breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Questioning with no Answers

Today is Thanksgiving, and it hasn’t felt like Thanksgiving to me. My mother-in-law’s food was delicious, the company good, the Cowboys game great, the A&M game (so far), not so much. The day has been full of the normal trappings of Thanksgiving. Everyone (mostly) is happy and thankful, and I am thankful, but I’m not happy. I have zero reason to be unhappy, yet here I am.

I feel bitter, warped. Maybe I am. My skin feels too tight, my jaw hurts from clenching it, and a headache brews up from my sinuses. I’m uncomfortable for no reason.

Why am I unhappy? What’s it going to take for me to let go and stop hating myself for perceived failures that are merely the whims of Fate?

We moved into our new home almost two weeks ago. It’s beautiful and spacious and pretty. A let me have pretty much, within reason, whatever I wanted (except a new couch..lol) to furnish what we needed to furnish. I got a desk and pretty chair for our room. We bought a new table set for the breakfast room. I found new stools for the island counter that are the right height (because our old ones are too tall, and I have no faith in S’s ability to stay on them without falling).

I told A all I wanted for the holidays is for things to be stress-free and happy. He’s upholding his end of the bargain.

But, I’m not. I’m stressed and unhappy.

A family member once told me I’m just like my dad’s mom, discontent and bitter. I don’t want to be her. Not like that. Yet, here I am, on Thanksgiving, bitter and unhappy…about what? Hell if I know.

On this day, where I truly am thankful I’m still here (on this day last year, I was receiving my 4th TCHP chemo treatment, or so Facebook On the Day reminded me), where I have amazing children, an incredible husband, supportive (mostly) family members, where I have food, a roof over my head, clean water, where I know how precious and tenuous life is, I am thankful. I am because my family is. I am because my coworkers and bosses are. I am because my friends are. I am because others are. For that, I am thankful.

But, as I sit here, in my bedroom, listening to S and AJ and A playing an intense game of Uno, I find myself face to face with myself, and I don’t like the reflection. I don’t like being bitter, being uncomfortable in my own skin, being like my grandmother, who I loved dearly but found her bitterness and discontent so confusing.

So, where are the answers? Where is the key for this lock? It’s not as simple as letting go and moving on. I’m not even six months out from a cautious all-clear. I’m a little over ten weeks. Does this get easier with time (and journaling)? Will I shed this skin like a snake who’s grown too much for its current physical entrapment? Or, am I on a path where I grow older, meaner, more discontent, more bitter with the passing of each day, week, month?

A friend I dearly, deeply love as though she were my sister (God knows she’s been more of a sister to me than my own over the years of our friendship) tells me, often, I am too hard on myself, I expect too much far too soon, and in my zeal to prove somewhere in me, pre-cancer L exists, all I’m doing is refusing to really, truly recognize how I’ve changed, for the better, and to accept who I am now…to stop trying to stuff myself into a square hole when I’m clearly not that shape anymore.

She’s right, oh so right, but…(there has to be a but), how do I flip this switch? How do I stop falling through the world as though I’ve entered into a portal I should’ve stayed away from (I play World of Warcraft and have found my toon falling through Azeroth many times, usually because I did something dumb). I know I’m being stupid. I know this is all me. I wasn’t an inherently happy person before cancer. Now, I fake it when needs be because I feel people are just fed up with me. Is that the answer? To just let myself be me, even though I’m not happy with myself right now? It’s easy to say, as I did in my last post, I’m just going to stop hating myself for things (cancer) I didn’t do to myself. It’s far more difficult in practice.

The answers are nebulous, no clearer to me than the last time I ranted about being unhappy. Logic then says, the answers come only with time, with shedding and slowing down.

