I sit at the kitchen table today that is the same table at which I sat when I got the call telling me I had breast cancer.
I love this client that I am sitting for this weekend. The two dogs I am babysitting now are not the ones that gave me comfort during some of the worst days of my life. Both of those dogs are sadly dead; and new, young, brash dogs are in their place—keeping me on my toes this weekend!! But I miss the Labradoodle; whose constant digging of deep holes on the beach that awful week kept me busy filling them back up, so people would not trip. It was a good distraction.
I suppose I am bound to be a bit introspective this autumn, given that I approach my 5 year mark—whatever the hell that means. To me it does not mean much, but I am sure my oncologist, and some acquaintances, will look at this as some great milestone. I’m beyond another hurdle, and maybe my chances of recurrence and/or metastasis are lower now. I’d like to believe that, but all the articles I read now, citing cases of recurrence more than a decade after original diagnosis, make me unsure. I am certainly NOT jubilant or running around saying “cured!” like some fool. I consider myself lucky these days; at least my original oncologist was not a total idiot—he informed me there was such a thing as metastasis—which I knew in the abstract anyway. It seems there are quite a few Stage 4 women out there who were not informed. I shake my head in incredulity at that. Doctors who do not inform these patients should be reprimanded at the VERY least. Incompetent.
This kitchen table is where I sat a little over 2 years after diagnosis, about a month after treatment ended, when I decided to take-this-job-and-shove-it, and subsequently embarked on making my own pet sitting business official, and my primary source of income. I’m not going to get all “cancer taught me life is too short to be miserable” and say cancer was behind the decision. I already knew life was short and I was more than miserable; let’s just say being cancer-fatigued makes that sort of thing easier. You know, the kind of tired beyond caring about anything. It has not been easy, in fact most of 2012 was incredibly difficult—as difficult as my cancer months (Oct 2010-Jan 2012). But I have NOT regretted it.
Psychologically I am not totally healed from either of those incidents; but I am so much better now. Maybe a little better with the cancer stuff, if I am to be totally honest. Thanks to finding like-minded cancer patients online. Thanks to some online friends not in the cancer realm, but whose help was invaluable in so many ways (thanks @angel-of-malahide and @andlifeisgrand). And thanks to some in real life folks, who have mentored me and made me better.
Lots of ink is spilled about “trigger warnings” and coddling of young Americans with such warnings. Are we too fragile to be triggered? I cannot afford such fragility. I need these gigs for my income, so I take them, even if the client’s kitchen table brings back horrible memories. I’m sure most cancer patients don’t avoid places where they received their news—especially if it were their very own homes! But yes, I am sitting here and remembering. But it is not all bad. It just is a timeline that I reflect upon as I approach a milestone. I hate the saying it is what it is because it is soooo overused. BUT, hey, it is what it is. I got cancer, I quit a job, and here I am, for better or worse.
I admit this kitchen table has brought up some unpleasantness, some introspection when I’d rather be looking at cat videos (or all those other internet things that distract me and make me “waste” my time—but if I’m laughing my butt off, is it really waste?). I knew it was coming. I see my “new” oncologist (well, I’ve seen him a few times since early 2014, he is just new because he was not my doc during treatment) in a few weeks. As it will soon be 5 years, we can talk about just yearly visits; not these twice a year treks. I’m all for that! I HATE all doctor visits—even my poor old optometrist, who is really not so bad.
Good. Bring on the once a year. I am more than ready to get over this next milestone. Here is to hoping that new disasters (recurrence/metastasis) do not await me.