It’s been almost a month since I’ve been here, and to tell you the truth, I thought about never coming back. Now that treatment is over, all that is left is me. And I’m a mess. I didn’t want to share my mess because it makes me feel vulnerable, and I’ve had quite enough vulnerable for the time being, thankyouverymuch.
I also didn’t want to examine what I’m feeling right now enough to blog about it because, you guys, it’s kind of like being 14 all over again — without all the hormones, of course. Estrogen is, obvs, my kryptonite. I can go from content to depressed to elated to super anxious in an afternoon. It’s tiring, and it’s even more tiring trying to figure out the feelings behind the feelings. So lately I haven’t even been trying, partly because I’m also tired of thinking about cancer. I’ve just been riding the wave.
To be fair, it’s not as extreme as I’m making it sound. Generally, I am happy, but I’m not as level as I once was. I really think it’s all par for the course in life-after-cancer, but I’m not sure everyone recognizes that there are still struggles to be had after you “beat” the Sumbitch.
I went to my husband’s 20 year class reunion (He’s pretty much geriatric, I know. 🙂 ) last weekend and met a lot of really cool people who had been following me via Josh. As nice as they were — like truly loving and supportive (Thank you, AHS class of 1995!) — they said a lot of really weird things to me.
“I’m so proud of you for beating cancer! You did great!”
“You kicked its ass! Way to go, girl!”
“I’m so excited for you!”
At the last one, I looked around to my brother and husband to see their faces.
But there was not a crack in either of their smiles, not an understanding eye roll to be found.
And therein lies the problem for me in blogging about life-after-cancer.
As much as I appreciate the sentiment — and I really do — you would NEVER tell, like, an assault victim that you are so excited for them.
You know, like, girl gets held up at gunpoint, threatened, beaten down, and robbed. She makes it out alive. Then you tell her that YOU’RE SO EXCITED FOR HER.
Way to go, girl! You kicked ass!
I’m so proud of you!
And then, a year later when she’s still suffering from anxiety and depression on account of the event, no one says, “Oh, I though she’d be happy now. I mean, it’s over. She beat it! What’s her deal?”
Because I’ve also heard a few forms of that last statement as well.
And I get it. I probably would have thought something similar before my own dance with the big C. You’re DONE (not realizing that a cancer patient is never “done”)! It’s all parades and confetti in the air now, right?!
Well, frankly, no. I feel like the girl who has recently been violently mugged.
In the days after diagnosis, I remember trying to explain what I was feeling to my husband.
“It feels like someone is holding a gun to my head!” I said with every nerve ending in my body on high alert because that’s the only way you say something for about a month after you’ve been diagnosed.
Cancer certainly threatened my life. It beat me down, with a scalpel and chemo-style. And it definitely robbed me. Of so much more than I’ve copped to here on this blog — money, sex, self esteem, the surety of a future.
But here’s how I can best explain the fear in life-after-cancer.
What if that crazy gunman left the girl to live but whispered in her ear, “Watch your back, dear. I might come back for you. It may be tomorrow, it may be in five years, or it may be never. You’ll just have to wait and see. Just know that whatever you do, you can’t hide from me. I will always know where you are.” Creepy, no?
And then, she has to WATCH NEWS STORIES OF THIS PSYCHOPATH KILLING OTHER PEOPLE! In movie after movie, this gunman shows up. People think she wants to hear stories of others who’ve met the Sumbitch. It’s all around her.
So she joins a support group. Those people understand, but now she has to WORRY ABOUT THEM TOO. The gunman told them the same thing, and statistically speaking, he follows through one out of three times.
You wouldn’t tell that girl that you are excited for her. You would realize that she’s still “fighting” a battle. That what she went through was straight-up traumatic. You would be scared right along with her because it’ll never be over for her. A shadow is never just a shadow anymore.
So that’s my truth. A headache will never just be a headache, and my worry is forevermore. Although, I’m sure as the years go by (and hopefully, the years do go by!) these feeling will dull. It’s a little intense, I know, and that’s why I haven’t been around. I didn’t really want to put words to what I’ve been feeling because then I’d have to think about it and stuff. Instead I’ve just been pushing it back and letting it pop up in weird ways in my life like in my spending habits or in me not taking care of myself. And after I did do the thinking, I was hesitant to SHARE it with the internet at large so people could throw their two cents in because that’s always super fun.
The thing is that you guys will never know what it’s like without someone telling you (unless you’re here too, which is a bummer) so that’s what I’ve decided to do: let you in on my mess. Pretty much so you know that being excited for someone who recently “beat” cancer is super sweet but also really weird.