Sunday, 4 December 2011

Who would lie about having cancer? (from July 17th, 2008)

Someone left a comment on my blog that said, "I find your blog boring, I don't think you are telling the truth." The person's name linked to some stupid online advertisement, so I marked it as spam. But still. It keeps bothering me. I don't understand why some one would go out of their way to be an asshole. I can understand being an asshole in passing, or by accident, but to leave a comment on the internet takes effort. When I was first diagnosed my sister's former boss accused her of making it up. She had been looking for a new job and found one at the same time as I was diagnosed, and it worked out in our favor, because my sister lives on Mayne Island, which is very isolated and hard to get to and from. The job she had in a bar made it very difficult for her to get over to see me because she worked late, and often 6 days a week. The new job is a regular 9-5 type deal that makes it easy for her to plan trips to see me. Her boss at the bar accused her of making up the story of my cancer diagnosis as an excuse to quit the job at the bar.

Who does that!? Who would lie about cancer?

And I'm not really sure why it's bothering me so much that this person who I don't even know suggested that I'm not telling the truth about what I'm going through... but it does.

But maybe it's this. Maybe I have been feeling like a bit of a liar. Because I'm not sick. Chemotherapy isn't even making me as sick as it's supposed to. It's barely making me sick at all. It's not making me sick. Not on the outside. I've had minor symptoms related to side effects from chemo. But the thing is they are things that I already get. Mouth sores? I get those any time I'm stressed or run down. Joint pain? Well I was a hairdresser for 5 years and my wrist, elbow and shoulder on my left arm are totally fucked from heavy blow dryers. So far those are the only side effects I've experienced. Other than the hair loss, which I'm kind of digging, now that it doesn't look hideous. But I feel like, because I am handling chemotherapy well, I shouldn't really be counting myself among the sick.

Three weeks ago my father-in-law died. Suddenly. Of a heart attack. At work. No one close to me has ever died before. People slightly removed from me have died. I've been to more funerals than most of my friends. But the only one that was at all close was my best friend's brother, when I was in grade eleven. He locked himself in the garage with the car running. But I've never lost someone who was constantly in my life. And until this happened I don't think I really considered myself close to my father-in-law. But I was. In an odd way, my cancer diagnosis had brought us closer together than ever. And the biggest motivator (besides my daughter) for me to get through this fight and get through it gloriously was for Rick. I can't know what he went through with Paula's cancer battle; What it was like for him to watch the love of his life waste away. But I've always sensed it. And I wasn't in the room when Kurt told him about my diagnosis but I heard his reaction from the living room. Kurt said it "broke him." I so wanted him to see that this thing is not only beatable, but survivable. That you can come out the other side stronger and better for having fought in the war.

In the days following Rick's death there was an amazing outpouring of support from Rick and Maureen's friends. And in the middle of it I felt a bit guilty. I felt like I didn't have a right to take it easy. Even though I had just had chemotherapy a day or two before and I was supposed to be resting, I felt like, because I was "doing so well" that I shouldn't. I think it goes back to the same old thing of being the strong one. All my life I've always been so good at coping, at taking charge, at leading and being strong, that when I'm not, I feel like I have to still be strong.

During the first days after Rick's death I was dealing with so much. My hair was falling out in clumps, and I was bothered by it way more than I expected. More than I wanted to be. It was - and still is - such a stark reminder... such a symbol of cancer. The hair loss has become such a cancer symbol that people shave their heads in support. So here I was finally having to show the world my vulnerability.

And I was dealing with my own loss. A loss of hopes that I had for Indiana's friendship with her grandparents. ... Rick's death represents a loss of so many things that I never had growing up. I was never close to my grandparents. I rarely saw them and I really know little of them. And, as I told the congregation at Rick's funeral, I never had a proper father. Even now, what I have is pieces of fathers. I have three men who together don't form a whole. Each of them fills his own role in his own way, but none of them is a father. Not one of them know the whole me. Not one of them was present for all of my triumphs and all of my failures and all of my teenage moments. The loss of Rick was the loss of the only constant father. He never stopped being a father. He called his boys "son."

And people kept asking me how I was. How I was. People I'd never met. People who'd never met me were concerned for my health even in the midst of their own loss. I felt a bit ashamed. Especially when my answer was that I was doing really well.

But the thing is no matter how well I'm doing. I keep having to face the fact that this is cancer. And as much as the nodes were clear and the margins were excellent. It's still cancer and we still understand very little. Every three weeks I have to go have blood taken out of my arm and I'm very cheerful about it. I get to jump the lines because I'm a chemo patient and I'm very proud of the fact that I'm not sick. But I am. And that's the hardest part. Last time my white count was a little low, so we tested again the morning of chemo and went ahead, regardless. This time my counts are quite low. But rather than delay chemo I'm going to get more drugs. Drugs to help my blood recover from the chemo. I used to avoid medications at all cost. I didn't even take Tylenol unless the head ache was seriously making me want to vomit. Now I have so many drugs in my system. And there's going to be more. I may be participating in a drug trial for a drug to prevent Breast Cancer from metastasizing in the bones.

But suddenly I have this reality check. Whether I feel it or not, I am sick. And it is becoming more evident all the time. I'm fighting hard against it. And I will win. But it is going to be a bit more of a battle than I had planned.

And for anyone who doubts the truth of what I'm writing. Here's a picture of my mutilated right breast. At least I can count myself a true Amazon.

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