Since I released The Cancer Card, I’m hearing a lot of, “You sure are making lemonade!”
I sure am friend, lemons are quite sour and I prefer a little sweetness in my life. I need something to offset the suckiness of a chronic illness. Do I think The Cancer Card is going to cure my cancer? Fuck, no. But it sure will make having cancer easier. I’m in this for the long haul or until they find a cure, so I’d like to stave off any resentment that could build and this is my attempt.
So here is the truth about the lemonade I’m making.
When I bare my soul to the internet, exposing my deepest emotions and fears, it offers people the opportunity to make observations about me that may or may not be true. People often comment on my, “Positive outlook on life,” and how, “I always have a smile on my face.” And these two things are, in fact, fairly true. But make no mistake, I have a dark side too. Additionally, I want to be extremely clear that cancer is NOT the, “Best thing that ever happened to me.” Also, I’m doing chemotherapy wrong because I’m apparently supposed to be seeing it as a tool, but I DREAD getting my infusions and HATE that the side effects are making me weak and tired and I can’t do all of the things people who are not going through chemotherapy can do. No matter how much lemonade I make, I’m still struggling folks.
Let me take it from the top.
Having a, “Positive outlook on life,” is my personality. I have always had a positive outlook on life, but I’m not an optimist, I’m more of a realist. I have always had a glass half full perspective, but I’m also a cynic. This is a weird combination that contributes to my hilariously morbid sense of humor. In one hour of yoga, I can imagine the peace bringing me far along in life so that I can watch my kids grow up and also imagine that same peace easing me into death in a few short years. Wait, that’s not funny… Whatever.
I always have a smile on my face because my concentration faces and grumpy faces give me a triple chin. Also, you would think people would leave you alone with those faces on, but they don’t leave me alone, because I’m the kind of person that anyone just walks up to and talks to. If I have grumpy face, they try to cheer me up and for the love of Goddess, let me be a grump in peace! So, I smile. Because it’s easier. I do think that by smiling, it tricks the rest of my body into feeling better. And when you smile at other people, they smile back, which also makes me feel better. So really it’s selfish. My smiling is selfish.
“Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.” I don’t know why people say this. I already knew life was amazing. I don’t think I needed to stop and get cancer to realize what a gift this life was. Also, I don’t know anyone with cancer or a chronic illness that says this. “Cancer (or other illness) is the best thing that ever happened to me,” is maybe something said by people who had a brush with cancer and then went on their merry way. I don’t know. Cancer is the worst thing that ever happened to me. It fucking sucks and anyone who says it doesn’t can shut their stupid face. Even if/when I have No Evidence of Disease (NED), I’ll be like, “For fucks’ sake! Thank God that’s behind me.” I will not be grateful for the experience. Just grateful that it’s over.
Last week, when I was in speaking with my Nurse Practitioner prior to my chemo infusion, I complained about side effects, as usual (the acne the pops up on Fridays, weak muscles, sore joints and fatigue) and how much I hate chemo. My NP and my mother (whom I love very much and of course, value her opinion greatly- Hi mom, love ya!) were like, “You should see chemo as an ally. It’s a great tool. Aren’t we lucky that we have chemo?” (said in a high pitched mocking voice). One giant eye roll later and I was like, “You’re right. Yay for chemo!!” NOT. I’m sorry, I just can’t. I mean cognitively, I can get on board with these arguments, but my feelings are like fuck- I just want to be able to stay awake for an entire day without a nap. I just want to be able to taste all the flavors of my food. I just don’t want to have to rinse my mouth out with salt water after every meal. I want to be able to clean my fucking kitchen without feeling like a ran a half marathon. You know?
I just want to be normal. And not the, “New normal” that everyone thinks is a nice thing to say.
The support I receive continues to be amazing. I am so grateful for our meal train and the sweet little drop offs from my kind, thoughtful, and generous friends. I love the impromptu playdates with my kids and the little extra love shown for my husband by his friends. But if I could cook all of my own meals and do my own house projects and grocery shopping (I fucking love grocery shopping, no joke), I would. If I could create a workout schedule that didn’t center around chemotherapy and how much energy I’ll have, that would make me happy. If I could show up 100% for my kids every day; If I could wake up before Jim to make him coffee, even if just for one day… I would do it.
The fact is, I can’t do what you can because I don’t have the energy and the stamina and it pisses me off. I feel jealous. My husband and I split household tasks by what I’ll have the energy for, leaving him the majority of the, “Heavy lifting.” Some days, coming to the table to eat dinner as a family is the only energy I have. I feel lucky that reading to my children in bed is something I feel up to almost every day, except when I ask Zoey to read to me, because my eyes won’t stay open. I wish I could have made it so Jim had to do no work during his birthday weekend, but I couldn’t. The poor guy had to do dishes on his birthday because I could only muster up the energy to cook him dinner and that was after a nap.
This past week the doctors cut my chemotherapy dose in half because my blood counts weren’t up to snuff. This is the first time this has ever happened to me in my course of treatments. Naturally, it bummed me out and made me question why this had happened. Did I overdo it? Were my treatments too close together? Is my body failing me yet again? Will the chemo still do it’s job even though I’m not getting enough? Is this just no big deal? For me, this is another lemon in the day-to-day life of a cancer patient. What I choose to make of this situation is just that: my choice.
Life has handed me some lemons, that’s for sure. This cancer is sour and bitter, and there is nothing good about it. But my personality and determination won’t let me dwell on the anguish. Lemonade is the my beverage of choice. I hope to have a long life of lemonade-making in my future and I welcome anyone who wants to join me. Life can be so sour.