I’ve been fairly quiet over the last week. It’s been busy, but last week, A and I took the kids and ran away for a weekend vacation at Great Wolf Lodge. We’ve been there before, but it’s been several years. AJ does not remember our last visit there. He was three. So, several weeks ago, I asked A if he thought we could use the Memorial Day weekend to get away for just a day or two. He agreed we needed the family time, and we made it work.
We didn’t tell S or AJ we were going. I packed for everyone on Friday before S and AJ were home from school, and when A got home from work, we told the kids we were going out to eat and then staying in a cabin the forest. AJ said we were lying. S was concerned we were staying somewhere scary. A and I enjoyed messing with them during dinner and on the drive to Great Wolf. When we stopped at the light to turn to Great Wolf, we told S and AJ to read the sign. They read it, they squealed, screamed, hit A’s shoulder several times, and generally celebrated until we got out of the car. Once we were inside, they were off. Their reactions were the best, and while I wish I’d gotten it on video, I don’t regret not videoing it. I watched their reactions. I laughed with them. I didn’t feel the pressure to be the parent who videos and photos everything while we were there. In fact, the only pictures I took were of S and AJ when we first arrived. The rest of the time, my phone was in the room, and I was swimming and playing with the kids. It was a wonderful mini-vacation. We came back relaxed.
Then, this week, the last week of the school year, hit the ground running. Awards ceremonies. Field trips. Final exams. Final grades. Graduation. It’s been a go, go, GO kind of week. And, to top it off, A’s come down with either a cold or a respiratory infection. It’s just been busy. A good busy. It’s kept my brain from being a scumbag…most of the time.
It reared its ugliness some this afternoon. During graduation rehearsal, as I sat there, I became broody. I wondered if I’ll live long enough to be there when S and AJ graduate high school. I wondered if I’ll live to see my 40th birthday. I beat myself up for falling back into some old, not so good habits. I drink Dr. Pepper again. Not as many as I did pre-cancer, but I drink them again. I brooded over the study floating around Facebook this week discussing how women can cut their chances of breast cancer by 30% if they maintain a healthy weight, don’t drink, don’t smoke, and don’t use hormone therapy. If fact, the study (it was in JAMA Oncology) said 29% of breast cancer in young women could possibly be prevented or delayed.
I love feeling as if it’s my fault I developed cancer.
No, I’m not at a healthy weight, and I haven’t been for 10 years. I need to lose another 20 lbs on top of the 30 lbs I’ve lost since last August.
Yes, I do drink occasionally. A glass of wine and a happy hour with friends here and there.
No, I don’t smoke. I never have. Smoking killed my grandfathers. I learned my lesson at an early age what smoking can do to you. But, I was around second hand smoke most of my childhood because of my grandfathers.
No, I’ve never used hormone therapy.
So, what’s a girl to do? Hindsight is 20/20. I should’ve lost weight after both pregnancies. I should’ve exercised more. I should exercise more. I should’ve changed my diet. I should’ve been more…something. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter. I am where I am. It is what it is. I have cancer. I can’t go back.
Then, I thought about all the other women in my family. There’s a weight problem in my family. My mom lost close to 100 lbs during her battle with colon cancer. My dad lost over 100 lbs in the last four years as he’s dealt with a bleeding ulcer. There are very few people in my family at a healthy weight (Sorry family members who read this, but you know it’s true.). Still, even with the weight issues, not a single one of them has breast cancer. As far as I know, the only item in that list no woman in my immediate family has done is that no one has done hormone therapies. So, as my scumbag brain asked as I sat in graduation rehearsal this afternoon, why me?
I’ve been told, by people who I’m sure thought they were well-meaning, that it could due to any number of reasons…and then proceed to list those reasons or ask me if I’ve heard ____ can cause breast cancer. I’ve given them my best interested face while in my head I screamed SHUT UP! YOU DO NOT KNOW OF WHAT YOU SPEAK! But, I stay quiet because, really, what’s the point? People believe what they believe, and there seem to be a lot of people who graduated from WebMD University or used Dr. Google and are eager to tell me what they know. And, when my brain is being scumbagtastic, like this afternoon, I hear their words and my own in an endless symphony.
I graduated from the high school I now teach at, and there’s a memorial inside the school for students who have died. We walked by it several times today during graduation rehearsal. Thanks to my scumbag brain, I wondered if my name will be on that memorial soon.
I kept all these thoughts to myself today. I stayed quiet. The teachers I sat with at graduation rehearsal are friends. Good friends. But, today’s scumbag brain session needed to be my own until I had time to process it, to feel bad about it, to be mad about it, and ultimately, to make peace with it, which is what I’m trying to do.
I accept I’m afraid. I accept I blame myself. I accept there are as many days that I don’t actively think about cancer as I have that I actively think about cancer.
I want to believe I will survive for many, many years to come. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in seven years, but it’ll be S’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe I’ll sit at a graduation rehearsal in nine years, but it’ll be AJ’s graduation rehearsal. I want to believe cancer will be a distant memory. I want to believe I’ll be a survivor like three of my friends who are 8, 10, 12 years out.
Yet, I also know if it’s my time, it’s my time. Nothing will or can change that.