Does It Ever End?Posted: December 5, 2016 Filed under: breast cancer, cancer fatigue, kids | Tags: biology, breast cancer, breast cancer and young women, cancer, cancer battle, cancer diagnosis, cancer fatigue, cancer journey, cancer recurrence, cancer research, cancer sucks, family, PTSD, real world, schoolproject 7 Comments
Over the weekend, my favorite girl asked me to help her with a project for her biology class. She’s a freshman in high school now. This is what she looked like at age 8 when I was diagnosed with cancer. I took this photo the day before my bilateral mastectomy. This is my favorite girl today.
I know, right??? How does that happen???
Anyhoo, back to the story: my favorite girl is doing a project for her biology class on a disease or disorder that has a chromosomal component. She chose breast cancer.
She needed the basic info of my cancer: stage, treatment, etc., as well as ancillary materials (photos and such) that tell “the story” of her subject’s experience with said disease or disorder. I pulled out my bulging “cancer catch-all” — my binder that holds all my paperwork, like pathology reports. That was easy because it’s all facts: this scan was conducted on this date and found this. Then she asked for the not-so-easy part: details on how my cancer affected me. While there are indeed facts involved with that part too, something else is involved as well, which is what makes it, for me, the not-so-easy part.
Feelings. The dreaded feels.
I don’t like feeling the feels associated with my cancer experience. (I refuse to refer to it as my cancer “journey” because to me that word implies an end point. With cancer, there doesn’t seem to be an end point. I don’t like it, so I’m not gonna use that word.)
Six years out, I don’t think about my cancer experience nearly as much as I used to (hence the loooooooong periods of radio silence from this blog). As with most calamities, time does smooth out the rough edges. But with my favorite girl asking me for all the gory details, that dark period of my life surrounded me, again.
When, exactly, do we “get over” this? At what point does the calamity of cancer lose its potent punch? I’d like an ETA on the return of peace and tranquility. Can someone please tell me when to expect an easing from the powers of the cancer calamity? Because I need to know that at some point, cancer will no longer upend my day like a sucker punch and leave me reeling, wondering why I feel as I’ve been run over by a truck.
That will happen, right?
Even though my cancer experience is no longer the petulant toddler whining for a pack of Skittles in the grocery-store checkout area, apparently that cancer still packs quite a punch. The simple act of flipping through my medical binder to locate information for my girl’s project sent me on a one-way trip through bad memories and scary places. I see myself from a distance, as if I’m watching myself on a screen. In the blink of an eye, I’m no longer a survivor whose scars are a badge of courage. Instead, I’m instantly transported back to that time. Those days. That period.
I hate that cancer has the ability to do this. I hate that cancer still controls me. Like a bad habit or a selfish lover, my cancer has a hold on me. Other people’s cancers have that power over me, too. Like my sweet mama’s cancer. That rat bastard smiles and licks its lips, knowing it is the puppet master and I am the puppet.
I should know better than to expect to be “done” with cancer. After all, I’ve been thinking about it and blogging about it for years. As I wrote early in 2011:
Another things I’ve learned on my “cancer journey” is that someone keeps moving the finish line. I’ve only been at this for 10 months, yet have seen my finish line recede, sidewind, and fade into the distance. It starts even before diagnosis, with the testing that’s done to determine if we do indeed have a problem. Get through those tests, which in my case were a mammogram, an ultrasound or two, and a couple of biopsies. Then there’s the actual diagnosis, and getting through that becomes an emotional obstacle course. Following the diagnosis are lots of research, soul-searching, and decisions. But even when those are through, the real work is only just beginning. After the big decisions come still more testing (MRI, CT scan, PET scan, blood work, another biopsy), and that’s just to get to the point of having surgery. Get through surgery, then through recovery, and just when I think I may be getting “there” I realize that even after recovery, I gotta learn about re-living, which is kinda different when “normal” has flown the coop and there’s a new status quo involved. You might think that finding the new normal would be the end, but guess what? now there’s the maintenance and screening. If you’re the kind of person who makes a list and takes the necessary steps to reach the conclusion, you’re screwed, because there is no end. I can’t even see the goalposts anymore.
I should know damn good and well that there is no end. So why do I keep looking for it?
Love ya, Gal. Just like PTSD– the trigger hits and you are right back where you were once, terrified and not feeling like a brave warrior. Thanks for posting this, especially today when it was most needed. I am going to forward it to my SIL bc her husband is having to fight the c battle right now. And she asked me this morning “When does it get better?” All I can say is that there comes the acceptance part which helps but isn’t permanent or 100%. Some days it’s right back into fighting the storm.
It ebbs and flows for sure. I’m glad your SIL has you for support. As we well know, it takes a village. So good to hear from you, my friend.
First of all, let me say that your favorite girl has blossomed into a beautiful young woman. If she has the same pluck as her mama and her yaya, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Second, thank you for sharing this post. I’m glad there are long periods of silence in your blog because I take it as a sign that cancer is no longer front and center in your life. I understand that it’s still always there, lurking in the background, and I wish there were an end to it. My hope is that, as the years pass, the rat bastard will come knocking at your door less often.
P.S., I also know how much you hate all the holiday busyness, so I hope that’s not such a pain in the ass this year either.
She has blossomed, for sure. My girl is quite plucky, as a matter of fact. Early on, before she was even a toddler, her pluck was evident. And I still say Bah Humbug to the holidays!
Does it never ends, because its nothing is ever the same? I wonder if it is like a bereavement, where the the best that can be mustered is to come to a ‘new way of being’?
Well said– I think you hit the cancer nail on the head. Some things return to near normal, but many things cause a “new normal”….
I think that’s an excellent analogy, Uphilldowndale. Thanks for sharing.