Welcome to funk-ville, population 1Posted: September 27, 2011 Filed under: breast cancer, cancer fatigue | Tags: breast cancer statistics, cancer battle, cancer diagnosis, Carl Sandburg, Eleanor Roosevelt, mastectomy, psychological effects of breast cancer, Robert Frost, Winston Churchill 10 Comments
If you’re looking for a laugh or an inspirational story, you’ve come to the wrong place. I’m in a funk and there’s no amount of lipstick that’ll pretty up this pig (the funk, not me). My thoughts are scattered like leaves falling off a tree (if only that conjured up visions of the russet colors of fall, of leaves parachuting off of trees as they ready themselves for the change of season. That does happen in some parts of the world, but here, in the land of eternal summer, and in this infernal record-breaking, never-ending summer, the only leaves falling from the trees are brown and crackly, dead from the drought. How’s that for a cheery thought?).
I’ve been struggling the last few days. I’m frustrated with the pace of the healing from the latest surgery–yes, I’m a whole lot better, but I want to be done. I’m madder than a wet hen about the effect of the last surgery on my tennis game, and wonder if I’ll ever get my serve back. I’m worn out from the swirling, worrying thoughts of whether I’ll ever have the results I want. I’m both impatient for and dreading the next round of revision. I’m tired of being tired. I’m pissy about the fact that I’m still battered and sore. I’m ready to rip the port right out from under my skin because it catches on my clothes and shoots a sick sensation up my neck that reminds me the damn thing is sewn into my jugular vein. Oh, and it looks weird, too. I’m sick of cancer and all its many fallouts.
Normally, my solution to such a funk is alcohol. Lots of alcohol. Every night is ladies’ night when the funk shows up at my house. But there’s a niggling voice in the back of my head reminding me that alcohol is a major contributor to breast cancer, both initially and in terms of recurrence. And since not a day goes by that I don’t think about recurrence, perhaps I should avoid using alcohol as a balm for my beat-up soul. Dammit. Yet another way cancer has wreaked havoc in my world. If I can’t in good conscience comfort myself with booze, I’m in real trouble. This is no fun.
When I was diagnosed last year, Dr Dempsey gave me a stack of play money. She handed it to me and said it is very important currency. Each “dollar” bill was a free pass to be in a funk. To throw a fit. To have a pity party. As she put it, “to lay in bed watching Lifetime and eating ice cream.” I laughed and thought, pfffft! I won’t need that. I got this. Me and my positive attitude can kick this cancer no sweat.
While I am happy to report I’ve spent not one day in bed watching Lifetime and eating ice cream since cancer shat upon my head, I’m thinking I may need to pull out one of those dollars. How crazy is that — after all the crap I’ve been through, after seeming like I was finally getting close to the finish line, now I fall into the funk?
Don’t worry, I’ve already run through all the reasons I have to be happy: I’m alive, the worst is behind me, I’m not in the hospital, I have neither drains nor a wound vac attached to me, I’m cleared for exercise, I have great doctors and comprehensive insurance, I have a stellar support network, blah blah blah. Yes, all of that is true, and I know in my heart of hearts that there really is more good than bad in my life. I know that one day this whole “cancer journey” will be a speck of dust in my rearview mirror as I travel along the grand highway of a happy life. But right now, the funk rules.
Those of you who are within shouting distance have been hearing about it. The frustration, the impatience, the pissy-ness. What you won’t hear, though, is “Why me?” because really, does it matter why? Not so much. What matters is how ya sweep up the mess that’s dumped on ya, and most days I’m armed and ready with the broom & dustpan. But for now, I’m frustrated, impatient, and pissy. And mad. I’m mad, too.
I’m mad that this damned cancer “journey” has to be so hard for so long. I’m all for rolling up my sleeves, gritting my teeth and getting through it. I fully support Winston Churchill’s idea of “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I believe Eleanor Roosevelt 100 percent when she said “A woman is like a tea bag — you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” I gather strength from Robert Frost telling me “The best way out is always through.” But geez, does it really have to be this arduous? The ways in which cancer robs us are seemingly endless, and breast cancer in particular is a repeat offender, a pathological thief.
I just read this article, “What’s It Really Like to Live Through Breast Cancer?” Today especially, I needed to hear other women’s stories. Valerie, age 52, said that “she needed symmetry. She needed things to be as they should. She needed, after two years of surrendering to the opinions of doctors and the input of the cancer Web, to have an ounce of control over her body.” Yeah, me too.
