Chances are I lied to you over the past 8 months. Not about having cancer – that would be a seriously horrible (but well played) prank but no, I did not lie to you about that. You likely asked me how I’m doing and I probably said something like I’m doing really well, thanks! It may have been the honest answer because the majority of the time, yes, I felt strong and confident and ready to win but there were many times that I was crying without the ability to stop, that I felt like the cancer had already spread, that I was having a panic attack because I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or I was lying in bed with no motivation or energy to get up. But it’s harder to say that out loud and that’s when I lied to you. The invisible struggle, side effects and scars that are a result of a traumatic event or fighting a life-threatening disease are often the ones that stay with you and manifest themselves in different ways over time. I was compelled to write about this after being sent a well-written article (thanks, Sean!) that I encourage you all to read:
Before I had a double mastectomy and lost my hair it was so easy to hide. I looked like a normal non-cancer having person so I could pretend I didn’t have it. I may have felt like shit at times but at least I didn’t look sick. It was so much easier to exude the confidence that I did feel a lot of the time. But now I sometimes feel AND look like someone who has cancer so it’s easier to admit that yes, I feel like a ball of garbage today and want to stay in bed. Yes, I’m sad that my boobs got chopped off. Yes, reconstruction is a crappy and uncomfortable process that I’m still undergoing. Yes, I am still sometimes scared. Yes, I have anxiety and questions about life after cancer. Yes, I feel self-conscious and somewhat vain because I miss my hair. But what I’ve learned is THAT’S OK. It’s ok to talk about feeling bad. It’s ok to lean on people when you’re scared. It’s ok to be vulnerable in front of others because chances are someone else feels the same way and will appreciate not feeling alone.
I haven’t even processed all the ways this has changed me yet – and likely won’t until I’m on the other side which is now exactly 5 chemo sessions and 34 days away! But it has certainly had it’s fair share of negative AND positive effects. What I’m trying to do now as I shift to dealing with what my life will be like from now on is how to channel that energy into positive outcomes. How can I carry this fighter mentality with me into life’s next adventures? How can I accept the visible AND invisible scars as cancer souvenirs I’m proud of? More importantly, how can I help others who have to fight this or similar battles? I don’t have all the answers yet but in the meantime, I wanted to apologize for lying to you all. But you have to forgive me because I can still play the cancer card for another month.