December 6, 2019

another cancer update while waiting at the doctor’s office

I am sitting here at my Oncologist’s office waiting to be called back to get my monthly injection. It is busy today. Cancer effects a lot of people. A variety of people. (mostly older) But if you look around the room and make eye contact with anyone you get the sweetest smiles back. Smiles that signal an understanding and a connection and a love that one naturally feels for a fellow cancer facer.

I almost wrote fighter. But I still struggle with that word connected to cancer. So I chose facer. I always hated being called a fighter. I never once fought cancer. I faced it. I faced it with tears rolling down my cheeks and panic in my lungs. I showed up to my appointments. But I was dragging my feet and protesting to anyone who was around (E) that I didn’t want to be there. I faced it. I was a cancer facer. Because I had to be.

The real fight began after my treatments were over. That’s when I had to begin to fight to get the life back that cancer had turned upside down and shaken up. 

I had to fight to strengthen my poisoned and radiated body.

I had to fight to sort through and process questions and emotions and ptsd.

The fight continues. I have to be deliberate and courageous now.

Cancer isn’t one and done. Sometimes I wish I could take away the daily reminders. The scars, the pain in my arm, the daily medication, the monthly injections, and the side effects of teenage acne and menopause hot flashes, etc. But I guess what I really want is to take away the negative ways that those daily reminders effect me. I don’t want to forget the cancer that has also offered me a chance to grow and see the world in different, beautiful ways. How can I keep the good without feeling the pain and fear?

That’s what I am fighting for. 

Someone close to me knows about all of the “stuff” going on in my life. She knows that since cancer it has been one thing after another for me and for our family. I got hit by a wave and then as soon as I stood up and gasped for breath I was being pummeled by another wave. Again and again. How do we catch our breath? How do we rest? She asked me, “what keeps you going?”

My kids. Hope. The joys that come from living—dancing, hiking, a thunderstorm, traveling. That’s what keeps me going.

I got to listen to a life coach doing a short coaching session with my friend. She told her something like this: what if before you came to this earth life you knew all of this hard crap you would experience on the earth? You knew all of these challenges and trials? But what if you also knew that you would get to experience the joy of your children’s smiles, that sunset on the beach on that particular day, that holiday where you connected with family, that person you would meet, that trip you got to take, that time when you couldn’t stop laughing, that song you loved that got stuck in your head? If you knew all the good you were going to receive, would you still take the bad? Maybe you did know all of that. And maybe you chose it. And that’s why you are here.

I actually don’t even think cancer is the worst thing that can happen to someone. I think there are pains and heartache and trials that are less visible to an outsider, but much more difficult than cancer. I think I’ve experienced that this year. There have been days that I have found myself wishing to have cancer back again rather than face this next trial.

Resisting and fighting against my trials has not made life easier. Accepting what comes and fighting for a life of peace and joy come what may—that has.

A friend shared this talk with me two nights ago (when Brinna was in the hospital) by Elder Uchtdorf from 2010: Of Things that Matters Most  He reminds us that when life is stressful and hard, to slow down. Slow down. Simplify. Focus on what matters most. Our worth is not measured by our to-do lists (which thank goodness because most days I think back to what I can check off a list and it is usually only something like I put away a pile of winter coats that has been on my floor for a week already). It is our relationships with God, our family, fellowman, and ourselves that is most important. Slow down and nurture those bit by bit. In simplicity.

Oh, the things I think about as I sit waiting for an hour at the doctor’s office.

Layla saw a picture of me from last year when I was bald. She remarked with a mischievous grin on her face, “Oh, I remember your bald days!”

I can’t believe this was a year ago.

A general update: 
-I see my oncologist every three months, injections and check in with the nurse every month. My next CT scan is supposed to be in January. I’ve had some unusual scar tissue that we had to get checked out but everything else is looking good and going well and I continue to be NED (no evidence of disease).
-in two weeks, I will have an outpatient surgery to finish up (hopefully!) with my plastic surgeon 
-I continue to have ongoing issues with lymphatic cording in my left arm. If I stretch and exercise every day it is better. I also have gotten some more weird artificial blood clots in my arm that give me swollen red, sore patches.
-my hair is still curly. I get asked all the time if I have permed it. 
-Chemo brain is so real. And continues to be an ongoing issue for me. Mostly that I can’t remember things like I used to, I feel foggy sometimes, and my brain gets easily overwhelmed. Sometimes I can only take in a little bit at a time. My doctor reaffirmed that the chemo and the drugs that I am continuing on can effect my brain. Clearly.
-I have another follow up with my breast surgeon next week

These two still accompany me to many of my appointments. 

I put on my vest. Then she insisted on her turn.