I’m not a fan of logic, as a rule. I tend to be ruled by my emotions, by how I feel about something. I’ve often been told my gut instincts are good, my ability to truly zero in on what someone really means or how someone really feels, is good. I’m told these abilities make me a good teacher, that and my pretty much unshakable belief in any kid’s potential and desire to prove people wrong. The irony is, what I’m so good at when it comes to others is something I am so bad at when it comes to myself. I can’t zero in on the unhappiness, the bitterness, except to say, “Well, I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at 37.”

That reason isn’t enough anymore. Cancer happens, to far too many people of every age and background. It seems to me, most go about and become happier, more grateful people. Were they ever once like me?

I don’t know. I don’t know the answers. But, I do know, I’ll just go on, like I’ve done for a year and a few months, trudging along because I just refuse to become more like my grandmother. Maybe I’ll find the answers, suddenly and with stunning clarity, or maybe I’ll find them slowly and on the journey.

Or, maybe I won’t, and if I don’t, I must repeat to myself what I said in my last post: it’s not okay to hate myself because others, myself included, don’t like what I have to say or what I do or because of what’s happened to me.

The answers may come, what an important word, “may.” It is full of possibilities. It is full of hope. For, it must be; otherwise, “may,” becomes tenuous, full of uncertainties. It is the opposite of stability and routine.

I’m not an optimist…never have been, but I don’t want to be the bitter, discontent pessimist everyone avoids (rightful so, too). Perhaps my friend, who is annoyingly and oftentimes, right is, well, right. I expect too much too soon. Slow down. Learn who you are now.

Then, the answers may come (or not).

 

Advertisements
breast cancer, family, kids, Uncategorized

Being Me

Last school year, after I told my students I had breast cancer, one girl stayed after class and told me her mom had finished treatment for breast cancer two years prior. Then, she cried. I didn’t know what to say to her, so I did what I could do, gave her a hug, and listened as she talked about her mom.

Her mom is pretty awesome, and she’s become a friend of mine. She walked into my classroom last February, right before my bilateral mastectomy, with a huge basket of stuff and told me in the basket was everything she wished someone had given her before her mastectomy.

Like I said, her mom is pretty awesome. And, she’s a great friend.

Yesterday, we were texting about doctors and appointments. I had an appointment for a Lupron shot yesterday, and I had to see Dr. D, my radiation oncologist today. The appointment for my Lupron shot upset me a little bit. The nurse who did the shot talked incessantly about what might cause hot flashes, asked if I have hot flashes, what am I doing before they hit, how am I handling them, and when I brought up that I have more trouble with sleeping than hot flashes, she furrowed her brow…and, immediately went back to talking about hot flashes. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

After the shot, she brought up my appointment calendar to see when my next shot needed to be and realized my 20 week appointment with Dr. O would put me three weeks out of when my next Lupron shot should be, so if I waited until I see Dr. O again, I would be in danger of regaining ovarian function.

Nope…reschedule my appointment. Now.

And, Dr. O’s new scheduler did. She was great.

But the nurse unnerved me, talking about the possibility of my regaining ovarian function. I’ve put off having a hysterectomy because Dr. B, my amazing OBGYN, retired in October, and I couldn’t have a hysterectomy until my incision from my reconstruction healed. All of my doctors assured and reassured me it was fine for the hysterectomy to be the (hopefully) last surgery I have to have. I don’t have Dr. B anymore, though, so I asked Dr. O for a referral, and she and Dr. H referred me to the same OBGYN. I texted my student’s mom yesterday, though, to find out who had done her second surgery. She had a hysterectomy, but she developed ovarian remnant syndrome. She loved the doctor who did her second surgery to remove the remnants. So, I texted her to get another name…then, we ended up text talking for nearly an hour about how much we both hate cancer and hate everything that has to do with it.

It’s completely affected who I am as a wife, mother, daughter, teacher, person. And, I feel like no one but others who’ve dealt with cancer really understand how profoundly it affects every part of your life. It’s not something you “get over,” or if it is, I’m not there yet. I think about it every. single. day.

