breast cancer, life

Years

A year ago, I had my port removed. It served its purpose.

A year ago, we started getting ready to move, again, because our dream house was a month from being completed.

My husband’s motto for us is the cliche “You only live once” because the two of us know the fragility of life. It changes in an instant. So, a year ago, we started doing the things we’d been putting off -selling our house, pursuing career options, planning family trips. We are a lot less focused on the intangible.

A little over two years ago, I made the decision to return to the classroom as a teacher. I’ve never looked back, never questioned the decision, and I’m happier for it. This year, A made the decision to find a new job closer to home, scrapping his hour to an hour and a half commute. He found a position which challenges and fulfills him as much as his other job did.

We keep making changes, some big, like career changes, and some little. We’ve lived in the shadow of cancer and reoccurrence for two years now. So far, it’s no easier. Reminders from On This Day catch me off guard. Answering innocent questions about my port scar on my neck make me cringe. Today, AJ asked me about it. He’s forgotten about my port and those surgeries. Those were little surgeries to him. I was home within hours of those.

Oncologists talk about survival rates in years, in appointments in years. As a HER2+ cancer recoverer, I don’t get to go to six months and once a years until I’ve been no evidence of disease for seven years, or that’s Dr. O’s standard. I graduated to twenty week check ups with her, was yanked back to twelve week check up because of Arimidex, and am now to sixteen weeks because of my anxiety at my last appointment. I might return to twenty week check ups, but not until next summer. If I make it to three years with no evidence of disease, I’ll still be on twenty week check ups. Same for four years. At five years, Dr. O said she would go to six month check ups. Same for six years and seven. If I make it through year seven with no evidence of disease, I graduate to one year check ups…for the rest of my life.

Cancer is a never ending marathon.

Maybe one day, my picture quote will ring completely true for me. It’s not right now.

I’m not strong and full of fire.

My passion does burn, though, but not brighter than my fears.

Maybe one year, it will, though.

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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).

 

breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

The Things I Need to get off my Chest

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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

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.

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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, family, kids, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Little and not so little things…

We put our house on the market 2 months ago. It sold in 48 hours. It was crazy. If all goes well, we will close on our current home next week. Our new home won’t be ready until November. It’s going to be an interesting two months.

Today is S’s birthday. She’s 11 today. During quiet moments today, I’ve wondered how many more of her birthdays I’ll live to see.

I took a few minutes of my conference period today to sit outside in a beautiful shaded area created by some of our students. A nice breeze blew, keeping it from feeling like an end-of-summer day in Texas. I stretched out on the bench and stared up at the branches of a large shade tree. I watched the branches move with the wind. I listened to the rustle of leaves, the chirps of birds, the bangs of construction, the chattering of students. It was peaceful. I’ve found one of the best things I can do for myself at work is to take my lunch outside if I can. I sit in the shade, eat, and enjoy the solitude. It gives me time to recharge, which I need.

I’m tired. It hasn’t even been two months since my surgery. 6-8 week recovery time. I was back at work after barely 3 weeks. Yes, it was my choice, and I don’t regret trying to live my life as though nothing is wrong with me (because maybe it’s not…I had cancer. I don’t know if I still have cancer.). What gets to me is I still get tired quicker than I want. I can sleep on my stomach, which helps, but I need more rest. Today, I’m running on fumes. I still have an area where the incision hasn’t healed. It’s smaller than it was, but it’s still there. It’s a small annoyance, but it’s an annoyance.

Next week is a really important week. I have a work event on Monday. We close on our current house on Wednesday.  Medically speaking, I see my plastic surgeon on Wednesday. I see Dr. O on Friday. I have what I hope and pray is my last Herceptin treatment on Friday. Then…I don’t know. I don’t know what’s next. How long do I freak out over every new ache or pain? How long do I worry I’m dying, the cancer is hiding and killing me? How long? Forever?

I overheard a couple in Target today. He told his wife he was getting up there in age and didn’t feel like he had a lot of time left. She laughed and told him he wasn’t that old and to stop.

