The minute you are diagnosed with cancer, life stands still like a coin in mid-toss. Your mind runs like an engine about to blow, with a million gears turning in different directions and yet, all you hear is white noise. Voices around you blend into the background of the white noise, but sound muffled and annoying like the teacher from Charlie Brown.
All I could think was “how the f$&@ did I get here?” 39 years-old with cancer cells attacking me from the inside; running amuck throughout my body. Fast forward a couple of months and a few surgeries later, I was boobless and had an attacking agent from the outside – chemotherapy. Now THAT should really be the “C-word.”
It’s like a pesky mosquito that circles you for months and bites you incessantly. And yet, you can’t kill it because it’s too busy killing you. Or should I say, breaking you down?
I’m not a fan of bugs. I know I would probably be the first contestant on Survivor to write MY OWN NAME down on the parchment when Jeff Probst says, “OK, it’s time to vote.” Turns out, I wasn’t a fan of chemo either, even though it probably saved my life.
I always joke and say that I am just two stomach bugs away from my ideal weight. Having cancer was akin to four stomach bugs with a case of raging diarrhea that just left me empty. Oh and super thin. Not the “I look fabulous in a bikini thin,” but the thin that would make someone on the street want to hand me a rack of beef to knaw on.
The big universe F YOU came when my hair fell out. I lost EVERY hair on my body except – you guessed it – the hair on my legs! I remember saying to one of my friends, “Well the one bonus of this mess is that I won’t have to shave my legs for a few months.” Wrong, sister! In fact, I probably could have grown out the hair on my legs and transplanted it to my head because I was bald for MONTHS.
My kids and I laugh a lot and always refer to any sort of calamity as a “Shit Show,” and having cancer has certainly ranked amongst the highest. In fact, all the others are 11 and on. I’m going to give cancer the entire top 10. I recently purchased a sign for my home that says, “Welcome to Our Shit Show.” It’s very apropos for where I have been and I smile every time I see it.
But Shit Shows, just like clouds, have silver linings. For me, it was the love of my friends and family, especially my kids – who were very young at the time – that became my silver linings. They kept me going when I wanted to write my name on the parchment and tap out of the game.
Every single time I walk into my oncologist’s office for a checkup, I smell chemotherapy. I smell it in the elevator. It permeates from people’s skin and lingers in the air like the smell of alcohol the day after a binge night of drinking. I haven’t experienced one of those in a long time. As I get older, I think it would take me the same amount of days to recover from that as it would to recover from a chemotherapy session. Trust me, I’m familiar with both of those time lines.
Do I worry that my cancer will ever come back? I would be a liar if I said I never thought about it. Worry is just a useless emotion, like allowing an ex to live rent-free in your head too long. No sense worrying about it. A very wise woman, my Great Aunt Evelyn, used to say, “Life is for the living,” and LIVE I will. Minus the pesky mosquito, of course.