Yesterday evening, A and I went out on a date night while my mom stayed with S and AJ. We went out to eat and then walked around a local mall. As we passed through the junior girls’ clothing section of a store, I made a comment to A that he needed to pay attention to S’s clothing choices when she’s a teenager. He stopped me and said, “Why? Because you think you won’t be around when she’s a teenager?”

Ding, ding, ding.

Lately, I feel like everything I do is the opposite of what I’m supposed to do to keep the cancer from coming back, or what Dr. Google says I should do. Dr. O says I should stress less, lose some weight, and exercise everyday. Dr. Google says I should do all of that and eat stuff I hate and relax more and be more gracious and be more in tune with my body and to take pick-a-supplement and…and…and.

I keep coming back to one thing: I hate myself for everything I am not. So, I can either do something about it or learn to love myself for who I am.

Or, I can do a little bit of both.

The kids and I walked 2 miles yesterday afternoon and ended up down at the lake.

I made the deliberate choice to drink water today instead of taking the easy route of popping open a Dr. Pepper.

I don’t want to hate myself anymore. I don’t want S and AJ to remember me as a person who hated herself, who never felt she was good enough, who felt like cancer was her fault because of X, Y, and Z.

A friend on Facebook told me I’m becoming more outspoken, more of the person she sees inside me that I keep inside because I’m a people pleaser who doesn’t like to make people mad.

I hate being afraid to speak my mind because I might make someone mad or someone might be disappointed I do share the same viewpoint. So, that ship has somewhat sailed. I may still try to be a people pleaser, but I’m having a hard time caring too much about making people mad with decisions I make that they don’t like. I do care about making people mad because I’ve screwed up.

Ultimately, I don’t want to hate who I am because of cancer. This is who I am now. I can either accept it and figure out who I am, or I can keep fighting to be who I was.

I just don’t want to be told, ever again, by anyone, to just get over it. This isn’t something you get over. This is something that changes you. It’s changed me. I can’t get over it.

 

breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

The Things I Need to get off my Chest

letting-go-quotes-pinterest-2
Found on Good Morning Quotes. No infringement intended.

These are the things I need to say so they stop swirling around in my head.

Maybe one day I’ll find the courage to let go, truly let go, of what I cannot change. I don’t think this week is that day, though.

Earlier this week, I heard someone say that people with cancer shouldn’t expect to do anything but die from it. It’s a terminal, fatal disease. They should accept their fate.

My mouth dropped. I couldn’t help but exclaiming, “Hey!” because I’m a person with cancer, and I hope, everyday, mine is not terminal. I hope everyday I live long enough to see S and AJ grow up. I hope everyday this becomes a memory instead of a companion.

I see stories everyday of women with breast cancer who had early stage and went Stage 4. I see stories everyday about someone being diagnosed with cancer, someone fighting cancer, someone dying from cancer.

I can’t accept this is my end. If I have to, I guess I will, but right now, I can’t accept that this is how I go…which leads to the next thing I need to get out of my head.

I can’t stop the cancer from returning. If it comes back, it comes back. Yes, there are lifestyle changes I can, and am or have, made. I never smoked. I watched my grandfather die of lung cancer from smoking. I was eight. I swore I would never smoke. So, I don’t. I did drink some, but I don’t anymore. That’s something simple for me to give up, so I gave it up. It’s not like I drank a lot or often. I didn’t. Now, I just don’t. It’s not worth the risk. I eat a little better. I need to work, a lot, on this area, but I do eat better. I still need to lose another thirty pounds on top of the thirty I lost last year. The weight isn’t coming off as easily as it did, but that’s because I don’t exercise the way I should. That’s another change I need to make. I need to exercise. Now that we’re in our new house, I have no excuse. We live on the lake. I love being around water. There’s no excuse for me not to make the trek from our house to the lake and back…except snakes, but even that might not be a bad thing. Sighting a snake would definitely make me start running. I don’t drink nearly the amount of soda I once drank. I drank upwards of 5 Coca Colas a day. Now, on a bad day, I might drink two Dr. Peppers. And, God, how I beat myself up when I slip and drink a soda.

