It was more than two years ago that I sat in a room sectioned off by curtains with my parents alternating between who was in back with me; that a woman on the other side of the curtain complained about having to take a potassium pill while I was learning that I had cancer; that my entire life (to quote the Fresh Prince) got flipped-turned upside down and I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you all about how I rock post-chemo hair.
When I started writing this post, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to recount every detail about that day two years ago or if I wanted to share how my life has changed since the diagnosis. I mean, you all read this blog – I assume you’re not just searching for nude pics (sorry for the disappointment) – so I assume you know what’s going on. But then I ate a piece of cheesecake and got to thinking – do they really know what my life is like after diagnosis? And I was like no, and I really don’t want to go through the day I was diagnosed, so let’s focus on the present, shall we?
Since being diagnosed, some areas of my life have changed a whole bunch and some haven’t changed at all. The amount of times I go to the hospital in a month (let alone a year) has definitely changed, and the number of pills I take a day, and my hair’s length and texture. But my love for reading, carbs, and long showers remains the same. I’ve been telling people from the beginning – I’m still me, I’ve grown just as everyone else has. My path just had a few bumps and curves that brought me to a different view point.
Now I try not to take the small pleasures – like snuggling my dog or getting to kiss my fiance – for granted, and I try not to let the small stuff get to me – but sometimes I do. I have a better understanding of how disgusting the world is and how many germs there are on EVERYTHING. If you ever see a girl whip out alcohol wipes to clean a table at a restaurant, feel free to come over and say hi.
The part I don’t normally talk about that has changed is my looming fear. I’m terrified my cancer is going to come back in a surprise attack. It keeps me up at night as I wonder if the new bruise on my leg is cancer-related or if the little blood from flossing my teeth is because my platelets are dropping. I wonder if my occasional dizzy feeling is my red blood cell count down again or just my new normal. I bottle up these feelings, and then finally, when no one is watching, I let them out and cry so hard. I try not to share it because I know what everyone will say. Hell, I say it all the time: “Focus on the positive,” or “You’re doing so well, it’s not going to come back,” and so on. But the thing is – and I’m not trying to jinx myself – life after diagnosis, and after cancer, isn’t a road paved with trophies and cookies.
It’s filled with surprise side effects that no one knew about because someone hasn’t lived past that year marker. It’s wondering if you’ll be the first one to die among your friends because cancer and chemo cut down your life expectancy. It’s also getting to live every day a little bit more and holding out for what you deserve because you know what it’s like to not know if you’ll get to enjoy the next day.