Sometimes I will look at women with their long beautiful hair and I think to myself, you have no idea. As you sit there and flip your hair or throw it in to a ponytail....you have no idea how quickly that luxury can be stripped away from you. I don't wish this upon anyone, please don't take it that way. In all honesty, I just wish people were more grateful for the little luxuries they have. The little luxuries that cancer seems to take away from its chosen. And to all of those who complain daily about the little stresses of every day life...I could only wish that my life would go back to those simple days. Don't get me wrong, I was a complainer too, but I find myself getting angry with those sort of people now. You just have no idea. On the other hand, I wouldn't expect you to have any idea and hope that you never will.
I would give anything to go back to the way my life was in October of 2013. Sure, I had my share of stress going on but stress took on an entirely new meaning once I was diagnosed with cancer. Instead of worrying about how the laundry was going to get done, or why my kid wouldn't eat the spaghetti I just made, I now drown myself in the stress of my mortality. The fact of the matter is, I did face death. Thankfully, it did not take me, but I stared it directly in the face. And in a sense, my old self did die. As much as I try to go back to "Jen before cancer", its just not possible. According to my therapist, I am going through a grieving process now. I am grieving the loss of ME. I am resentful, I am angry, and I am sad. I miss her and I find myself doing everything I can to find her again...though it seems impossible. So at what point do I accept that she is gone and move on with this new person I have become? Will those closest to me still love me the same? Do they mourn the loss of who I once was? Why do I continue to let this stupid cancer crap consume me every single day of my life!?
Nothing comes simple anymore but I have learned to find patience with that. I know physically that everything will return to a place of somewhat normal again. My hair will grow back, my bones will stop aching all of the time, and running 1 mile won't feel like my 10th mile. I can deal with all of that. I can find patience in that. I have a hard time finding patience within how I handle all of this mentally. To me, that part of it seems permanent. Though my depression has somewhat subsided and I am able to rationalize my thoughts a little better, I still struggle on a daily basis. I am scared. When I promised myself I would no longer live in fear...I still sit here scared. But my fears aren't that I am going to die in a plane crash or that someone is going to break in my house and shoot me. My fears are that my cancer is going to return and instead of me dying some quick death....I am going to die a slow agonizing death from cancer. I lived this. Cancer was a part of me. It seems like a really bad nightmare or a really sad movie that I swear I have seen a million times it wasn't. It actually happened to me. It. actually. happened.
Something that I really struggle with is this. They say stress causes inflammation in the body which contributes to cancer. So here I am constantly fighting myself to not be stressed so that I don't get cancer again, but come on. Its impossible. Then I am left feeling guilty for feeling stressed when I am trying to do everything else to remain healthy. How do you do it all? Is it even possible to have a cancer diagnosis and live to see 95? Not to mention that the stress and fears I deal with everyday only enhance all of those little stresses I wish were the only things I had to deal with. Not sure if that even makes sense...
I would love a time machine. Take me back to when I "thought" life was tough. Take me back to when I didn't worry about death every minute of every hour. You can have my hair, take it. That was the easiest part of this entire journey. But just take me back to when every day wasn't consumed with scary thoughts. I am not angry at those people who bitch and wine about their daily struggles with kids or family, or how they had a bad hair cut and so on. I still do find myself bitching. But if that was ALL I had to worry about, my life would be near perfect. I am not sure how many readers I have who haven't ever had cancer or a life threatening illness. I just hope that after reading this you can find some patience and gratefulness towards your life. Be thankful for those little challenges.
Honestly, when I started this particular post I had no idea what was going to come out. I don't want it to sound like I am in some really dark, horrible place right now because I am not. I just find myself reminiscing and wishing I could go back to that life pre-cancer. That wasn't the hand I was dealt though. I need to continue on my path. I have been promised by other survivors, this gets easier as time goes on. Part of my healing is grieving my old self and so I move on to the next stage in this process. I am thankful for each and every day I am given. I am thankful for my current state of health. I just wish it was easier. At times I feel bi-polar because I can't seem to stabilize my thoughts...ever.
This weekend I will be attending the Young Survivors Coalition in Houston, TX with a friend and fellow survivor I met through social media. While there, I will meet up with a few others I have met through this blog. Its a rewarding feeling to know that I have been an inspiration to even just one person or that in some small way I have helped someone else through out their journey. I know this weekend will be an amazing one filled with hope, survivorship, and friends. Thousands of strangers who don't know a thing about each other, but all share one HUGE life experience with one another. I never asked to be a part of this club but I am. The bi-polar part of me hates that I have to attend a conference to find some sort of peace but in reality...I am thankful for the opportunity and people it has and will bring in to my life.
On a separate note, today marks one year since my last chemo. A huge milestone in my book. This day last year marked the end of the most challenging 4 months of my life. At times, I truly thought the chemo was going to kill me. That horrible poison dripping in my veins followed by handfuls of meds to decrease the side effects I would deal with. March 3, marked the end of all of that for me. I had 4 amazing best friends carry me through it. I had a husband who dropped just about everything to care of me in more ways than I ever could have wished for. A mother who left my dad for 6 months to help our family get through it. A son and daughter who embraced my sickness and were never ashamed of their bald stepmom. 2 cousins who I became very close with. 2 brothers who probably had no clue what to do to help me but did their best and without many words said....I knew it was hard for them to watch me suffer. Some of my friendships fizzled out and others became much stronger. But here I am. Alive. I survived that which was meant to kill me. Though parts of me have been stripped away...in time I will find the new me.