Renee, age 47, said that “when I had her mastectomy sutures taken out, I asked the surgeon to remove the Sharpie mark she’d made—the black line that went across my ribs like a big smile—and the surgeon asked what line? I pointed. Her eyes got big and she said, ‘That’s your incision, Renee. We opened up your body. We removed a lot of tissue.’ ”
There are lots of Valeries and Renees out there. One in eight women will be diagnosed with this dreaded disease in the United States alone. Worldwide, there are 1.3 million new breast cancer diagnoses a year. That’s more than a million women who will endure this disease. Of them, some 465,000 will die from it. But even those who survive it, like me, will carry the weight of the disease. The physical scars Renee spoke of are nothing compared to the emotional ones. People say we’re lucky that our cancer occurs in a body part that can be removed. True, but it also means that we see evidence of that cancer every day; if I had a kidney removed, I wouldn’t be confronted by the railroad tracks of a long, harrowing journey every time I undress.
Sure, it’s better to be scarred than dead. No question. But being alive doesn’t mean I have to be happy all the time. It doesn’t mean I won’t get in a funk and be frustrated, impatient, pissy, and mad sometimes.
But the funk will pass, hopefully sooner rather than later. Like in Carl Sandburg’s beautiful little poem, the funk, which can come in like a herd of elephants or on “little cat feet,” will overlook my city “on silent haunches,” and then move on outta here.
(thanks to google images for making it so easy to pretty up my blog today)
Tom Petty’s line “the waiting is the hardest part” comes to my mind. You have done remarkably well in handling the hard times of the past year and a half. The bigger the challenge (like the post-op infection) the stronger you have been. It’s the slow, methodical, spirit-sapping, soul-crushing, grind that often breaks people. In the midst of a crisis adrenaline and desperation will fuel one’s will and allow us to fight impossible odds and implacable foes. The cold, harsh light of the morning after and the realization of just how far one is from “home,” whatever that may be, can’t be defeated by gritted teeth and a burst of manic energy. I am not sure what works, but I think it looks something like the peace that comes with acceptance of the present seasoned with a dash of hope for the future. I will be available to walk alongside you if you want some company on this arduous trek.
Stomp, scream, yell, cry! You have a right to be pissy. What you’ve been through is cumulative on your psyche as well as your body. I’m right there with you girlfriend. Some days we’re just fed up, tired of being a fighter and putting on our brave face. At some point, we say “enough’s enough,” and then the next day, we’ve got our mojo back and we’re ready for another day.
We all have days when we’re in a funk. The difference is that most of us don’t have a very good excuse. With all you’ve been through, you’re entitled to be grumpy and blue and impatient and angry. And even though I’m not in shouting distance, you’ve got my number and you can call me up and bitch copiously. I still think you’re the strongest bad-ass I know. Hang in.
It’s okay to be in a funk. My God what with what you’ve been through this last year and a half you deserve a few funks. And lying in bed eating ice cream and watching Law and Order’, my tv preference for funks with curtains drawn and opting out of the world as much as one can is okay. You can’t always be up and sometimes you need to wallow in how lousy you’ve had it and have it.Be bitchy, cry, yell and scream , it will do you good. Sometime life sucks and your only lucky after the fact . Really lucky would be not having cancer and you can think it and say it. You know you won’t live your life in a funk so give into it for today. Love you, and you better be out of the funk by the time I visit or I’ll give you a taste of an old widow funk . Bettyanne
The funk too will pass. I also love that poem by Carl Sandburg. In fact, I illustrated it when I was a child, the image of the fog and cat’s feet inspired me to make a poster. You don’t have to be happy all the time; that’s what blogging is all about: being real and honest and bold. Keep it up, sistah!
“The mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.”
For awhile you get by on adrenaline and uncertainty; after awhile it’s just uncertainty and discomfort. However, things always change!
If today is that bad, why not give up on it and start over tomorrow?
And yet you still got P to his baseball lesson, M to her swimming practice, my car to the shop and still put a delicious dinner on the table. You’re a champ!
Oh my girl, just came here after seeing our funk symmetry. And all I can say is first there are sirens and we can’t think and we go into emergency mode of CANCER!!!!!, then there is the ick of ,oh shit I have cancer, and then, finally comes the, that god damned cancer.
You are running the longest race here, and have had a really rough road and I am sorry for how long this is taking, and i will not blow sunshine up your butt. It sucks, and you deserve to say it sucks and that you have cancer fatigue. You have been unable to start life back up.
Just remember that life is what happens when we are busy making plans, and getting breast surgeries and being pissed at cancer.
Bring on da noise, Bring on da FUNK! (I’m never too busy to listen to a sistah rant.)
hi! I’m not even sure how I came upon your blog, but WOW. this post has truly summed up how I’ve been feeling lately and you put it into perfect words. FUNK. Thank you for helping someone you don’t even know who is feeling the same way. I was diagnosed 1/27 of this year and will be having my 3rd surgery on 11/21– better be the final one. I am D-O-N-E. It’s emotional fatigue. HUGS to you!