I get how he feels. I’m not getting up there in age, but I do feel like I don’t have a lot of time left. How long do I let myself feel that way? After all, I’m the one who allows myself to feel this way. Stop doing this to yourself, people tell me. It’s not that easy. I wish it was. The thing is, until you’ve walked in these shoes, it’s hard to fathom it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Maybe with some rest will come some perspective. Maybe this year of treatments every three weeks is really going to end. Maybe I can say I had cancer and actually believe it.

A friend sent me a screenshot of a book she’s reading, and the line said something like “we have cancer…cancer doesn’t have us.” I feel like it has me, though. That’s something I have to work through, and something only I can do.

breast cancer, family, life, Uncategorized

Almost two and a half feet

IMG_8162That’s how long my abdominal incision is. 28 inches. We got bored today, so A measured it (by we, I mean me).

28 inches.

It spans from the mid-back part of my left hip bone across my abdomen to the mid-back part of my right hip bone. Seriously, think of a pair of jeans. Imagine the side seam on the leg. Now, come up to the hip and draw a line all the way across to the other side seam. That’s my incision. It’s long. It’s gnarly. It’s held together by layers of stitches and glue, a lot of surgical glue. There are bruises and areas that ooze the occasional drop of blood.

28. Inches.

I’m fairly amazed at how little pain I’m in from it. I do tire more easily, and the incision no longer hurts. Occassionally, it aches, but I think that’s more the skin stretching.

28 inches doesn’t seem like a tall hurdle to cross, but it is.

Cancer hasn’t given me a break since this time last August. This coming week is the last week I had any ignorance of what waited for me. My ride on the cancer coaster began August 18, 2015, even though all we knew on that day was my OBGYN wanted a baseline mammogram and ultrasound of my left breast. August 20, 2015 began to confirm my fears. An area of distortion, the radiologist said. We need more tests. August 25, 2015 those tests were done. August 27, 2015 and I heard, “You have breast cancer.”

I want to dream my ride on the coaster is coming to an even piece of track that extends slowly, with no sudden drops or hills. I want to dream cancer, in its current form, will be my past and not my future. I know I will never be cancer free because how can you be free from something that changes you so fundamentally? I want to dream I will see S and AJ grow into young adults. I want to dream I will still grow old.

Cancer stripped me of my sense of well being, my sense of immortality, my health, and at times, more times than I can count, my joy and my peace. I cried a little with A tonight. We were talking about the new house. I told him I was scared I’d only get to live there as a sick person instead of a healthy person, enjoying the new areas with her children. I don’t want my children’s only memories of me in the new house to be as a sick and dying person. A sat beside me and said, “If we let fears like that guide us, you and I, we’re both dead. I can’t live that way, and I won’t let you live that way. I know you feel your time is short. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let you grieve for time you don’t know if you’re really going to lose.”

He’s a hell of a guy.

I get melancholy as summers come to an end. I’m not ready to give up the long hours with S and AJ, even on the days they make me crazy because they’re stir crazy. I’m not ready to take back the responsibility of 150+ other kids who need my attention. I feel cheated this summer, and I feel as if I’ve cheated S and AJ because of the time we’ve lost together over the last week and a half because of this surgery.

28 inches. Almost two and a half feet. My blood. My skin. My hopes and dreams in those 28 inches for a rebuilt life. I’ll never be who I was this time last summer again. I’ll never be who I am right now again. I am at the whims of Fate.

I crave peace. I crave peace. I crave peace. Yet, I fear letting go of my fear. I can’t find peace until I let go of my fear. Maybe those 28 inches can be my pound of flesh. My penance. My plea to God to let me survive this disease. Hear me. See me. Don’t forsake me.

A insists if I keep living in fear, I’m as good as dead. I fear if I let go of the fear, God will smite me. The proverbial rock and hard place. I’m stuck in a purgatory of my own design…perhaps it can only be healed by time, yet time is what I fear. Time for the cancer to hide, to regroup, to regrow, to rear its incurable head. Then, though, time is also what I crave as much as peace. More time with S and AJ and A. More time to savor those three pieces of my soul, those three who make my soul whole. More time to make a difference, to imprint myself upon S and AJ, to live, to mother, to love.

