When life hands you lemons...
Dance naked in the rain!
On April 6th I was told the results of the biopsy of the lump on my tongue was in fact cancer, even though a doctor, specialist, dentist and oral surgeon all told me they believed strongly that it wasn’t, and I believed them. (In our dentist’s defence he was the only one that pushed for a biopsy only to have it not happen at his first request).
Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Just the sound of it scares me!
I spent that afternoon sharing the devastating news with my family and close friends, and with the outpouring of love and support I didn’t have time to really let it sink in, until the next morning when I woke up. It was quiet in the house, Rob sleeping in as per his routine, the dogs back to bed after their morning pee, and life carrying on for the rest of the world as if I wasn’t sitting in my chair alone wondering if I’m going to live or die. Even though we often sit in silence across from each other playing games on our phone or watching Kenda find people, I just wanted him to wake up and take his position on the couch so I could see him and feel him close to me.
I tried to keep my mind off of things by scrolling through Facebook but I would see friends sharing funny posts and as someone who enjoys those posts the most, I suddenly felt like they were being heartless when I felt so scared and alone, lacking my usual sense of humour. It helped to talk it through with a few friends on the phone but no matter how hard I tried, it just wasn’t enough to stop my mind from going “there”.
I’ve always been a great sleeper and that hasn’t changed, so the next day I woke up and decided that now that I’ve had my day to feel sorry for myself, the thing that helps me the most through anything in life is to write. So even though I thought I was going to be taking you on a journey while we search for “Chicken Little” and doing yoga with mini goats, it turns out we are going to take a little detour.
Embrace the journey!
As I write about MY journey with cancer I’m just going give it to you raw and real. As much as I’ve thought I knew how family members and loved ones have felt through their own experience with cancer and illness, I’ve quickly come to realize there’s stuff you would never know unless you’ve gone through it yourself. So if you’ve been down this road I’d love to hear some of YOUR story and if you haven’t, I hope you never do.
I’ve always known Rob would get cancer first and believed that I was going to be given a free pass from this crappy disease. His family has a history of cancer and mine have all lived into their nineties and even hundreds, smoking cigarettes the entire way, sliding into their graves saying, “What a ride that was!”. Granted, my mom had breast cancer and had a mastectomy, however she was placed on a hormone drug that she took for 25 years after her hysterectomy, and the recommendation is a maximum of five years. The doctors are certain that taking the drug for such a long time is what caused her cancer to develop in the first place.
Regardless, this isn’t supposed to be happening to me!! And definitely not before him!!
I really do believe that we are headed to a beautiful place when we die, where worries are none, happiness is infinite, and we get to be reunited with all of those who left before us, and because of that I’m not afraid to die. I just don’t want to die right now.
And maybe, in all reality, I AM afraid to die, but it’s time to embrace the journey I’ve been sent on.
I know for sure I’m afraid of not being able to watch my kids continue to accomplish building the lives they dream of living, or being there for all of our grand babies milestones. It makes me so sad when I hear of children who lose their mom or dad and even though ours are adults, it would be so hard if they didn’t have me in their life to be their advisor, life coach and number one cheerleader. It breaks my heart to think of leaving them behind, and I think that’s what I’m struggling with the most.
I mean, what will I care when I’m gone? I won’t even know the difference and I know that they will figure out how to continue living a full crazy life without me, but life will never be the same for any of them. I need to be here to protect them from the grief and sadness they would face and I can’t imagine them suddenly needing me more than they ever have before.
It’s ironic isn’t it?
After five days of choosing to get up and live each day like I have every other day of my life (except for taking day two to bury my face in the couch), I suddenly needed to talk to my best friend (since grade 8). Not only does she hold my past, present and FUTURE, her witty sense of humour has always been my lifeline when life gets tough and I needed that more than anything after a day of trying so hard not to worry. I was caving in and could feel my emotions taking a tumble. As she was asking me how I was feeling about it all, Rob interrupted the conversation by saying that my emotions are all over the place, that one minute I’m okay the next minute I’m not. But he said it in a way that made me feel like I wasn’t being tough enough, and on top of that it wasn’t true.
I’ve been trying so hard at keeping them under control, for him!
And besides, how the hell SHOULD my emotions be? Of course they are all over the place! Someone just told me I have CANCER!! There, I said it! I’ve been trying so hard to find other ways to talk about it without actually saying it because just the word scares the shit out of me! What I know for sure is they’re going to cut out part of my tongue and reconstruct it with what I hope is NOT a piece of my arse end! It’s not like they told me I need a wart removed.
In reality, I think his own emotions are probably doing a number on him. We sometimes forget to ask the other person how they’re coping and it can be just as hard, if not harder for them, especially when everyone is focussed on the person whom they might lose in the end. Around day three I did in fact take the time to ask him how he was feeling and to share what was on his mind. After letting me know that he doesn’t want to live without me, he did ask if I could show him all he would need to know if he was left to pay the bills.
Already taken care of.
And then there's the "Gremlins"
When I do let my mind wander, I don’t know why but all I see is my insides being taken over by gremlins like in the movie when they were activated. I see them running around attaching cancer cells everywhere they can before someone dares to stop them. Thankful it only takes three minutes to fall asleep when my head hits the pillow.
I’m the one who always does the research when someone I love has health issues that the doctors nowadays can’t seem to diagnose. Like Tanner’s Scheuermann’s Disease. But not this time. This time I can’t bring myself to go anywhere near Google to find out what I don’t want to know, just incase the one bad story is the first to show up on the list.
Besides, everyone else is taking care of that for me this time. And the feedback they’ve been sharing with me has been so reassuring. The success rate is a whopping 98%, there is usually no chemo or radiation needed, and a few people know someone who has developed the same form of cancer and are alive and well years later.
Nothing to worry about.
It’s been said that we’ve “caught it early” and my xray and CT scans of my neck both came back negative, and being a slow growing cancer everything will be fine. But is it early enough? We wasted three months beating around the bush because no one had seen this rare form of cancer so far in their career, instead of just making the call for a biopsy for that exact reason. If you don’t know what something is, FIGURE IT OUT!!
Time to practice what I preach
With two more sleeps until I can ask my questions and hear what the plan will be for my treatment and recovery, it’s time to put on my big girl panties and do what I tell others when they are struggling.
BE ABOUT IT!
It’s all I’ve got at this point. I’m a big believer that the energy you emit into the world is what you will get back. I know that if I get up every morning with a negative, woe is me attitude that my day will give it right back! Everything will go wrong and the only thing I will have to look forward to is going straight back to bed.
So instead, I get up every morning, put my feet on the floor, say, “Thank you, God for one more day”, head straight to the coffee machine, and open the curtains to let the sun shine in on me. Like my mom when she was diagnosed with cancer and was told they would have to remove one of her breasts. Her response to us was, “I just won the lottery!” We thought she had fallen off her rocker but she explained that she had always wanted a tummy tuck and now she was going to get one! I know for certain that it was her attitude that saw her through 15 years (give or take) of being cancer free!
I told the surgeon when he called that I can’t explain it but deep down in my stomach I know that this isn’t the way I’m leaving this world, cause it just doesn’t feel right.
And he agreed!