a health update for all of you who have followed my story. I’m long overdue. I’ve been writing a lot in private. I joined an app for writers this past year and received a lot of positive feedback that has gone a long way to get me back to writing publicly again. I don’t struggle to write, but I hesitate to publish it publicly, where it can live forever. It was easier during cancer treatment when my head wasn’t clear enough for critical analysis of what it means to talk about the intimate details of my life in a public setting. And while I’ve received more positive feedback than negative, there are still those aggressive few who really want me to know that their friend’s cousin’s boyfriend didn’t like my blog because I didn’t look at the bright side of screaming in pain from radiation. So I’m back. I’ll don’t know for how long, but I’m back and I’ll tell you what remission is like.
It sucks. I’m annoyed that I have to say, “it’s better than having cancer,” or some jackass will come along and tell me, ” It could be worse.” Yeah, I know, and you could always stop being an annoying shit that says obvious things. It still doesn’t make the list of Best Things to Experience. If someone tells me they’re making a bucket list, I’m not gonna be like, “oh man, you gotta try healing from cancer, it’s so dope.” I have a hip pain from radiation that’s bad enough that I have to use my arms to lift my left leg into the car when I get into the driver’s seat. I have PTSD that keeps me from leaving the house or generally being social because I never know when an anxiety attack is going to hit or how much pain I’m going to be in. My teeth are breaking at an alarming rate, another expensive side-effect of radiation. I have permanent neuropathy that is somehow impossible for anyone to remember so I have to keep telling people over and over again that I can’t be out in the cold weather in winter without experiencing pain in all four limbs. I can’t even hold a cold drink from the fridge in the middle of summer. I have medical bills that I don’t even want to talk about because it’s the biggest trigger of anxiety attacks. I will say, it’s shocking we still have our home, and it’s a relief that I’ve been well enough to work as much as I have. I’ve gone from only having energy to nanny, to being able to nanny, take on chores, and still have some energy left to make dolls to sell.
I’ve just started a new paragraph and you’ve probably already forgotten I have neuropathy. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ll get it tattooed on my forehead for our convenience. Thankfully, my husband, mother, and closest friends still see me as someone who is healing. It’s really lovely to have them around. I imagine they walk a fine line trying to understand how it is I want to be treated. I don’t care if they get it right, I care that they are still trying after all this time. I care that they don’t expect me to bounce back to the person I was before cancer. I’ve changed. I’ve had to change to adapt to my situation. It’s heartwarming to have people around who like the new me as much as the old. Although it has felt really weird to go from feeling popular to feeling like old news on Facebook. I got so many likes and comments when I was sick! I’m not complaining, it’s just a bizarre experience that only a sick person gets to witness first hand. When I was going through chemo I could post a photo I took of paint drying and people would say it was the coolest thing they’d ever seen. Now I can post something that’s really cool that I worked really hard on and those same people could not care less. I’m giggling as I write this. Being fake popular for a minute was fun. But seriously, it was really nice to have so many people trying to lift me up when I was at my worst. I appreciate it. (Also I’m not above pity-likes for however long I can still get away with it.)
I’m sorry if I dropped out of your life. I still like you as much as I ever did. It’s been difficult adjusting to life after cancer, and having a private space to rest has been important to the process. I’ve turned to art as therapy and it has been the most meaningful thing to come out of the pain. Being home, in my soft clothes, with a cup of tea and some yarn is so very soothing. I’ve always been sensitive to (and overwhelmed by) the loud noises and bright lights of the outside world, and that has been amplified by PTSD and general pain. It seems true for a lot of people after cancer. If they loved going out and being social before cancer, they doubly love it while healing. I enjoyed my alone time before, but now I don’t just enjoy it, I depend on it to gain the energy I need to maintain a sense of normalcy and put cancer behind me. Every time I go out I’m reminded of cancer and how much it has taken away from me.
February of 2017 was my five-year remission mark. I had my last clean CT scan and my oncologist gave me a hug and sent me on my way. I’ll still need a $3,000.00+ (out of pocket) colonoscopy every two years to remove pre-cancerous polyps and check for tumors, because my colon still hates me and I’m still at risk and will be for the rest of my life. I wish I could put cancer behind me, but, as always, I’ll take what I can get. There will be another gofundme in 2018, because I’m never going to be colonoscopy rich. You didn’t know “colonoscopy rich” was a thing. I didn’t either. It’s that thing where you can afford medical and dental bills and (I assume) still have cable TV, a tablet, go out to eat, go on vacations, afford a pet, and other things I used to take for granted.
I don’t care about having those things, as long as I can afford to get my polyps removed and come home to my home that we still haven’t lost and hug my husband who is still healthy with perfect teeth and gripe about silly shit like being fake popular. I want to make my mom laugh and eat waffles with my grandparents and play D&D with my nerd crew and crochet a doll. I want to play Minecraft with the twins. I want to catch pokemon with Tori. I want to garden and take photos in the spring and listen to university lectures on youtube.
When the cancer bites
When radiation stings
When I’m feeling bad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I have an anxiety attack and I only feel moderately baaaaaaaad