Saturday, January 5, 2019

#555 An Anniversary of Sorts

My BHE keeps me sane.

                            "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."
                                                                      John Lennon

January 6th, 2012 (seven years if you do the math) I received the call that upended our world and spun us out of control. As with any traumatic event this one is so solidly embedded in my mind that it seems like it was only yesterday.  On the other hand, seven years is a long time to remember what life was like before that phone call. When the crying and disbelief subsided I thought how was I going to wrap my head around this, would I recover, and what about the lasting side effects?  I needed a plan because prior to hearing those dreadful words my biggest fear turning sixty were the wrinkles creeping around my eyes. Little did I realize what was in store for me on that cold January day.

After that fateful call I started the intense cancer regimen with surgery to remove the tumor, followed by energy sucking chemotherapy—and then to finish me off—six weeks of radiation blasts.  Finally I thought, after nine discombobulated months, life could return to normal and cancer would soon be a distant nightmare. 

Ha!  Normal and a distant nightmare? Dream on.  Plans do not always unfold as we would hope or envision them to do. If you've followed this blog you know recurrence with a terminal metastatic breast cancer diagnosis occurred a mere twenty months after the last radiation visit and now seven years into living with breast cancer I will share the lessons I have learned.

The physical part of ingesting strong anti cancer drugs and hormone treatments to control the estrogen is wearing and quite telling.  I would like to say I have aged gracefully but know I was shoved into this weathered appearance at a higher rate of speed than your average sixty-plus year old woman.  Okay, my hair has thinned and those wrinkles I was so worried about are tenfold but I am alive and still kicking thus should I really be complaining? Vanity has no purpose in this unchartered life.  Get over it I keep reminding myself.  Lesson one.

As much as I try to put a smiling face on to the world, some days the mental part can be the most difficult and turning up the corners of my mouth seems too much of an effort.  I struggle with the thought of my own mortality.  Yes, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow or, like my friend Heather often would lament, be eaten by a bear; but in reality, cancer has put a big bullseye smack on my life expectancy and it can be daunting to face that day after day.  Again, I follow the sage advice from Heather— every day matters—even the crappy ones.  Lesson two.

Some people in my situation see this whole experience as a gift--more empathy, more awareness to their surroundings, more appreciation for life, etc. etc. etc.  Bunk to that, I say.  This is not a gift.  I've learned things about myself and others I may have never known but to say it is a gift is like saying having one leg amputated would save me a ton of money when buying a pair of shoes.  No thank you. Lesson three.

But the gift that keeps giving are the supportive family and friends who have my back every single time.  One phone call needing assistance and they swarm in like an army of bees ready to do whatever is needed.  They are the living and breathing 911's of my life now.  Seriously, one phone call and they come running to help sans the lights flashing or sirens but with the same intensity of professional EMT’s. Humbled—lesson four.

Not really a lesson but one of my biggest verbal pet peeves—saying this is my “cancer journey".  I have journeyed to exotic places around the world and have a hell of a better time than this.  Skip that moniker and let's call it what it is...

       A really really &*%^#$ (fill in with your best swear word) disease.

Cells mutate, go rogue and become vile while taking up residence in places that should be left to their healthy comrades. Most of the time it is a random act attacking women and men who have been careful about their diets and included exercise as a regular life style. Or sometimes not.  What I have learned in these seven years with this giant load on my back is there is no rhyme or reason who will get that devastating phone call or the call to celebrate good news. Lesson five.

So I continue living day by day, learning as I go along and adjusting to this way of life that gives me a perspective a tad different from those of you with healthy cells.  Seven years since THAT phone call. As I reflect on this anniversary of sorts I intend to discover even more life lessons as well as hanging around for at least the equivalent of seven more dog years (remember 7x7 the formula for dogs).  

With this bit of knowledge bestowed upon you from one who sometimes thinks she knows the secret of living, please consider a donation to give those of us with MBC more anniversaries to celebrate.  Go to our One Woman Many Lakes MBC fund at UW Carbone Cancer Center--the More For Stage IV .  Thank you.

Thanks for reading #555 of 7777.