When it comes to the physical aspects of my journey, it's incredibly easy to be an open-book - from diagnosis to treatment, from surgery details to remission - you ask, I tell. Hell, even if you don't ask, I still tell ;). However, all-too-often it's so much easier to shy away from the emotional & mental sides of life post-cancer & it took some time for me to realize that this "cloud" I'm so familiar with is actually just another part of my journey. So, during the last few weeks I've been trying to figure out how to best explain the inner Lisa like I do the outer Lisa. Ready? Let's roll.
I think it all started with my unexpected chest-port removal; I explained earlier how I had planned to leave it in until the 5-year "clinically cured" mark but because of an internal blockage it had to be removed. It was most definitely a security blanket for me; always ever-ready if I had another recurrence & needed treatment again. Cancer is a crazy, chaotic, uncontrollable beast & having my port gave me a small sense of control; it allowed me to feel one-step ahead of the beast. Having to say goodbye to the one, tangible thing that I had a loose-sense of control over made me feel a little crazy & chaotic. I know, it sounds ridiculous but I promise it made complete sense in my head.
In the past month I've also had a few important appointments made for the near future for my annual colonoscopy & my "6-month" scan where I will find out if there are any new cancer cells living in my body. That's a very scary thought &, unfortunately, it's a very scary thought that has become all-too-real in the last three years & will remain in our life for at least four more years. Having these new appointments also instantaneously throws my mind back to 2010 when in less than a week from my realizing my symptoms were actually something serious, to my first colonoscopy, which lead to a biopsy, which lead to a diagnosis of Stage III Rectal Cancer. Our life changed so quickly, so unexpectedly that it's frightening to think in the next few months we either could be: A.) right there again or B.) breathing a very deeeeeep sigh of relief & continuing to navigate our "new normal" life as best as we can. It's very much a "learn as you go" new kind-of life; aspects you don't really give much thought to during treatment because of the "bigger picture" start to trickle back to into mind & start raising their hands while shouting "hey you, remember me?!"
Radiation is not meant to be a friendly force; it's job is to attack whatever it may be aligned with &, in my case, it was my pelvis, which included my uterus & ovaries, which was attacked a total of 28 times during May & June of 2010. After my recurrence in July 2011, it was a no-brainer that, along with the new tumor & surrounding cancerous tissue, I would be having a complete hysterectomy (& unbeknownst at that time, a complete vaginectomy & pelvic reconstruction to boot!) when I was 27. Of course I understood this meant I would never be able to have children & at that time, it didn't matter - I was going to do whatever I had to do in order to live. Now, in retrospect because I did live, I'm able to look back and think "wow, this aches a little more than I thought it would" in reference to Chad & I being able to have a family. It's almost a fortunately, unfortunate situation if that makes sense. Now, I'm 29...I'm at that point where I look around & everyone my age is starting to begin or even expand their families while Chad & I are still watching from the sidelines trying to steady the ground beneath our feet. I never thought my heart would feel like this & to be honest I hate that it does. I get so angry at myself that I get upset about not being able to have children because I have my LIFE & statistically, I probably shouldn't. So I have this tug-a-war between my head & my heart & logical versus illogical all at the same time. Again, I know it sounds ridiculous but I promise it really does make complete sense in my head.
So...that is some of what I was trying to juggle under the"cancer cloud". I knew I needed to step back, spend time with Chad, re-recognize how ridiculously fortunate I am & realize that maybe I don't have to juggle at all because the truth is, I don't. What I've learned recently is that its ok to carry all aspects of my journey, my past, & my unknown future in my arms because like cancer, life is crazy, chaotic, & uncontrollable. And if what I'm carrying may overlap my arms, well I have a few pretty fantastic people around me to pick up what I may be dragging.
- LISA -