I know that one of my jobs as a parent is to teach her how to deal with disappointment – but not like this; this isn’t what I had in mind.
We should be working on learning how to gracefully accept that she gets what she gets for dinner, and not necessarily a doughnut.
We should be working on accepting the fact that she’s not getting a pony for her birthday.
We should be working on understanding that all fun activities end eventually, and when the playdate is over, we need to gracefully go home.
Instead, we had to cancel our vacation last minute because I came down with influenza. She was so excited about our trip to Alaska, but I was far too sick to take her anywhere.
I sat down in her kid-sized green and white polka-dot easy chair and pulled her into my lap. “I have some bad news,” I said, “we can’t go to Alaska tomorrow because Mommy is sick.”
“No, no, no, no, no,” she repeated several times, and then she stopped. “It’s okay, Mommy. I know sometimes we can’t do things when you get sick.” She rested her head on my shoulder a bit, then ran out to the living room to play as if nothing had happened.
It hurts the way she has normalized my illnesses, Mommy being sick is just part of her life. Stupid cancer keeps messing with me, even when it’s not cancer.
My Cancer Story is a collection of my blog posts and articles about my cancer experience over the years. I decided to pull them all together into one place to make them easy to find.
This turned out to be a much bigger projected than I expected. I’ve cataloged more than thirty here so far, and there are many more to add.
This is a work in progress. I will continue adding the posts already completed as well as the new posts to come, so check back from time to time. Tags are coming soon to allow for searching by topic.
It has been an eye opening exercise to go back through these posts and see how my attitude, perspective, writing style, and my life in general have all evolved over time.
My hope is that these pieces will provide someone with cancer some measure of hope, comfort, and useful information to help them along this difficult road. Even if you don’t have cancer, you just might find this story interesting.
We hold on to each other, we revel in memories, and we pop a bottle of champagne to toast your memory while flipping cancer the bird. We embrace those who are still with us, and carry forward the memories of those who have gone before us.
“People give you 3 months to mourn, and a year to have cancer, then they expect you to get back to normal.”
I don’t know where I heard this quote first, but I’ve experienced the truth of the statement both in terms of mourning and cancer recovery.
It’s not that I’m faced with the reality of that quote on a daily basis, but it does remind me that while the lingering effects of my cancer still impact every single day of my life, many around me have moved on; my cancer is old news and in their minds, overplayed.
I understand this perspective; I’ve been there myself. I know people whom I’ve avoided because every conversation, for years, involved detailed information about the wellbeing of their bladder or their gout.
It does get old, and frankly, there are some details I just don’t need to know.
I do try to avoid being that person who unloads in that manner, but the fact that cancer is still a part of my present life is depressing to others, as well. People want good news. Something better than “I was able to hold on to my pen long enough to write a whole page,” which is a big deal to me as a writer and avid journal keeper whose dominant arm was significantly impacted by cancer treatment, but not so meaningful to everyone else.
I don’t talk about those things anymore. I swallow my words, and put on a mask, and when people ask how I’m doing, I just say “awesome” and leave it at that.
This is where a group like the Young Survival Coalition, and a retreat like Harmony Hill, are so critical to the wellbeing of a cancer survivor like me. It’s not just a retreat away from the stresses of everyday life, it’s a coming together with other women with similar experiences and battle scars. A three day weekend where we can compare notes, treatments, ongoing issues, what works for me, what doesn’t, and how we’re coping with all of it is not just healing, it’s normalizing – in a good way.
We’re not alone in this experience. We can share without the fear of being perceived as complaining. We can make fun of our condition and laugh at cancer in a way that often makes others uncomfortable. It’s summer camp crossed with a slumber party, plus booze and minus the curfew. It’s yoga, meditation, labyrinth walking, beach combing, flower smelling, and lawn napping, followed by good food, good conversation, and tearing the best parts out of magazines for each of us to make something uniquely our own.
And it’s research. I’m looking forward to another surgery in the next few months. This one will involve 12 hours under the knife – that’s a long time – plus six weeks of recovery. It’s not something to take lightly. But I spent a weekend with 23 other cancer survivors, most of whom have already endured this surgery. I got better information on what to expect and how to prepare from these women who already went through it than from the doctor who has performed this procedure hundreds of times. And that’s to be expected. As much as these doctors know about performing this procedure, they haven’t experienced it.
I’m so thankful I have this group of survivors in my life. That we got to get away together, away from all the other stresses and demands of life for a couple days seems like a miracle. I know it took a lot of work to pull it together, but it was so worth it. I love you girls.
I have been invited to participate in Courage Night, an author event sponsored by the Young Survival Coalition where 5 young survivors of breast cancer will read from their books, followed by a book signing. Well, in my case, I will read from my blog. I’m beside myself with excitement about this event, and a little nervous. I hope all my friends in the Seattle area will come to support me.
I’m so honored to be included in this group of amazing writers.
I was also a little perplexed about how to gracefully manage the whole signing of books part at the end. It’s not like you can sign a blog. And the other authors are donating their proceeds to YSC… Finally, last night I got that little light bulb over my head. Why don’t I have some of my photos printed, and sell those? Then I’ll have proceeds to donate, and something to sign.
So which photos?
I picked a few, and I’m going to narrow it down again to a selection of four. Which ones do you like?
And here’s the flyer for Courage Night. If you’re in the Seattle area, stop by and say hi. I’d love to see you!
I’ve spent the past two days working on a couple projects that have had me knee deep in photographs from the Young Survival Coalition. That’s had me a little emotional, to say the least: memories, faces, friends…
One of those projects a presentation on our getaway to the Harmony Hill Cancer Retreat Center. I’ve just got to share a few of these photos.
There’s just something about the ability to get away from it all, and bond with the girls –
girls who have been through what I’ve been through…
at my age, rather than me being the youngest by 30 years…
Who knew getting our craft on would be so cathartic?
or so much fun
We noshed on homegrown vegetarian fare
Wined a bit
Practiced a little yoga
enjoyed the scenery
and got a little clarity.
The words on the back of our jackets:
“When it hurts to look back, And you’re scared to look ahead, Look beside you… your friends will be there.”