….she texts me encouraging messages. So glad I found her, there really aren’t many doctors like this in the world: “I got it under control. Can always go back to ipi later, but can’t risk swelling your brain again!! Love you too much to hurt you and just want to fix you!!””
I’mmmmmm backkkkk!!! Brain went mental again. Ugh. At least they gave me cool colored socks this time!!!
Yes I have cancer. Yes it spread. Yes it’s being treated.
These are all facts. These are not me.
Sometimes people forget.
Lately, it feels like they obsess over the facts. Unfortunately, my view of the facts haven’t changed so people’s obsessions are becoming somewhat of a burden.
It’s tough because I can’t tell people to stop worrying about me. It’s human nature. But for me it’s a double edged sword. I’m so lucky to have SO many people who care, who are worried, who love me so much and so openly. But, on the other hand I want to scream “I’M FINE” at the top of my lungs as I shake them.
For me, life hasn’t changed all that much. That sounds insane, I know. But this is how I figure it to be. If I didn’t have cancer I would basically be doing the same things I’m doing now. Going to work, spending time with friends, etc. Yes, some things like going to the gym, dating, being out drinking all night, have been removed from my norm but that may have happened anyway. Getting cancer just forced me to evolve away from some social habits earlier, and for that I’m fine. Life changes. Constantly. I’m lucky because I know why mine changed whereas some people suddenly look at their life and say, “How the hell did I get here?”
I’m proud of where I am. I’m happy. I’m still Lauren. Unfortunately, people forget that.
Whether it be because of guilt or fear I’ve noticed a trend of people trying to protect me. And I think that’s the most frustrating. I constantly hear, “Oh, I shouldn’t complain to you. Look at what you’re going through.” And I try to assure them that what I’m going through is no worse than any other person’s problems. What I go through is tangible. It’s doctor’s appointments, it’s treatments, it’s results, it’s a temporary lifestyle. What I’m not dealing with is normal stress - work being insane, the opposite sex being insane, the night before being insane. I miss hearing about that insanity. And I miss my friends telling me about it.
I wish more people would still lean on me. I wish they would complain about more trivial shit. I wish they could understand that a weak cup of coffee is just as devastating to me as it is to them and we should, in fact, have an unnecessary bitch fest about it. I wish they would forget I have am “going through cancer” and just talk to me like Lauren. Like I’ve said before I’m living with cancer. This disease isn’t going to take my life (for that I refuse) so I also certainly don’t want it to take my life’s sense of worth.
I always prided myself in being a rock for my friends. Now I feel like jello. And I know it’s for protection, and maybe I need to be less strong for them and stronger for myself. But, in the end I still feel just as strong as I did BC (before cancer), now just more anxious because all this strength is being harbored, not shared.
So - let me share my strength. Let me give to you what I still can.
People who have cancer sometimes feel a loss of dignity due to what they lose. I feel like I have gained so much from this disease, so let me keep my dignity.
Don’t call me sick.
Don’t refer to me as a cancer patient.
Don’t assume, always ask.
Don’t ask me how I’m feeling, ask me how I’m doing.
Don’t pity me.
Don’t say you’re sorry.
Don’t worry about me, I’ve got this.
For your support. No effort is too small, and all of it is appreciated.
For understanding, or at the very least trying to, and not being offended when I tell you never will understand.
For being there, period.
For looking past my disease and seeing me for who I used to be, which is who I still am today. For realizing, or trying to accept, like I have, that there is a bright side to all of this. For never stop believing in me.
One year ago I found out that the cancer was back. Goodbye remission. Hello recurrence. And, nice to meet you Timmy.
Who’s Timmy? Oh. He’s my tumor. He entered my life around this time last year and has ironically been the longest relationship I’ve ever had in my life. And, like every long-term relationship we have learned a lot from each other and have been through some good times, and some (really) bad times.
Even though I have preached compartmentalizing my cancer, you can’t not get somewhat tied to a large tumor that has invaded your GI and reproductive cavity. I mean, when you look down at your stomach and he’s looking right back at you, you’re going to make a connection.
So what has Timmy taught me? Well, for one: Melanoma is NOT just a skin cancer. Far from it. When I told people that that the melanoma was back, they immediately looked at the freckles on my body and asked where it was. When I said, “Well, it’s a large tumor in my stomach are” the jaws would drop. When Timmy got to be over 18 cm that’s when my jaw dropped. Melanoma is also a feisty bitch and likes to grow - quickly. Me, the alpha-female, had met her alpha-dog and things were about to get UGLY! The fight quickly commenced, and although it is still going, the alpha-bitch is currently on top :)
I also learned patience. My last long-term relationship, with a man, lasted about 5 months. So Timmy has showed me that relationships change all the time - the dynamic, the direction they’re heading, learning what each other needs, the fact that couples fight, that they make up, and sometimes they start to grow apart from each other, which is what is happening now as TImmy is much smaller than he was last year.
If you think I’m crazy for making this metaphor of my tumor as a boyfriend, I don’t blame you.
