photo: italy (cinque terre), august 2009
I really sort of fell sideways into being a cancer patient. I went from having a large lump that needed to come out, just because of it’s size, to learning that in that lump invasive cancer had already taken hold.
From June to early November 2020, I thought I just had, at worst, a pre-invasive cancer. Suspected DCIS. Once the pathology from my mastectomy came back though, it was, as they say – a total game changer. I well and truly had cancer. An aggressive form likely to recur and spread. Chemo was on the menu for me now.
Up until that point I knew I was being treated by a cancer clinic, and was being seen by oncology specialists and surgeons, and I felt a tiny bit of guilt. Like I might be taking the time of someone who ‘actually’ had cancer who needed treatment and surgical time.
The brain is a funny thing. Mine decided to rationalize this all by only accepting that I was not a cancer patient, I just needed a mastectomy. You know, “just my luck” sort of thing. I had learned that so many women were waiting for a DIEP flap surgery, and I had mine so quickly. I did feel like I’d jumped the line somehow.
But then I learned that the cancer was real and was in my body. I didn’t hop the line – I actually got in just in time. There could still be pesky cells left behind, which is why I’m taking chemotherapy now. But there it was in November 2020 – I was officially a cancer patient.
I keep saying it and writing it and it still doesn’t feel real.
My brain, being a crafty-sort, decided to focus on my ‘good week’ and my ‘bad week’. My bad weeks, I’d be less present at work, but still keep things moving. Remember – the ‘bad week’ is right after my chemo does where I’m only out of bed to use the washroom. And even then, it’s a real struggle.
Then we have my ‘good week’, where my appetite starts to come back, and I like to be anywhere other than my bed, and I have energy enough to make it through the day without needing a nap or two. Those weeks, I’m fully engaged in work, typically have back to back meetings and am able to watch tv or knit or something else relaxing in the evenings. I also put on some make up and throw on wigs and turbans and big earrings to help people know that I’m doing as okay as I can be. Plus, it’s fun!
Having these ‘good weeks’ really matter to me. It’s my way of not being solely defined as a cancer patient. I realize now, that yes – I am that – but it’s not all that I am. I am still the same person I was before. I just have a few new scars, bruises, stories and perspectives to bring with me.
All this to say – I’m doing my best to keep some semblance of my pre-cancer life going right now. It’s important to me. But, am just starting to slowly wake to the idea that I might need a wee bit of time for me to heal and absorb too.
The fatigue is letting the tears come a little bit more easily right now. I might just need to let them.
I have just written this as the AC is taking hold, and it’s time to take a nap. So… editing on this one. It’s pretty much a free form stream of consciousness. Be gentle on my mistakes 🙂