Monday, January 14, 2013

10 Things That Remind Me - Oh yes I had cancer

10. My fingers and toes, especially the middle three, go white and completely numb at the slightest breeze in the air. This is an after affect of chemotherapy and there is nothing you can do about it which is frankly awesome. I guess I will be wearing mittens year round from now on.

9. Scars. I have mentioned them many many times on this blog. I still have them and they definitely ain´t going anywhere anytime soon.  I have a few - obviously the two bigs ones, the little one, the biopsy one, the radiation one...Every scar tells its own story and has its own unique shape and characteristics. They do remind me of the horror of it all but they also remind me of how brave I have been.

8. Doctors. I get a letter in the mail every other week telling me I have to go see this oncologist, that pain specialist or that other doctor. My calendar is sadly not full to the brim with exciting social engagements but rather health related ones. The last two years I have played a game with myself and the Norwegian medicare. You need to spend a certain amount of money annually before all your healthcare becomes free so I see how long it takes me to get my free card. Last year I qualified by mid February which was pretty fast but I may be onto a new record this year. I need some new hobbies!

7. A PET scan is no big deal. Before I had all of this happen to me, my experience with scans were limited to one head CT when I was a teenager and then an ultrasound to see my baby for the first time and if you would have asked me what a PET was I would have said "Oh yes I had a dog named Cassie when I was young. And you?" Well the scans i have had in the last 2 years are of an entirely different nature and there is nothing fun or exciting about them. MRIs, CT-PET combos and bone scans...all the colours of the rainbow. I have had them all. I realised what a pro I had become when I had my PET this morning and didn´t really sweat over it too much. I knew the drill, what would happen, how long it would take. There is definite comfort in knowledge.

6. Chemotherapy is not just something I experience on the Lifetime Network movie or on Greys Anatomy. It isn´t noticing a woman at the table next to me wearing a scarf over her bald head and thinking "Oh my god she had cancer." It is something I have lived through personally.  The sheer terror of that first time waiting for them to call your name when you know nothing of what lies ahead and can imagine only the worst. And then going through hell once only to realise you have another 5 months of this nightmare. And who can forget that moment...when the first strands begin to fall. You are never the same. How could you be?

5. Needles. Now I have never liked needles. Ever. However I have managed to get through probably like well over a 100 blood tests, over 30 IV vein insertions, giant needle biopsies and more. You could say that my relationship with needles has reached an intimate committed level. We still drive each other crazy but we also see the necessity of our union.

4. Friends with cancer. I never knew anyone close to me who had cancer. I didn´t know anyone intimately who had died of it. Maybe I was lucky as cancer just seems to be the annoying person who always shows up to the party when they were clearly not invited. Now I have friends who have been through what i have. Some who have won their battle, others who are still fighting. They are people I turn to who just get it. Who no matter how moany and annoying you sound to everyone else, they understand and listen. These cancer peeps are made of tough stuff and that is one very good thing that came out of this.

3. Time. I don´t look at time the way I used to or the way most people do my age. I used to think I had all the time in the world to do everything. No stress - I will figure it out. Well now I know otherwise. You cannot wait for the right moment - you have to close your eyes and take biggest flippin´jump of your life. I feel that every 3 months I get by without something new going wrong is a victory. I am ecstatic to have turned 33 last week. Every birthday is a gift and I cherish the idea of growing old. Not everyone has that opportunity so screw the wrinkles and enjoy it.

2. Fear. Even though I am moving on from the whole C experience, the fear never completely leaves me. It is always a blurrry figure in the outer edges of the background or something that catches my eye for the quickest of moments...the big R. Also known as recurrence. Every cancer survivor lives in fear of its wrath and hope and pray we are not the chosen one. When you have been through all of this once, the thought of doing it again is just too heavy a cross to bear. I carry this fear with me every day but with every day, I also get more used to the uncertainty that is now a part of my life, and that every day lived is a small victory for myself. I could never have imagined myself being so at ease with my own mortality before this. Or maybe I am just so confident that I will win?

1. The single biggest thing that reminds that I had cancer is the fact that I can tell people, "I am a cancer survivor." When I was first diagnosed I hated that term. In recognising that there were survivors, it also painfully exposed that there were also those who didn´t make it. Survivors always seem to be smaller in number when crashes or disasters happen. The news headline "There were only 50 survivors." It doesnt sound good and there just seems to be a negative connotation surrounding it. I know it can be a good thing too and I can appreciate it more now as I in fact know many survivors - my mother and myself being the best examples I can think of. So I will yell it out with pride and vigour - " I am a of many."

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