My headgame is both better and worse. The election did a number on my headgame. Whether you agree with me or not, whether you like me saying this or not, I still cannot help but feel my family and friends who voted for the president-elect cast a vote against my life. My struggles over the last year and a half didn’t mean enough to them to think about what a vote for him could do to me. Or, worse, they did think about it and did it anyway. Thanksgiving has the potential to be very uneasy for me. My father in law voted for the president-elect. If politics comes up, I won’t be quiet. I can’t be. I matter. My feelings matter.

I can’t control the cancer, whether it stays gone, whether it comes back, whether it’s already back and I just don’t know it. I can’t control people who say ridiculous things about cancer. And, knowing that, my headgame is better. Saying this, getting this off my chest, like I had my cancerous breast and its guilty-by-association partner breast, helps some.

Writing has always been my outlet, even when it’s not easy, even why it hurts me or someone else. Writing is my outlet. Writing is what I do. Writing heals me. If time can’t heal me, maybe writing can. Maybe writing will.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Stuck in the mud

I feel stuck.

There are appointments with doctors looming next week during my vacation. An appointment in Dallas for my hormone blocking shot. A 6 month check up with my radiation oncologist.

I had to call Dr. H this week. Two really strange looking places appeared on my left shoulder and triceps. Her amazing assistant had me take pictures and email them. Dr. H called back shortly afterwards and told me the spots look like bug bites and if they’re still hanging out in a week or two, I should call back, but she reassured me that she’s never, ever seen a reoccurrence appear on the skin like these. I asked her several times if it was possible these spots were skin mets. She was adamant they are not. They don’t fit the characteristics. They fit the characteristics of a bug bite or allergic reaction on the skin. And, they came up so fast. Literally, I went to bed one night with an itchy red spot. I woke up the next morning with a blister looking place. Throughout the day, the blistered place itched and a red ring appeared outside it, like an infection. That’s why Dr. H thinks the places are some sort of bite. At this point, I refuse to worry about them anymore. They look like they’re healing and going away. They don’t itch anymore. And, the red ring around them has disappeared.

This is the life of a cancer patient. Appointments with doctors. Phone calls with doctors. Fear of mets. Sleepless nights. Aching joints.

My ankle joints and my heels hurt so much last night, I actually had to give in and take an anti-inflammatory pain killer. I haven’t had to take a pain killer in months, but I could barely walk last night. My left ankle and heel hurt all day yesterday at work, and by the time I got home, both the left and right hurt. By the time I headed to bed, I could barely walk.

There have been some really hurtful things said to me over the last two weeks. My former students and some of my current students have come to my defense more than once. On the days when I wonder if my life has made a difference, at all, in this world, one of my former students usually proves to me, in some way, it has mattered. I’ve made a difference in their lives.

That’s enough. I know, whatever happens to me, I’ve left a mark on this world that can’t be easily erased.

I’m ready for a break, even if it’s one filled with doctors. I need some time to recharge and refocus. I also need time to unpack. We moved into our new house last weekend. We’re not quite living out of boxes, but we’re definitely living with boxes.

I need to move on from feeling stuck. I don’t feel like I have the words to really describe how I feel.

I’m just stuck.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

It’s not about you

“I can’t believe how selfish you’re being.”

“You hurt my feelings by saying I don’t care about you.”

“Why are you making this so personal?”

“Just agree to disagree. God. It’s not that hard.”

“You’re being so melodramatic.”

“I can’t believe you’re unfollowing and unfriending people.”

“You don’t need to worry. Nothing bad is really going to happen. I mean, even if all your fears come true, it’s not like you’ll actually lose your health insurance.”

“You don’t have cancer. You had cancer.”

“You have no idea how hard you’re making this on me, and you’re being this way on purpose.”

“You don’t care how you’re making me feel.”

