Friday, April 10, 2015

My Six-Month Cancerversary

My six-month cancerversary has come and gone this past week. It was marked by illness for me, my son, a blood transfusion for my dog (she may have cancer too--cancer just sucks), and a torn calf muscle for my husband.  It's been a week, I'd like to forget.

But, a six-month cancerversary is worth blogging about.  Every time I think of that phrase, or see it in writing, I long to insert "cancer-free" into the statement.  If I'm honest, I want to bang my keyboard that I am unable to put those words in writing.  It is like standing at the finish line of a long race and being unable to cross the finish line. It taunts and teases me.  I am not cancer-free.  I'm not sure what to celebrate.

I fall into that nebulous category of individuals that are not survivors.  We haven't beat our cancer (yet).  It is still with us.  I call it my pesky parasite.  There is no fist pumping moment of definitive success in my cancer story because there isn't anything I can do to fight at this time.  I have to wait and watch.  Waiting and watching is its own treatment option.  It's a viable one in my case that points to a greater quality of life and a better long term prognosis.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to be in the treatment shoes I wear....but in the secret, dark places of my heart, I yearn to yell the words:

"I'm cancer-free!"

No such luck.

Instead, the six month point in my journey is marked by a tight-rope balancing act of moving on.  I still find myself searching for the new norm.  I am a big believer in routine and structure to keep the focus on positive activities, and not those things you cannot do anything about.  So, my routine and structure was defined by a training plan for a local ten-miler.  I have secretly being going out each week checking off long runs on a racing plan, praying that I do not fail.  Each step is a powerful thought of squishing cancer-cells under the sole of my shoe.  Success was marked with each step and each mile.  Through my run, my cancer couldn't stop me, even if it was on board for the journey. My cancer-posse cheered me along the way telling me how strong I was, although in my heart, I still don't feel very strong.  But each step is marked by at least being able to do some thing.  There is no sitting on my butt doing nothing in my world.  I am a do-er.  Running the race fills me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose.  I will not sit back and take this diagnosis lying down.

And yet, even with every step towards a fight for normalcy, I find that it intrudes itself on my awareness more than I like.  I'm a lot weaker physically since my diagnosis.  My pace is a lot slower and it takes me far longer to build up my endurance.  I also found (to my grief) that I'm a bit more susceptible to pesky germs.  A bronchial infection has laid me up the last week, derailing my racing plans and again, looking at the finish line, but unable to cross.  And let me tell you about night sweats--waking up 2-3 times a night in a pool of sweat because my body no longer understands how to regulate temperature is just gross.  And annoying.  Did I mention annoying?  I like my sleep.

But here I am six months later.  Still in the weird waiting place.  I hope to tick off the "cancerversaries" in an annual fashion from here on out.  I'm hoping that with each passing year, I'll decorate the weird waiting place with with race medals, tiger paws, sunshine, beaches, friends, family, and memories with my husband and kids.  Hopefully in time, this weird waiting place will look no different than the walls of my house, or the love in my heart.  Hopefully in time, the weird waiting place feels comfortable.

Will I ever be a "cancer survivor?"  I don't know.  But I sure hope, for as many years as God gives me, I'll THRIVE with cancer.  It's the best revenge to thumb my nose at it and say, "You aren't going to stop me anyway."

So at my six-month cancerversary, not crossing the race finish, not crossing the treatment finish, not really doing anything, but learning to go on in life, let me take a moment to fist pump at yell:

"I'm THRIVING with Cancer."

Take that.  Cancer still sucks.