Real talk: I am a mess. I am overwhelmed. I am drained. I am struggling.
BUT I am also halfway done. If I count surgery, and you bet your ass I do, I am MORE than halfway done. While I am definitely happy to be here, chemo is getting harder so I have my reservations about throwing a halfway done party (mostly because I don’t want to get off the couch).
A few weeks ago, I went to my first young women’s breast cancer group meeting for women in their 20’s and 30’s. I threw on my pink wig, some cute shoes and hoped that I wouldn’t cry on this first date of sorts. (I didn’t.) I went looking for someone who understands, a friend in cancer, if you will. I have certainly met other women who have been through what I am going through (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed in their lifetime), but each time, I feel like they don’t really understand because they are older. I’m only 32. I have two very young children. Wah, wah, wah.
What I found at the meeting humbled me. The women there certainly did understand. It was funny how, at first and for most of the time, even we spoke of hair loss (instead of what’s REALLY bothering us). We also talked about chemo, surgery, our boobs. Then the talk switched to children. There were only six of us, and four of the women hadn’t had children prior to diagnosis. When those women discussed embryo freezer fees, the risks of pregnancy, the uncertainty, and life plans altered, my heart broke for them, and I felt grateful. So very grateful for my little girls.
Sometimes I feel sorry for myself because having cancer AND being a mommy is hard, but those women really reminded me of how much I have. It sucked to have to stop breastfeeding (which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, truly) on cancer’s terms, but at least, I had that experience. For three weeks after surgery, I couldn’t hold my baby, but at least, I have my babies. And on and on and on.
Let me be clear — I’m not saying that I’m rocking motherhood right now. Quite the opposite, my friends. Also real talk: this household is out of control. Seriously, you guys. I try to remind myself to cut me a little slack, but when I am laying on the couch (again) and my kids are swarming around me and Netflix is churning out one show after another, I feel guilty. Our old routines are out the window, for sure. They are being fed, yes. They are being stimulated, eh?
Poor Alice doesn’t seem to know any different. At her age, Penny was being read ten books every two hours, took two walks a day, was practicing her colors, numbers, animal noises, penmanship, multiplication tables, and going to day camp for cello lessons. Or it felt like it. I was definitely in her face. The point is that I was mad trying with that kid. At this point, I wouldn’t hire me to be their babysitter. If I saw me on the nanny cam cleverly hidden in the belly of a stuffed giraffe, I would fire me.
“You rarely got up from the couch. You let the baby play with a roll of toilet paper rather than read to her or sing ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’ for the 26th time. You let my three year old watch two and a half hours of tv, gave in to all of her fits just to quiet her, and when she begged you to play dolls with her, you told her that her daddy would when he got home.”
A roll of toilet paper is a good babysitter, yo.
But really, I am having all sorts of anxiety and mommy guilt. I am also having all sorts of stomach pain and exhaustion. It’s a losing battle. Except the one against cancer. That one I plan on winning.
I guess what I’m saying with is threefold.
1. If you are stumbling around this blog because you are going through something similar, I feel you. This is not all pink ribbons and sisterhood.
2. If you see me out with my kids and my almost four year old is acting a fool and not listening one bit (as is the norm lately), cut us some slack. I am too tired to be doing this the right way, and Penny’s world has also been turned upside down.
3. I couldn’t be more aware of how lucky I am to have this little family.
One of the girls from the group meeting recently finished her chemo and messaged me some encouraging words about reaching the halfway point. She said that she adopted this as her halfway there anthem. I love it. I am totally livin’ on a prayer (but it does make a difference if we make it or not). Plus, Bon Jovi’s hair makes me feel okay about being bald right now.