This week marks my one year anniversary from being diagnosed with cancer. I was actually looking forward to this date. I thought it would be a positive experience to celebrate how far I have come. Just a year ago they not only told me I was sick, but also that there was no surgery option. I was told that people can survive a few years on chemo (that was supposed to calm my nerves).
But look at me now. Just a year later I have had two surgeries, finished my chemo, and am rounding the corner to “cancer free” ville. That is why I was so taken back when instead of feeling happy and grateful, I began feeling very depressed. I no longer was able to think things like, “crazy this time last year I was doing (fill in the blank), and had no idea I had cancer”. Now I can’t say that. For some reason that upsets me. Most people I speak to do not undersand, they all seem to have the same thing to say – “Jamie, be positive! Look how far you have come!”. Yes, I agree with that – but it does not mean I am still not allowed to grieve my old life – when my world was not filled with “What if..”.
Although no one can predict their future, it is safe to assume one fact – that you will be alive. Your mind plays head games with you when that option may not always be there.
Should I save all my money for a house? But what if I die?
Should I take courses in school to further my career? But what if I die?
Should I say yes to a vacation next year? But what if I die?
I know this whole things sounds quite morbid – but those are the true thoughts that run through my head – and I am sure a lot of people with cancer have the same morbid mind games. So I have to make a choice – I cannot stop these thoughts – but I can have an answer. “Oh well”. There is a chance for any of us to kick the bucket at any time. Even one of you reading this could go before me (sorry). I have become comfortable with the fact that my attitude can change daily, even hourly. Stepping into the positive is hard, but it is something I have to work hard at every day. To change the question to – But what if I live?
A vacation getaway is such a different experience when you are not going just to have a break from work. Yes, you are in a different country surrounded by gorgeous weather, but you are mainly doing the same activities you would be at home. Relaxing. I have however had such a different and amazing experience this time around. No longer am I a rotating hotdog on a lounge chair, I am actually walking and observing and taking everything in. You hear a lot when on these tropical vacations about “wasting my day”.
“Get dressed we are wasting our precious tanning time! The sun is out and I need to take advantage!”
God forbid you come back from one of these trips not looking like an ad for skin cancer. When you do however, people always comment – “Doesn’t even look like you went away.”
This time however, my vacation is not being wasted by tossing and turning day in and day out in a uncomfortable plastic lounger. It is not about trying to get as drunk as possible because “I am on vacation”. No, this time it is all about enjoying and appreciating every second of the day. Being grateful that I am able to sit on the veranda of my hotel room and write this as the warm sun kisses my feet while the sound of the wind in the palm trees relaxes my mind. It reminds me that I vacation to get away from the cold, but I can still appreciate all these small things at home. I am alive. That is something to be thankful for. Although I know my time in this world may be shorter than the person next to me – I am thankful I have that knowledge. I am now able to live my life in a grateful and happy state. I do not care about the way others feel I should be living my life – or how in their eyes I might have “wasted my vacation”. I am doing things that make me happy and enjoying every second of it.
I never thought the day would come where I would be looking at my legs everyday, and praying I start to see hair again. It has been six weeks since my last chemo treatment, and yet the drugs are still having an affect on my body. I have decided that my leg hair coming back will be my first sign. Once that begins to grow, then I will know the drugs are coming out of my system. What I did not anticipate (although thinking about it, it makes sense), is the breakout I am having on my face. As those harsh chemicals begin to flush out of my system, my pores are screaming out. My face no longer resembles a moon, now it is more like a tomato. Again, just another fun thing I have to put aside in the “at least I am alive” pile. I am beginning to hate that saying. Well, maybe hate is a strong word. Either way it is getting annoying – as I feel it is becoming everyone else’s excuse, however it is not mine. I am not one to make excuses for anything.
“I hate that my pants do not fit” – Well at least you are alive.
“My stupid face is all broken out” – Well at least you are alive.
“Beach ready in my extra large, full piece, bathing suit” – Well at least you are alive.
“Do these heels match my tracksuit?” – Well at least you are alive.
Obviously I am thankful and grateful to be alive. That is not the point. I should still be aloud to speak like a regular young female who went from a size 4 to a size 14. It is an uncomfortable feeling. I look at old pictures of myself, and do not recognize that girl. Yet when I look in the mirror, the person staring back at me is also a stranger. So who am I really and who do I want to become? For now, I want to be the girl with hairy legs – that will be a great accomplishment.