It’s not about the chest, stupid

Ugh, yet another reminder that my brain is filled to the brim with cancer ca-ca. I mentioned a few examples of the ca-ca recently, and here I am once again, consumed with it. The latest: while browsing on etsy, I came across a “store” called ETC Chest. My first thought was, hmmm, wonder what kind of breast cancer stuff they have in that “store.” Guess what kind of breast cancer stuff they have? NONE.

ETC Chest stands for “Embroidered Treasures and Crafts” Chests. It has nothing, nada, zilch to do with the human chest, flat or reconstructed.

Well, duh.

Reminds me of my second-favorite Far Side cartoon:

And because you’re probably curious, my all-time favorite Far Side cartoon is:

Thank you, Gary Larson.

This little exercise in idiocracy (I think I just made that word up; I like it. No, wait there was a movie by that title. Never mind.) reminds me of how pervasive the cancer fatigue can be. Lots has been written about how a cancer diagnosis wrecks your life, and even when the cancer is vanquished and you end up with the best-case outcome, it’s always there. The fear, the weariness, the unseen scars.

My blog friend Lauren writes an incredibly eloquent blog called After Five Years. I highly recommend you check it out if you’re curious about what it’s like to live with cancer. She recently wrote a post about going back for a mammogram and it so perfectly captured the fear, the anxiety, the all-around shittiness of living with cancer. I held my breath throughout the entire post, then was gasping and sputtering and although it was only 9:30 a.m., felt like I needed a nap.

Lauren is a lot farther along in the “cancer journey” than I am, and in fact I can’t even comprehend getting a mammogram right now. Of course, having no breasts, it would be a physical impossibility, but still. I’m not yet to the point of having the routine scans that every cancer survivor endures at regular intervals. The stress and anxiety of knowing that there’s a (hopfully) comprehensive sweep through your body to sniff out errant cells is all-encompassing. I can imagine people all over the world watching the calendar, knowing that an appointment is upcoming. The anxiety of waiting for the appointment time to approach is nothing compared to the feelings that course through one’s body during the actual scans (or blood tests, as the case may be), and even that is a drop in the bucket compared to the sheer terror of waiting for the results. Talk about PTSD. It’s a wonder each and every cancer survivor isn’t a raging alcoholic. Or seriously addicted to Twizzlers. I can see myself going down either path, maybe both. And I’m just getting started on this “cancer journey.”

Life goes on for survivors. That’s a beautiful thing, and it becomes all the more precious when a serious illness rudely interrupts your life. But it’s not easy. Cancer is a sneaky beast. It invades your body, and even when it’s caught early, small, and contained, it has a unique ability to rattle your cage, big time.

4 Comments on “It’s not about the chest, stupid”

  1. Ed says:

    Wow. Not what I was anticipating from the title but a very powerful post. It is hard to conceive of how pervasive cancer is. Not just in terms of occurring throughout the body in its myriad forms but how it invades you mind and colors your every experience. Makes me think of the wizard of oz. Once you look behind the curtain you can’t go back to seeing the world the way you did before. I hope that makes sense. It sounded much better in my head than it looks in print.

  2. Nancy girl, thanks for the nod, but more so thanks for calling me your friend. 🙂 I think i see a few beers in our future sometime. Gary larson, i love the one about the pride of lions eating the kill and one says “hey remember that time roger told a joke and laughed so hard an antler came out of his nose?’

    anyway, the cancer on the brain does go away i promise….it isn’t always in your face


  3. Kayte says:

    I believe that’s called PTSD, my sweet. I recommend large quantities of wine.

  4. Michelle says:


    I have no idea what I will do after my 4 cycles of chemo will be done. I’ve asked my oncologist who just said ‘then you are finished’.

    As if just like that I am magically cured.

    Not too many people think about the wreck that is left behind, the unseen scars. Unless you’ve been there, I think the general idea is that you should just ‘move on’.

    thanks for this lovely post. Well put.

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