In the last six months…

Never one to resist a challenge, I happily undertook Jelebelle’s blog prompt this week, which was inspired by Renn’s blog prompt last week. Jelebelle took Renn’s idea and ran with it, challenging us to “post a photo or self portrait or other form of visual art … of yourself that describes who you have been within the last six months.”

Hmmmm. Interesting.

I’m especially intrigued by the “who you have been within the last six months” part. Some days I feel a little Sybil-ish, with many different versions of me. There’s the warrior girl who pummeled breast cancer, the tough-lovin’-but soft-on-the-inside mama, the relentless chaser of the next level of strength in the gym, the hard-core-run-down-every-single-ball tennis chick, the at-home mom who respects the commitment to domesticity while being bored silly by it, the bookworm who can’t dive into the latest good read until the kitchen is spotless, the voracious detail-seeker who wants to know it all yet remembers precious little.

And that’s just what comes to mind at first blush.

I spent several days pondering this idea of who I have been in the last half-year. I’d think about it while at the gym, while watering my newly planted flowers, while making yet another sack lunch for my little darlings, while driving across our sleepy suburb mid-day with the top down and the wind whipping my hair into a frenzied mess. My inner warrior wanted the answer to Jelebelle’s question to be “I’m a badass slayer of cancer and bad grammar.” The softer side of me, which I usually try to tamp down at all costs, wanted the answer to be “I’m kind and patient and willing to see the good in everyone, no matter how moronic or mean-spirited they really are.” The chaser girl wanted the answer to be “I’m a beast in the gym who can’t get enough reps and I pity the fool who gets in my way.” The tennis chick wanted the answer to be “I’m a steady player who will wear you down in a war of attrition.” The at-home mom wanted the answer to be “I’ll have to answer that question after I fold 10 loads of laundry, put a delicious & nutritious meal on the table while a homemade cake fills the kitchen with the heavenly aroma of fresh-baked love, tend to the animals, dust the ceiling fan blades, and oversee the winning science fair project.” The bookworm wanted the answer to be, “Can’t talk, reading.” And the detail-seeker wanted the answer to be widely researched, fact-checked, and methodically presented.

Rather a tall order, right?

So in the end, after much soul-searching and reviewing of the events of the last six months, my answer to Jelebelle’s question of who I have been is this:

I’ve been a happy girl who is learning to love this post-cancer life. Becoming a happy girl post-cancer has been a long time coming. Like every diagnosis, mine was hard to hear and even harder to absorb. Being handed a deadly disease at age 40 is cruel, but being mangled and diminished by the disease is even worse. Once through the hard part (whichever part that is), the kernel of fear remains firmly implanted in one’s brain, and the realization that cancer may be gone but can never be forgotten is a heavy reality. It can be hard to be happy after all the damage that cancer inflicts. 

While mine may seem a simple answer to a complex question, the simplicity of being a happy girl is actually rather complicated. There’s the strange dichotomy between being pissed off at the universe for randomly choosing me to be the one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer, and being immensely grateful that my cancer wasn’t as awful as it could have been. There’s a continental divide between having breast cancer ruin my life and having it push me to become stronger… better…more grateful. I’m alternately wrecked by what cancer has done to my body and my psyche and determined to ensure it will not defeat me. 

My cancer “journey” has not exactly been a sensible trip from point A to point B; I rather took the scenic route. Dear Dr Dempsey, breast surgeon extraordinaire, inducted me into her “One-Percent Club,” which describes my “journey” so well: of all the women diagnosed with breast cancer in her practice, there is one percent for whom anything that can go wrong will go wrong. The select few in this club will encounter worst-case scenarios that will blow the roof off of the established medical protocol. We are the women she and her colleagues discuss in tones of “WTH???” and the women whose stories she tells to her other patients in order to reassure them that their situation really isn’t so bad. It’s a privilege and an honor to be part of the One-Percenter (yuk, yuk!). We’re committed to serving as a cautionary tale to others whose only fault in life was to be born a woman with a pair of breasts. We are a group that is small but mighty, and we are endlessly stubborn in the face of this wretched disease and its many-tentacled complications. We’ve learned the hard way that our bout with cancer may be done but it’s never over. And this One-Percenter has spent the last six months becoming happy. 



21 Comments on “In the last six months…”

  1. Reblogged this on ihavebreastcancerblog and commented:
    I *love* this post and am re-posting this morning

  2. David Benbow says:

    Hooray for you, happy girl! You’ve come such a long way. Every single day of strength, determination and wit has helped you make steady progress. Whether we look at the last 6 months, 2 years, or 20 years, you continue to move forward and create the life you deserve. Good work!

  3. This has been a great challenge – and I love your response. May the happiness continue to grow!


  4. Eddie says:

    “The softer side of me”?? What the hell is that? You have one of those? Really?
    I kid. You’re nicer than you think and softer than people give you credit for. Glad you are finding your happiness again. We all need to take that challenge, not just you cancer chicks. Everyone should be working to get better, otherwise we get worse. There is no standing still.

  5. mmr says:

    Love this post– thank you. Love your happiness, and I’m cheering you (and all of us, especially in that 1 per cent) on, but have also appreciated the truth you’ve previously written about the anger and sadness before you get to the happy place. You’ve been a STRONG girl in the last 6 months!

    • Marcie: expect more anger & sadness to come; I’m not Susie Sunshine all the time! Thanks for the compliment — being called STRONG by another cancerchick is high praise.

  6. Jan Baird says:

    Sybil-esque certainly fits the description of me in the last six months. Do people really know who we are, those of us scarred by life’s jarring “seasons”?

    I just love your pictures, Nancy. You definitely look happy, despite being in that One-Percent sorority. And I’m happy for YOU. You’re a big role model for so many of us. Keep writing! xx

  7. Trevor Hicks says:

    That’s the wrong 1% club. We need to figure out how to get in to the one the Occupy people are so pissed off about.

  8. I also took part in the photo challenge, but I have to say…..if it were a contest, you won it, hands down! WTG!
    Cancer Warrior

  9. jelebelle says:

    Don’t you feel like we are all one of those lucky one per centers, sheesh. I hear that over and over. Well good on your for wearing all hats despite all of this BC BS. Becoming happy is a great place to be. Your description and photos are more than beautiful! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  10. Mandi says:

    Yay for happy!

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