I read this article in Cosmopolitan a few days ago (thanks Mom!): I Have Cancer…And It Sucks by 25-year old Deanna Pai, Cosmo Beauty Editor. Go ahead, it’s a quick read. I’ll wait…
Crib notes for lazy bones: Deanna is young, has a rare form of cancer, cause unknown. She is undergoing chemo, experiencing the typical culprits: hair loss, aches, neuropathy, etc. She feels isolated and perhaps cheated? In a world where she feels limited “normalcy” she sometimes resents those perceived as living “normally”. “I hate and envy them all” is a direct quote in reference to those that do not have to experience cancer treatment. I got the impression that she feels her life is stagnant right now. In short, she is pissed off and should be.
I read this article top to bottom several times. I thought a lot about the phases of emotion and development (and setbacks) that I have encountered along this journey. It is not to say that I do not have days where I am not angry. I used to be far more resentful, recalling days where I would be at the grocery store under the guise of my wig envying every woman that walked by me in a long-silky ponytail. There were days I would sit in restaurants pushing my food around the plate only to promptly purge the minimal contents of my stomach into the (less than clean) public toilet. It wasn’t fair, many parts of this still aren’t fair. But fair is subjective so I should probably rephrase as: many aspects of living with illness just effing SUCK.
That being said I have been at this for a while now, 967 days to be exact, but who’s counting right? Perhaps in comparison to the tumultuous relationship I had with my last treatment plan between 2014 and 2015 I just feel more at peace with my current circumstances. Now don’t get me wrong, I struggle daily with many different aspects of the implications of this disease, but I just don’t feel as defeated or pissed off as I once was (at least not today). I still feel Deanna’s frustration on so many levels. I cheer her on for her candor and just keeping it real.
I read a piece that gelled with me in a different way from Year of the Hair (25-year old Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer crusher). She wrote a post called Chin Up. If you are experiencing any sort of stressor in your life, her insights may apply to you. If you are sick, grieving, in transition, etc. her thoughts are incredibly relevant and mature.
“I just wanted to say, to anyone suffering out there in any capacity that it really is going to be ok. And not in a you’re going to be ok because it could be worse/you could have cancer kind of way. My thinking has shifted a lot lately and I firmly believe that suffering is relative. What I endure might kill another. What someone else out there is enduring might be too much for me to even comprehend. But know that we are not alone in the suffering. It is an intrinsic trait of humans to suffer and know pain and difficulty. One way or another things will shift, however small or big, and your stars will realign and things will get a little bit better. I’ve learned over and over again that it might not be the ok you always thought was ok. But we are creatures of adaption and you will learn first to survive, and then to live.” -Robyn, Year of the Hair
Sometimes, like Deanna from Cosmo, I question what it means to be “truly living”. I feel that the disease has rendered me more stagnant than I would like to be at this point in my life. But honestly, without cancer, who is to say that I would have pushed myself to do many of the things that I have done over the past two plus years. I’ve traveled cross country, had more adventurous hairstyles than I can count, raised thousands of dollars for causes dear to my heart, become a hospital volunteer, gained the confidence to bare my soul to the world through writing, bared my soul (again) in front of students and colleagues as a Relay for Life speaker, developed professionally and found value in my work, become a better advocate for myself and my care, reconnected with old friends, discovered new friends and connected on a deeply personal level, watched loved ones marry and start their families, and entered a romantic relationship filled with endless unconditional love. If that is not living, I don’t know what is. So what if we occasionally eat too much ice cream and binge watch Netflix gems. That’s all part of finding joy in the little pleasures!
So even though this disease can be aggravating (example below):
I am still living…
I will get off of my little soapbox now and end with more wise words from Robyn:
“And if that fails to make you feel warm and fuzzy, always remember that if you are reading this, you have survived 100% of the darkest days you thought you wouldn’t. You’ve got this. You go Glen Coco.”
To date I have survived 967 days that have challenged my spirit and faith. On the 967th day I am not even close to remission but progressing nonetheless.
Today I found out that my tumor marker, the CA-125, has decreased yet again from 812 to 625!!!!
With Robyn’s fabulous Mean Girls reference, for celebratory purposes, I think it is worth repeating…
Keep on livin’ the best you can everyone. Whether you’re backpacking Europe or binge watching Parks and Rec. You’ll be okay (even on the days when it feels like nothing is okay) 🙂