Post-Cancer Post #2: One year

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The last family pic before. 

So, I’m starting this post with three minutes left on my 33rd birthday. I know I need to write today, not for anyone who reads this, but for myself. I want to mark the end of the first year of my cancer somehow, but all I keep doing is shopping online. It’s a problem. After everything that has happened this year, I’m finally out of words about it. For so much of this time, words have been racing through my mind like lasers trained on targets I can’t see. But today, when I feel I should have some coherent, inspiring reflection about how cancer has made me into a better person, I’ve just got nothing! Well, not nothing, but half-ideas, cliches, boring stories in which I could try to shoehorn some meaningful moral. Barf. Who wants to read that? Luckily, words are not the only medium available. I’ve peppered this post with some pictures of the past year.

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Memorial Terrace the day before my mastectomy. 


Here are the several directions I’ve thought of going in this post.

1. Gratitude. I am made speechless by the kindness that has come at me from so many corners of my life. From the people who have supported me on a regular basis throughout my treatment and post-treatment recovery to the random folks I’ve never met who have welcomed me onto message boards to old, old friends and acquaintances who have reached out to me with words, or gifts, or reassurance, I will never be able thank people properly. I am at a karmic deficit from here on out, and I know it. I could detail this forever and ever, and I don’t know how interesting that is for anyone else to read. Plus, it’s really hard to write. So, thank you so much, and I’ll stop there. This would be a  very short post.

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Viv moves up in daycare classrooms last summer. I was in bed. 

2. Physical Health Update: I’ve thought about using this as some sort of physical health update, but there isn’t much to tell:

I finished treatment in August.

I’ve had several clear CT scans since then.

I have some persistent shoulder, back, and chest pain related to my mastectomy.

I had a hysterectomy in December to prevent ovarian cancer. It has sent me into menopause, which has made me tired, hot, and cranky. I am a gem right now.

Also, my skin is dry.

I’m having a reconstructive surgery on May 25th, and I’ll be laid up for awhile after that.

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Ol’ Baldy!

I’m meditating and working out now, and it mostly feels pretty good.

Yup.

3. Thoughtful Reflection: I want to have some reflections to share that are hopeful and true, but I don’t have that many, or at least I don’t have any that are novel or non-cliche. My reflections, after everything this year has brought, are pretty simple:

Human relationships matter most. (aka “Love people, not things.”)

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Mid-chemo snuggles. 

If a problem can be solved, it’s probably not that huge to begin with, so allocate emotion accordingly, if you can. Wait for the big, unsolvable problems before you let it all go, if you can. “If you can” is crucial here. (aka “Don’t sweat the small stuff”)

Your body dictates a whole lot of your life. More than you could ever know it does when it’s working reasonably well. (aka “Love your body”)

We’re all going to die, so you better get in there and make something good happen. (aka “Life is short”)

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My cousin, Katie, her daughter, Tara,  and me, mid-hot flash and steroid bloat.  

Identity changes, and your changing identity changes others’ identities.  (aka “We are all unique”)

That’s it for reflection. I feel like Forrest Gump.

4. Plans or Commitments: I thought I would make some commitments moving forward, but the only ones I can commit to are uninteresting:

I commit to trying to live as well as I can for as long as I’m allowed. I commit to doing everything in my power to help my loved ones, especially my kids, have a meaningful life.

I commit to trying to help the world be a more fair place.

I commit to trying to take everything, including myself, less seriously.

I don’t know, doesn’t this sound like a Hallmark card? I need a kitten poster.

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We look normal, right? 


That’s my whole list of ideas. I feel like I should know more, after all I’ve been through. I imagine people reading my blog about cancer and looking to this occasion, my birthday, one year post-diagnosis, and really expecting something good. So, all five of you readers, thanks for reading, and I’m sorry to let you down! Cancer hasn’t really taught me anything surprising. I’m not really better for having had it. It has just sucked, and given the choice, I would choose a different experience. So, maybe the message is, if you can avoid cancer, try to do that? Again, obvious. Sorry.

As I look back over this post, I can see that I have learned some things, but it’s almost as if I’ve learned very simple things in a very deep way. Also, it turns out that this whole “understanding existence” gig isn’t really on the calendar. Perhaps clarity will strike me on some random day, when I expect to be doing something else. As you can see, I’ve been busy.

 

 

Thanks for reading!

Emily

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