HA! Not that “C” word, you dirty mind you!
I’m talking about cancer of course.
It’s always there— cancer—in my mind I mean.
Cancer’s the glue that sticks to me and not to you. It’s permanently seared into my brain.
I think it’s safe to say every cancer survivor fears a relapse. I’ll be honest; if it happens to me, I don’t know if I will want to do it all again.
I’d want to for my kids. I would. I just know it would be so completely disappointing to have to do it again. Cancer is such a long, difficult and dark journey that never truly ends.
I do joke about it a lot, though.
If you’re around me, you will probably hear me use the “Cancer Card” as an excuse to get out of attending something. And, you may hear me say something like “well, I had cancer so I get first dibs.” I joke. It’s what I do. It’s how I deal.
Even in public, if the opportunity arises it normally comes up.
Believe me, I don’t want to talk about it all the time. I don’t. I wish I could forget it happened to me and that my life could go on as if all of this cancer biz is over. But it can’t. Why?
Because cancer changed me.
The chemo and stem cell transplant have already shown its effects on me. And from here on out, every doctor appointment I have to check the cancer box on my medical history page; I’ll never get away from doing that. And my kids will write down that they have a mother who had cancer on their family med history.
Cancer doesn’t just go away because I’m in remission.
It’s here to stay and make its mark in our history books—in my life’s footprints.
It’s tough. I still go to the doctor at least once a month. Maybe more, depending on if any issues come up. And those appointments are constant reminders that shout “hey, you may not have it anymore, but we aren’t done here.”
Survivorship is hard. I have struggled emotionally with what’s happened to me. I harbor a lot of guilt for various reasons. I’ve experienced extreme depression. And all of that is just the emotional part of living post-cancer.
Then I have the physical problems that cause my health to bounce up and down.
Lately, I’ve been extremely swollen. My hands and arms are puffy beyond belief and even on my chest, below my throat has been swelling up.
All of the swelling makes my entire body tender to the touch. I feel like I’m a walking bruise. It doesn’t matter where you touch me, it hurts.
It’s hard to sleep because the sides of my body and my hips hurt from laying on the bed. I toss and turn and never get quite comfortable. Then when I wake up, I’m extremely swollen. Mornings are always the worst—that’s when the swelling is most prominent.
So, I have GVHD of the muscles. My muscles retain more water which causes edema. I also have:
- Muscle cramps
- Muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
- Joint stiffness
- Restricted range of motion
- Tightened muscles, tendons, and fascia
And if I do get out of the house and have a normal day, whether I’m walking a lot or not, my ankles swell and then my arms and hands follow suit.
I’ve also had a weird rash like the thing my inner left arm. It’s not contagious; I’ve had it for weeks, maybe almost two months and it’s not going away.
Honestly, I just haven’t felt all that great really since Christmas.
I’ve had two sinus infections in less than two months. So, my face, head, and jaw from all the sinus pressure have been excruciating at times.
And those aren’t all of the physical issues I’m having right now, but that’s what I’m willing to share at the moment.
Feeling like people stare…
When I’m out in public, I sometimes feel like I have a tattoo on my forehead that says, “Hey, she looks like shit for a really good reason. Ask her about it.”
Obviously, I don’t. I just checked. There are only wrinkles there. Can someone pay for my botox, please?!?
It’s probably just an inner emotional issue, but I remember so many people looking at me walking around with a hat on and you could tell I was hiding my GIANT BALD HEAD. Eventually, I was like F**K it and took off my hat. If people stare, they stare. Whatever. I don’t care.
It takes a while to get to that point but when it happens, it feels like a weight is lifted off your shoulders.
However now, I find myself in conversation with complete strangers and somehow it’s brought up. Whether they ask a question that I can’t get around without sharing what happened to me, or I bring up the blog and they ask what I blog about, or sometimes I just bring it up—like they need to know.
I mean I do want to share my story, raise awareness and help other people. You never know who you’re going to help by telling your story to someone else. Some complete strangers I’ve met have had family members recently diagnosed with AML or friends who passed from the disease. And they are all grateful I shared my story with them.
I think sometimes it’s hard for people to understand that just because I’m not in treatment, I’m not bald, I’m not a “cancer patient” anymore means life just goes on from here.
In a sense, it does. But this disease has changed my life.
It’s changed the way I look at life.
It’s changed the way I look at people.
It’s changed the way I look at problems.
It’s changed the way I look at the future.
The truth is the “C” word will always be in my vocabulary. It’s going to stay there. The effects of chemo and the stem cell transplant will surface throughout the rest of my life—and that’s not going to change.
We take for granted our health until it’s taken from you; we all do.
I have many challenges and obstacles I will have to overcome because of the “C” word.
So if you think that I talk about it a lot or too much, now you know why.
That word terrifies me.
It shook me to my core.
It forever changed my life and the life of those I love.
I hope there comes a day that it’s not so prominent in my life. And it might happen, but honestly, the “C” word revealed a new direction in my life—helping others. And, that’s what I aim to do. I want to help people in need with cancer or without and share my story with those who will listen.
Please help me in my efforts to make a difference this year. I’m fundraising for StupidCancer—a nonprofit dedicated to helping young adults with cancer—and my goal is $2,000. I honestly don’t plan to stop at $2,000. I want to really make an impact. Please, if you can give, give. If you can’t share this with five people you think may be able to. Join the movement and Donate here!
Let’s show cancer how strong we are! And how much we are willing to fight!
Thinking of another “C” word now,