A Year of Cancer: What I’ve Lost Along the Way

What a year it’s been.

This week marks the one year anniversary of my diagnosis with metastatic breast cancer, and it has been a constant battle to keep my head above the fog. I feel like I’m experiencing PTSD and I’m reliving all the feelings I had last year at this time. Fear, anxiety, dread, hopelessness, anger, and that death is imminent. It’s horrible. I have been continually reminding myself that things are pretty good now: my disease is not progressing, the medicine is working and the side effects are minimal. My doctor told me just yesterday that my blood work looks fantastic and she is hoping that I can be the poster child for health and Metastatic Disease for the next 12 years at least. 12 years, you guys. I know it’s bleak when I write it down like that, but there will be a cure by then so just don’t worry about it. Except for people who actually research cancer. You do your job and keep worrying.

In celebration of one year gone by, I’d like to present a list of things I’ve lost along the way. The loss of these things has had a positive impact on me and I’m glad to be rid of them. Some of them creep back in from time to time and I sternly point at them and say, “No sir, you are not welcome here!” I’m not perfect and these losses, at times, do affect other people. I just can’t take them back. I’ve got other shit to carry.

So here goes. 10 things I’ve lost this year:

  1. My dignity. No, not really, but what I mean is self-consciousness.
    Particularly about the cleanliness of my house. I was recently talking with someone else who has found themimg_1037selves in a position of needing all the help they can get, and she talked about the humiliation of having someone clean inside your microwave. I mean, if that’s not love, I don’t know what is. I’m at a point where I can maintain a certain level of cleanliness- like I clean the bathrooms and stuff, but I just threw Zoey’s birthday party and do you think I cleaned for those kids? No. No, I did not. You know why? Because nobody who YOU actually care about cares how clean your house is. You should only clean your house for yourself, and nobody else. I’m a busy mom, you’re busy too. I’ll get to it when I get to it and it’s probably not going to be when you’re coming over for coffee, #sorrynotsorry.
  1. The ability to tolerate unnecessary drama. I mean, just stop it right there. No thanks. Gotta go. That shit don’t matter. Fuhgettabowtit. Game over. Goodbye. Better luck next time, folks. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit. Bye Felicia.
  1. The need to compare myself to others. This is not to say I do not still do this, although I wish I didn’t. #nextyeargoals. I just know how stupid it is to do this. Am I good enough? Pretty enough? Smart enough? Better? Faster? More fun? I don’t know. And I don’t care. Who cares? Nobody, that’s who. I’m focused on who I want to be, now. I want to be kind, positive, trusted, compassionate, fierce, and patient. And then everyday I strive to be the best I can be. That’s all I can do. I don’t need to compare myself to anyone because that doesn’t help me reach my goals. All we can do is our best, and that’s what I’m doing.

                                All we can do is our best, and that’s what I’m doing.

  1. My memory. I would actually like to get some of this back, but chemo-brain has allowed me to feel okay about asking for clarification about things I don’t understand and I find myself more patient when listening to others explain themselves. Also, I tell stories over and over again, so you’ll know if I’m embellishing my story. For Jim, this means he gets to be right more because frankly, I don’t remember if I told him something or not.
  1. My filter. This is really bad when you work for a bureaucracy, but really good when there’s an elephant in the room and nobody else wants to point it out. Which again is really bad for bureaucrats. My dad, former bureaucrat, keeps warning me that I should stop pointing at elephants, but I’m all “what are they gonna do? Fire the girl with cancer?”
  1. The fear of “putting it out there. I don’t know if it’s because I have cancer, or because everyone else was already thinking it and I’m just stupid ballsy brave enough to say it, but whenever I say something that makes me extremely vulnerable, the feedback I receive takes my breath away. The connections I’ve made and the stories people have shared with me this year have sustained me. I am not alone. We are not alone. And the world isn’t falling into a pit of hate and negativity. Love is bigger. Love wins. Life is beautiful. Light is closer than you think.
                   Love is bigger. Love wins. Life is beautiful. Light is closer than you think.
  1. snowdrop-1053625_1280My ovaries. It’s not even that bad. There are some… disadvantages to not producing estrogen, but for the most part, it’s great. No periods, no birth control, and as long as Jim and I keep our marriage rock solid, no concern for STDs. Woohoo! I am currently having a hot flash which is slightly uncomfortable, but moving into winter, maybe I can even use this to my benefit!
  1. Feeling like I need to “get it right.” I remember one time I listened to this radio show (can’t remember which one, not surprisingly) and it was about a traumatic event (maybe 9/11?) and the person on the show spoke about how she was coping with the traumatic event and how she thought maybe she was out of her gourd and doing terribly. Then someone said to her (probably her therapist!) that nobody has ever experienced what you are going through in the way that you are going through it, so unless damage is being done by your actions, you’re doing it right. If I had a dollar for every piece of advice I’ve been given, I would no longer need a Go Fund Me page! Some of the advice is great and some of it is just okay, but all of it is subject to my own approval or disapproval. I mostly make decisions based on what I think I can handle and what works for my family, but also sometimes I procrastinate because the “business” of cancer is fucking annoying and complicated. For instance, I have not chosen another Primary Care Physician. I know, I know, I was so adamant that mine is terrible, and I still believe that, but I just haven’t had the time. A little embarrassing? Maybe, but I haven’t needed a PCP recently and I’m working on finding a new one.
  1. Giving a f**k. Maybe it’s the same as my previous “loss”, but I think it’s slightly different. This one I’ve been working on for years, actually. Many moons ago, I came across an article called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” by Mark Manson. I shared it with all of my friends and family and really have tried to embrace this idea. Mark came out with a book this month and although I have not read it yet, it is on my short list for sure. You’ll have to read the article to understand the sheer brilliance of this practice, but it can be summed up with this:

“Because when we give too many fucks, when we choose to give a fuck about everything, then we feel as though we are perpetually entitled to feel comfortable and happy at all times, that’s when life fucks us.”

  1. A permanent idea of what I should look like. Never ever in my life did I think about having short hair. Or going bald. What I’ve learned is that we can be beautiful in ANY form as long as we own it. My style has become more solidified with the changing of my appearance and bitch, I look good. I may be 10 pounds heavier and have crazy curls, but damn if I don’t work it. I own it. RuPaul would be proud.selfie-collage
So, that’s it. Those are the 10 things I’ve lost this year.

I can’t wait to see what this year brings! I have big plans for Maggie’s Brightside, for my writing, and for some other projects you should keep your eye out for, but my number one goal is to keep on living like the compassionate badass I am, so on September 29th, the one year anniversary of my diagnosis, please raise your glass to me- and may there be at least 12, but preferably 40ish years ahead!

 

 

2 thoughts on “A Year of Cancer: What I’ve Lost Along the Way

  1. Maggie, I just saw your story in the BFP and caught up with your blog. Loving thoughts and prayers to you, Jim and the kids. -Pat and Dan Kennelly

    Like

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