I may die to cancer. I may survive cancer only to die to something else. It’s hard to imagine dying to anything else when cancer connotates death. Time offers a false promise. Time could allow the cancer to come back. Could. That’s the key word. Could. Time is what I want the most, though, so I take what I can get. I could be dead in six months. I could live another sixty years.

I’ve given my blood, my skin, my tears, my health, and my well-being to this disease. At some point, enough becomes enough, and maybe I’ve reached that point.

28 inches. Almost two and a half feet. Maybe that’s the length of my breaking point.

breast cancer, life, Uncategorized

I tried to be active, but I needed a nap

 

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Blessed drain pockets attached to my tank top.

First things first, while the Brobe is pretty much the best thing ever, it’s hot here in Texas, and I barely slept last night. It was Katy Perry’s Hot and Cold in our house last night for me. Sweat. Chills. Twitches. Kitty crazies as 2 am. I did not rest at all. So, even though I planned on being active today, the only activity that happened was me putting on yoga pants and a tshirt to walk outside to get the mail and walk around the inside of the house. I stuck my drains in the pockets of my yoga pants. Then, I fell asleep until one of my BFFs texted me at 3:30. The only part of me that experienced any activity after that were my fingers as we texted. At 7:30 pm, A decided I needed to get out of the house and drove me to see the progress on our new house. I managed to walk the first floor, but after that, we had to go.

It’s just too damned hot and humid. My body was like, “Yo, I don’t mean to cramp your style and all, but you’re recovering from cancer and a massive surgery, so maybe you could chill and go back home?”

We came home.

I went to change back into my Brobe and had visions of another night of sweating. The Brobe is wonderful. Amazing. I love it. I love my student’s mom who gave it to me. It has a lot of fabric, though. And, it’s hot. Then, I remembered: I bought myself Velcro detachable drain pockets back in January preparing for my mastectomy. They attach to the fabric band on my post-surgery bra. I’ve been strictly forbidden from wearing bras, but that’s fine. I don’t need the bra. The pockets attach using Velcro. I have tons of cotton tank tops from Old Navy. In a stroke of genius (it feels that way, okay? Having three drains coming out of your thighs is ridiculous to manage.), I put on one of the tanks, A helped attach the pockets, dubiously, I might add, and we dropped the drains in those pockets.

Hallelujah! Comfort! It all worked to my plan. Nothing is sticking to me! I’m not sweating. I’m actually really comfortable.

I’m telling you, it’s the little things. I’m 7 days post DIEP. I’ve been home for 2 and 1/2 days. What’s making me happy? Drain pockets.

My children are going stir crazy. I feel for them. I really do. I know they need some time at the park, in a pool, or somewhere indoor where they can run around and be kids. I can’t do it, though. They know it and understand it. They’re still going crazy, though. I have so little stamina. I have more than what I had right after the mastectomy, but man…by 8 pm, I’m done. I lose the will to stand up straight and succumb to the hunched over walk. Then, I berate myself because walking like that makes my neck hurt.

The one thing I’m actually doing very well is not feeling guilty for needing help or needing to sloth in bed. I need to recover so I can be the wife, mom, daughter/cousin/aunt/sister, friend, and teacher I want to be for however long I have left on this mortal coil. I can’t do that if I don’t allow myself to take it easy.

So, I’m taking it easy, which means I ended up napping for hours again today when I should have been sitting up in a chair in the living room, or walking around the house, or playing with my children, or writing lesson plans, or…or…or.

The ors will come faster if I’m kind to myself now, so guilt be damned. I’m going to be selfish for a few more days. I’m going to be kind to myself.

And, I’m going to continue celebrating these drain pockets.

breast cancer, family, kids, life, teaching, Uncategorized

Bits and pieces

I’m having a hard time lately putting my life into coherent, flowing thoughts. Right now, it’s more of a jumbled, stream-of-consciousness, think all the thoughts blur.

