The Two Sides of the Cancer Coin
Almost two weeks ago, now, I received the news that my most recent scan showed me to be Cancer Free....I'm still not tired of hearing that! The road that I've been on these last two and a half years has been full of twists, turns, joy and pain. It has been the learning experience of a lifetime. What might surprise you, is that even with the news that there doesn't appear to be any cancer in my body and that my clinical trial is ending....I'm not really leaping and shouting for joy like I would expect myself to be. I feel guilty admitting that, because I'm sure most people just assume, just expect that this part of my life should be celebrated and now over. That's just not my reality. I"m grateful, absolutely and relieved, hell yes! But, deep down I think I"m still scared and probably a little hurt. The idea of recurrence only enters my mind on like every other breath, so there's that. I'm also feeling a lot of grief which is kind of heavy if I"m being honest. The grief I feel is because I find myself mourning the life, body and person I lost throughout this battle called cancer. I find myself looking in the mirror and not really recognizing who I am or how I really got here. My goals and priorities changed the minute I found out that I had Stage 3 Cancer and now I have to figure out what they will be moving forward from here. I am one hundred percent so proud of who I have become and how I have handled and continue to handle everything I have endured. You have no idea what I've had to work through and how lonely and difficult it's been to fight through the physical and emotional pain cancer has caused me all while wearing this smiling, don't f*@k with me demeanor on the outside. It can seriously take its toll on you. But in typical "me" fashion, I won't let it....not for long anyway.
On the day of my scan, if you read my last post, you know I was having some trouble with my chemo port that was used for my lab work and to inject the CT contrast for my scan. I was feeling some pain every single time it was accessed and fortunately the tech working with me during my scan caught on to my discomfort. She decided not to use my port because I shouldn't be feeling anything. Long story short, my doctor had me come in the next day for a Port Study to determine if there was anything wrong with my chemo port that had been surgically implanted two and a half years earlier. The study showed that a hole had developed in the catheter and each time we flushed the port or pushed anything through it, it was was leaking into the tissue surrounding my heart. The port would need to come out. Initially, I pleaded that I wanted to stick to the plan of if I had a clear scan, we would take the port out when my plastic surgeon goes in for reconstruction surgery number 2. That still seemed logical to me because I swore up and down that I wouldn't let anyone use my port! I could just make it off limits and get a 2 for 1 surgery later, right? Wrong. Two of my doctors agreed that keeping it in still posed the risk of the compromised portion of the catheter breaking off and traveling into my heart, which as you guessed it, not a good thing to have happen. So one week after I hear "cancer free", I leave my home and my babies at 5am to have my port surgically removed. I felt a little victorious that I could have it removed, but also a little defeated that it wasn't on my terms. It also leaves me now just feeling vulnerable. I place my hand over my stitches under my right clavicle and I no longer feel my port sticking out from under my skin. It's pretty sore right now, but it's also flat. I haven't felt it like that since Christmas Day 2017. The day after Christmas that year they wheeled me in for my first ever surgery to have it implanted...two days after that was my first of 20 rounds of chemotherapy. That port helped save my life. It's one of the reasons I'm here. Feeling that flat area on my chest once again makes me weep for the woman I lost. I wonder about what fun she could have been having and worries she would have dodged having not had to experience this life with cancer. I'm sad for all of the moments that she saw weakness when she looked in the mirror, but in reality she had this super human strength and resilience deep inside her that set her apart from the rest. I'm sad that I didn't value her the way that I should have. I'm sad that I had to change, it's like I just left her in the dust! But I had to...I know she knows that. It really is like mourning the death of someone you once loved....gone but not forgotten. You see, cancer is just like any coin you find in your purse or on the ground. It can vary in shape, size and color, but the one thing all cancer coins have in common is that no matter what neither side is the same. One side of the coin is the pain. The life you are forced to move on from, the hard truths and the struggles...oh so many struggles. The other side is the joy. The highs, the wins, the lessons and the perspective. This is the side we typically find ourselves fighting for despite how weary we might be. Sometimes that damn coin gets tossed into the air and whatever side it lands on, we are forced to acknowledge the emotions that go along with it. I honestly feel that it is through pain that we feel and can find the purest of joy. Clearly I have experienced my fair share of pain and the joy I feel most days post cancer is something quite short of remarkable. It does, however, come with a price. As I fight to honor my former self and the lessons I have learned in creating the new, post cancer me, I sometimes need to just sit and have a good cry. In order to get to where we want to go, we need to show respect and gratitude for where we have been. I still have a few more surgeries and medications and "things" to do in order to keep moving forward in my cancer journey. I'm excited about discovering just what I can do with this second chance at life. I'm renewing my vow, here and now, that however my coin lands day to day, my ultimate goal remains the same despite the distractions, uncertainties and vulnerabilities I might be facing....this moment, my second chance at life....will be the greatest of adventures and a love song written by myself....for all versions of me. Past, present and the woman I'm about to become. I recently read a poem by Atticus that really stuck with me. It reads:
"Have you ever had a feeling, there's more to you than the person everyone sees, a person hidden deep within the very fabric of your soul-you must pull that thread unravel the truth of you and wake within yourself that great giant you already know you can be."
Here's to unraveling, waking up and being who we were meant to be. Much love....-M