Monday, February 27, 2012

Cancer isn't cancer isn't cancer

One of the most surprising things I've learned over the past year and a half is that the phrase "having cancer" can mean so many different things.

I've met cancer patients who have a 100% chance of beating their cancer. I've met people who don't have long to live. I've met people who have relatively unknown cancers that will almost certainly kill them, but nobody knows when. And I've met so many folks in between.

This has been one of the weirdest parts of encountering other young cancer patients. We all want to make common, but everyone's treatments are so different; some of us will lose body parts and some won't, some will have no trouble with radiation and some will be permanently scarred, some will escape chemotherapy and some will have chemo sessions that last for a week. With breast cancer alone, I've met patients who are 100% curable and who are terminal, who lost two breasts or one or none. All of that considered, it's pretty remarkable that we do such a good job of supporting each other as much as we do, when we've had such different experiences.

I've found that cancers are like pokemon. There are a zillion kinds, they have dumb names and they've got incredibly varied attributes (and you can't catch them all? Er, nevermind).

While all this variety has made my own experience dizzying, it's also sharpened my ability to be media savvy. Every time I read about a famous person who announces that they have cancer, I know how many things that could mean. Cancer isn't cancer isn't cancer. Each person's experience is unique, even if there are (luckily) enough common threads so that we get to joke together, hug each other, and carry each other through.

I kinda wish my Pokemon wasn't pink, though.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

We're too old, we're not old at all

This has been an eventful few weeks. I'm going to write about it very briefly so my OT doesn't get too mad that I'm typing.

We went on a honeymoon to the tropics, planned completely by my genius husband. It was unbelievable. We hiked in the rainforest, snorkeled over a crystal clear tropical reef, hunted frogs, and relaxed. I was trying to think of things I'd like to do before I die, and I feel like this trip checked off about six things from my list. Is it totally dumb to feel lucky after all of this? I feel so lucky. I have a lot to be grateful for.

Then I came home and had a job interview. I have no idea how it'll turn out, but it felt incredible to talk about my skills and imagine possibilities that have nothing to do with cancer. I was terrified -- this was a big step! After the interview was over, as the tension drained away and my husband and I were on our way home, I told him about the questions. When I got to the bit about them asking "Where do you see yourself in the next five years?", I burst into tears. Good thing that didn't happen in the interview.

I'm scared, but there's so much to explore, and there's so much coming up in the next few months. So I'm 90% hopeful and 10% terrified. Oh, and 10% cold virus, which I'm sure is making this post extra-loopy. So basically I'm excited, and absolutely dreadful at addition.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bits from two of my favorite kids' books

My husband re-read some of my favorite books to me, and these parts stood out. If you haven't read any Moomintroll books, you should!

     They had to keep watch, so Moomintroll took the first and decided to take the Snork Maiden's, too, and while the others curled up tightly together and slept, he sat staring out over the desolate sea bottom. It was lit by the red glow of the comet, and shadows like black velvet lay across the sand.

Moomintroll thought how frightened the earth must be feeling with that great ball of fire coming nearer and nearer to her. Then he thought about how much he loved everything--the forest and the sea, the rain and the wind, the sunshine, the grass and the moss--and how impossible it would be to live without them all, and this made him feel very, very sad. But after a while he stopped worrying.

"Mamma will know what to do," he said to himself.

                        -Tove Jansson, Comet in Moominland

     Any sensible person could have told him that this was the very moment when the long spring was born.

But there didn't happen to be any sensible person on the shore, but only a confused Moomin crawling on all fours against the wind, in a totally wrong direction.

He crawled and crawled, and the snow bunged up his eyes and formed a little drift on his nose. Moomintroll became more and more convinced that this was a trick the winter had decided to play on him, with the intention of showing him simply that he couldn't stand it.

First it had taken him in by its beautiful curtain of slowly falling flakes, and then it threw all the beautiful snow in his face at the very moment he believed that he had started to like winter.

By and by Moomintroll became angry.

He straightened up and tried to shout at the gale. He hit out against the snow and also whimpered a little, as there was nobody to hear him.

Then he tired.

He turned his back to the blizzard and stopped fighting it.

Not until then did Moomintroll notice that the wind felt warm. It carried him along into the whirling snow, it made him feel light and almost like flying.

"I'm nothing but air and wind, I'm part of the blizzard," Moomintroll thought and let himself go. "It's almost like last summer. You first fight the waves, then you turn around and ride the surf, sailing along like a cork among the little rainbows of the foam, and land laughing and just a little frightened in the sand."

Moomintroll spred out his arms and flew.

"Frighten me if you can," he thought happily. "I'm wise to you now. You're no worse than anything else when one gets to know you. Now you won't be able to pull my leg any more."

                        -Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter

Sunday, February 12, 2012

What chemotherapy was like: comedy edition

Hooray - a "s(*&%$ people say" video that I can relate to!

While I applaud the efforts of folks who try to make cancer treatment an inspirational and beautiful journey, I sometimes find it hard to listen to their words over the sound of the INCESSANT BEEPING.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quick happy things

  • I'm getting into volunteering, and planning to lead a field walk for young adult cancer patients when the flowers start popping up.
  • Job stuff is progressing.
  • Museum trips, dinners, games.
  • Husband is interesting and fun x 1000.
  • Puerto Rico in five days.
  • I'm slowly, person by person as my energy allows, catching up on correspondence. Hey, glaciers are technically in motion.
  • It's wonderful and terrifying to step back into the real world with my fragile post-cancer body.