I spent all of last week at an intense training workshop for a new AP class I’m teaching next year. The training was great, but I’m overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done for the class. Normally, I wouldn’t freak out over planning a class since school doesn’t start for another month (at least for students), but my reconstruction is scheduled for this coming Wednesday. I’m about to be down and out for weeks. I’m going to try to go back to work on August 11. I’ll be 15 days from surgery by then. It’s ridiculous for me to think I can go back to work 15 days after a DIEP reconstruction, but, as I told A earlier this week, what choice do I really have? I don’t want to miss the beginning of the new year. So, I’m going to do everything I can do to rest and heal and take it easy and suck up feeling like a burden and reconcile myself to being someone who needs help for the entire time I have at home after surgery and before going back to work. No one is forcing me to do anything but me and my sense of dedication. That, and being at work forces me to concentrate on something besides cancer.

I hate feeling like a burden, and as surgery looms, I feel like a burden. I’m going to need help for me, help with the kids, help with my classroom, help with everything, and I know I’ll have help, but I feel like I’m imposing on my parents, my in-laws. Oh, and we’re moving four weeks after my surgery. I won’t be able to help with ANYTHING. I can’t help pack, I can’t pick up anything, I can’t reach over my head. My surgeon said I am absolutely forbidden to lift anything over 10 lbs for at least two to four months after surgery. He also said I’ll have T-Rex arms for a good few weeks. That sounds delightful. Not. Basically, I feel like I’m about to become useless. My nature is to do all the things for everyone else then care about myself. I can’t do that once I have surgery. I have to care about me.

The day my surgery is scheduled, A can’t be there with me before I go into surgery. He has a can’t miss conference, and truth be told, as much as I’d like him there while I’m waiting to go back into surgery, I’m glad he can’t be there. I’m glad he has something he has to do instead of sitting in a waiting room for hours and hours. It’s tortuous. He and I had a fantastic argument over him trying to get out of the conference. He feels he needs to be with me. I feel there’s no sense in him being there when they’ll keep him updated via cell phone the same way they would if he were there. So. I won.

Truth be told, the day of my surgery, I’d rather drive myself to the hospital, check myself in, and be there by myself for all the pre-op stuff. It’s like my last act of independence. And, if I’m by myself, I don’t have to act happy or unconcerned. I can just be alone with me for awhile. And, yes, I know exactly how selfish I sound. The thing is, I’m a contrary soul who needs a hug then craves solitude. The day of my surgery, I want the hug and the solitude. I want to drive to the hospital blasting my playlist entitled Music The Kids Can’t Hear and be alone with my thoughts. I know my family will flat out refuse to let me drive myself or sit there alone, which I understand, too. This years has been so unforgiving to my parents. So, yes, I know what I wish for is selfish, and I won’t be selfish.

It’s nearly 2 am. It’s not that I can’t sleep. I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the last several weeks, but insomnia isn’t the problem tonight. I just don’t want to sleep, which is going to make me a treat to deal with tomorrow (today?). I promised to take the kids swimming, and we have a family dinner at night. I really am going to be a joy.

The last two weeks have been emotional roller coasters. I’m coming to the anniversary of my gut telling me something wasn’t right. It’s hard to deal with the emotions. I’m still angry my body betrayed me. I’m still scared because my body betrayed me.

It’s been almost a year since I heard those four words – You have breast cancer. It’s gotten easier in some respects. It’s gotten harder in others. I’m not immortal anymore, not that I ever really was, but I’m young, so it felt that way. I’m not a hypochondriac anymore. I actually have things very wrong with me. I don’t need to imagine something’s wrong. I’m not afraid to speak my mind anymore. I’m more grateful for the time I have with my family. I actively search out moments and places of peace.

I want to believe I’m coming to a level piece of track on this cancer coaster. I want to believe we’re going to get a reprieve from the steep climbs and seemingly endless drops.

But, I don’t trust my track record.