These are snippets of things said to me yesterday either to my face, on social media, or through messages.

My feelings are mine. I own them. It’s not about you. It’s about me. If that makes me selfish in your eyes, and while I may have a different definition of selfishness, I guess I’m selfish.

You got what you wanted. Good luck with him and his policies.

Do not expect me to agree, to support, to soothe, or to say “It’s ok.”

Do not expect me to fade into the background. I’ve learned to speak up for myself no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.

As the quote says: “[I’ve] been through hell. So, believe me when I say, fear [me] when [I] look into a fire and smile.”

Don’t tell me you love me or care about me and turn around and marginalize my fears and my experiences.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, Uncategorized

Voiceless

My voice didn’t matter last night.

I’m a woman. I have breast cancer.

I’ve been told I’m a sore loser. I’ve been told the despair I feel is unjustified. I’ve been told to have faith in our system of checks and balances. I’ve been told the way I feel doesn’t matter because Jesus is on the throne. I’ve been told to just have faith.

Earlier in the week, I posted on Facebook that I felt some of my friends and family were voting against my life. Today, I went onto Facebook and found some of my friends and family gloating about what happened last night. Not celebrating. Gloating.

I unfollowed them. I unfollowed former students, former colleagues, family members, lifelong friends. I didn’t unfriend. Not yet. I didn’t block. Not yet.

But, I’m close.

I’ve been told to accept what happened. I’ve been told the threats of the campaign won’t come to fruition.

I’m 38 with breast cancer. My faith in the good of people and the good of Fate is pretty much null and void.

I struck a nerve with people on my Facebook with my post earlier this week. I said, in the post, that you don’t get to say you love me or care about me by casting a vote that could take away my protections built into the ACA. I got messages telling me how stunned and angry they were with me. So, I posted an apology and hid the post from my Timeline.

I wish I hadn’t.

I’ve been told I’m becoming mean and bitter. “I don’t like this side of you.”

Well…

I’m hurt. I’m heartbroken. I’m disheartened. I’m betrayed. I’m angry. I’m scared. I’m a woman. I stand to lose a lot if this president, cabinet, and Congress do what they promised during the election. And, I’ve always struggled with forgive and forget. With this, I don’t think I can forgive and forget. Move on. So, that does make me mean and bitter. I know that.

I also know, when you’ve been told, over and over, by people who “care” about you, that “you’re not a nice person” or “you’re just like so-and-so” there’s probably some truth to it. Maybe this side of me, the side that cancer and the campaign, brought out, it is not who I am at my core, but it is a part of me. I can accept it. Can you?

At my core, I am a scared, vulnerable, heart-on-my-sleeve, people pleaser. That part of me gets overlooked by the aloof mask I wear…a mask I wear to protect the core of me. Can you recognize that part of me, too? Probably not. Most overlook it.

Overlook me.

I hoped for a future where my health insurance would not be at risk, where my daughter didn’t have to be as concerned about her place in the world simply because she was born a female, where my son didn’t need to be told the things said by the man my country elected are wrong, where my friends who gained freedoms over the last several years would not fear losing those freedoms, where the fight for equal rights was no longer a fight but a given.

I’m hurt. I’m heartbroken. I’m disheartened. I’m betrayed. I’m angry. I’m scared. I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive those who say they love and care about me when they’ve given me this person to make decisions that affect my health, my career, my life.

I have to live with your choice.

I just hope I get the chance to live with your choice.

 

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

There’s nothing wrong with me…

…that a little (lot) of sleep, some understanding, and luck can’t help fix.

I’m not depressed. I’m not anxious. What I am is tired…and angry.

I’m tired of people wanting me to be how I was before cancer. I can’t be her. I’m sorry. Sometimes, I wish I could be her, but I’m not. I can’t be her again. Cancer happened.