The last thing that Timmy showed me is that he unfortunately has friends. And like a good girlfriend, I have to get along with them too. When “The Goobers” arrived (the brain lesions found in August) I wasn’t annoyed/sad/mad/afraid - I was just trying to figure out how I was going entertain all of these new guests! My focus, more importantly my doctors’ focus, was going to have to be divided and me and TImmy’s solo dance was now going to turn into a flash mob with huge groups spontaneously dancing all the time - and that’s really what has happened. Between new treatment regimens, new procedures, and random craniotomies and seizures, it’s been one wild party since the Goobers came to town.
One year ago if you told me any of this would happen I would be in somewhat disbelief. Getting another melanoma? That wouldn’t surprise me too much - everyone who has cancer always thinks about recurrence. But a huge a** tumor in my belly with brain mets? Ya got me this time, life!
However, and don’t hate me for being an optimist here, I’m not mad it happened. I continue to learn, I continue to grow, I continue to meet the most amazing people, and the the relationships I have with already amazing people just keep getting better and stronger. I thought I mentally/emotionally grew the first time I had cancer. I now see myself as an even different, dare I say better, person than the one who hit remission the first time - and it’s because of the cancer.
So Timmy - until we officially break up, let’s have the best relationship we can. If you’r going to be my longest, you might as well be my best. Until I dump your ass for good.
Thanks American Cancer Society for the new, fancy wig. I’m totally loving how it makes me look and feel!
The other week I got duped into reading “The Fault of Our Stars”. Thank you, Kelly Bergin, for making me fall in love with John Greene, suggesting I read this book, and then NOT telling me it’s about a girl with cancer. Oops.
In all fairness, for a voracious/neurotic reader such as myself who, before buying a book, does cross-comparative reviews from multiple sources, I never actually looked up what this one was about. I didn’t even open the book and look at the inside book cover lip where it SAYS what the book is about. So, Kelly, this shows how much I trust you and how lazy I’ve been post-op regarding my literary research. (Defense: Since this massive fail, I have since researched and purchased 5 new books. It took me 3 hours to make the purchase. I’m a lunatic.)
So. “The Fault of our Stars”.
I started reading and as soon as I realized what this novel was about I experienced a moral/emotional dilemma. To reiterate my stance on cancer, I’m a “compartmentalizer” - meaning I tuck my cancer into a nice little box and deal with it separately as its own little bizarre entity that has nothing to do with my actual life. So, did I potentially want to bring cancer-based emotions into my life by reading this book? Even more simply, did I want to waste a few hours of my life focusing on cancer when I didn’t have to? But, as soon as the narrator called the people in her support group “bastards” I knew I had to finish this book.
Like my title says though, this book pointed made me realize what a fucking cliche I can be. I guess it’s inevitable. It’s also not a bad thing. But, some of the things I read that only people with cancer “gets” made me realize that although it is unique to me, my journey isn’t exceptional - it’s one that many people with cancer share. Here I am thinking that I’m the only one who is applauded for being “brave”, “inspiring”, and “strong”. Oh no. They tell that to everyone. I’m also not the only girl who hates the smothering habits of her mother of her one second and then needs her desperately the next. Lastly, and most disappointing, is that I’m NOT the first person who has used the battle/war analogy. Damn, I really liked the “originality” of that one.
Cliches can be good though, because it shows that you’re not alone. There were so many instances and emotions that I deeply related to in this book. There were also warning signs of what may to come. So, I will admit that I’m glad I opened my little compartment door and let cancer in for a few nights. But, I had to close it, so it’s back in the west wing of the house again.
This book also fed into a fear that I’ve been having, and that’s that I’ve become too “cancer-y”. “What the hell does that mean?” Well, you know when people become born again Christians and all they do is talk about God? There are people with cancer and all they do is talk about cancer and find a way to relate/incorporate cancer into every part of life. I don’t want to be one of those people. It would annoy me to know if I did. I catch myself sometimes finding a way to make my cancer pertain to the subject at hand. Random example: cooking. “Oh, I can’t wait til my doctors appointments and treatment schedules calm down so I have time to cook again” (the pity incorporation). or “There are so many recipes on the American Cancer Society recipe.” (The “remember? I have cancer” incorporation”. Or just randomly, “Did I tell you I got a wig?? (The trying to make small talk and incorporate cancer incorporation). I don’t want to be that person. I irrationally obsess over if my friends get annoyed with how much I talk about it. In “The Fault of our Stars” the friends of the main all have cancer (except 1) so naturally cancer will dominate their conversations. However, the majority of my friends are luckily cancer-free and I don’t want make them sick with cancer by bringing it into our daily conversations too much. I acknowledge that having cancer is a big deal, and talking about it is warranted. I just don’t want it to occupy my life and burden theirs any more than it already has.
Moral of the blog: I’m glad I read this blog. It solidified some feelings I had, opened me up to some others, and was a nice temporary means of support. Now, time to take this experience and figure out what to do with it. Challenge accepted.
When I started this blog I tried to ensure that every entry had a moral center. That there was a central theme, ending each one with some type of moral token. With all the craziness that has been happening lately I feel like that is lost and my entries are becoming more updates than reflections.
So now I look to y’all to fix this.
Please message me what you would like me to write about. Nothing is sacred, everything is fair game. It can be about cancer, it can not be about cancer. It can be about anything. I just need some topical muses!
Thank you all for being you - the support this site has been giving me, knowing there are people out there who actually read (and dare I say enjoy?) it has really added to this wild ride.
With love and strength,