I’m tired of being dismissed, looked over, or just ignored because dealing with me can be exhausting. Don’t you think I know how hard it is for you to watch me struggle to figure out life post-treatment? I know. This isn’t easy on any of us. To be selfish, though, why do I have to be the one to reach out? You know this hasn’t been an easy time. If you don’t want to be my friend because post cancer me isn’t fun or because I’m too moody, just tell me.

img_1399
From someecards…no infringement intended

I’m tired of being tired. I am constantly fatigued. I can’t get enough rest. I come home from work and go straight to bed almost everyday. I just lie there. I try to sleep, but when you’re on two medications that have insomnia as a side effect, and a scumbag brain, restful sleep doesn’t happen as much as it should. It’s not like I’m purposefully forcing myself to stay awake. I can’t sleep.

I’m tired of being in pain. Every single day, I deal with aching joints, aching feet, and aching heels. All started after my first chemo treatment. If I sit for too long, standing up, putting pressure on my heels, is awful. I dread it. So, I sit. A lot. Standing too much or too long hurts, too. Again, it’s the pressure on my heels and ankle joints. I know it could be worse, but it’s still pretty bad. My feet, heels, and ankles almost constantly ache.

I’m tired of being bitchy. Don’t think I don’t know what a whiny bitch I sound like tonight. I know. Fatigue, aches, and fear of missing out on top of moving (again) and the end of a grading cycle (work) flipped my bitch switch. I guess I’ll unflip it at some point, but even when I do unflip it, things aren’t going to be fixed. Not until I can rest…deeply rest. Not until I work through the feelings that I’m doing post-cancer wrong and am going to end up with cancer again and it’ll be all my fault. Not until I figure out how to help my feet, heels, and ankles. Not until the craziness of moving, again, is over.

And even when all that happens, something new will come along and make me tired again. That’s life, I guess.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

Planted

planted
Found via Pinterest. No infringement intended

The last two weeks have been a struggle. I know some who have dealt with breast cancer love October and seeing pink everywhere. I’m not one of them. Pink ribbons make me cringe. Advertisements in windows claiming to give X amount of money to Y charity based off the proceeds of Z product make me cringe. It sounds stupid to say, to type, but pink is hard. Pink is the reminder of everything.

For most of my life, I’ve dreaded the thought of having cancer, and I’ve believed for a long time, cancer would one day be my companion. I just didn’t expect it to be breast cancer, and I didn’t expect it to be in my thirties. I thought I’d be older. But, here I am. I’m 38. I had breast cancer. I spend each day, at some point in the day, being angry about all of it and hoping the cancer isn’t still lurking somewhere.

MD Anderson posted a link on Twitter to a story of a HER2+ Stage 3 breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 1998. She’s been no evidence of disease since her chemo, radiation, and surgery. Seeing stories like that spark some hope in me. It seems there are so few good stories. My soul needs to see there are women out there who have faced this beast and are living life beyond it.

I can’t seem to live my life. I can’t seem to get it back…not all the way. I have moments, like yesterday, where I feel more like me. I went to work in my Halloween costume. I took my kids trick or treating. It was a normal night. I felt like me. But, those moments are few and far between.

I’m existing. I’m not living. I hate knowing that I’m just existing, but if admitting a problem is the first step in solving it…there, I admit it. I know I’m just existing. I go through the motions. I’m not living. I don’t know how to truly live anymore. For a year, I existed from treatment to treatment. Every three weeks, that Friday (or Tuesday if Dr. O needed to move my treatment), I knew I had to be in Dallas. I knew I had to receive medication to potentially save my life.

That year is over. My treatment is over. As far as I know, I’m no evidence of disease. Dr. O saved my life, or at least prolonged it since HER2+ cancer is so aggressive. It would have killed me in no short order had I not finally listened to the voice in my head screaming at me to see Dr. B.

So, why can’t I live? Why do I insist on existing? Why have I planted myself in this place and refuse to let in the light? What is it going to take to push me into living?

I don’t have the answers. I just know there’s a problem. I know I’m the problem.

I just don’t know where I go from here.