Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Chasing Life and Fear

"Chasing Life" is one of Chris and I's favorite TV shows.  The ABCFamily show is about a young journalist who discovers she has cancer, her treatment, and life thereafter.  Even though we don't talk about it I think the show really hits home for us both.  Cancer, of course, is the center of which the show is wrapped.  However, there are many other story lines which are interesting to watch play out.

The honesty of cancer in the lives of the characters is very true to life.  So much so I'm often shocked because I've never watched a show this honest.  April's journey is so much similar in the fears of truths and fears of lies we tell ourselves as survivors. Chemo brain, being tired, changes in relationships with family and friends are throughly covered.  Every week something new.  And tonight's episode was no different.  Fear of cancer returning was the topic.

My cancer diagnosis was almost five years ago and what is strange is this new fear which is rising in me about cancer-no longer being in remission.  This may sound strange and it's strange to write-I'm more frightened of cancer now than when I had it.  Perhaps it's because during cancer and it's treatment there was no time to think of "cancer".  There was only time to actually keep myself going and take care of those around me and work at my job.  Perhaps it's from being more educated now on what type of cancer I was diagnosed with and the risks therein of it's return.  Perhaps it's from learning that because of the levels of chemo and radiation I endured I've put my body at risk for leukemia after ten years of remission.  Perhaps the fear comes from the knowledge deep inside what cancer is truly like.  Not only what I'd have to go through again if it comes back but also with the fact that there would be no coming back from a reoccurrence.  I've had one shot.  My oncologist is very clear about that........

People were around to help five years ago before I was "cancer free".  People cared for me.  My nieces and nephews would drive to McDonalds at midnight for a #1 with no pickle to stave off the steroid monster.  Or bring a Frosty to cool my chemo ravaged belly.  But once your cancer is "cured" that is gone.  (And perhaps that topic will become a blog post.)  Almost the day after the last treatment it's as though you were never sick to those around you.  Unless you bring it up.  It's quite a fall.  Alone dealing with the aftermath was quite overwhelming.  Yes, I'm in remission.  But, yes, I have something very much like PTSD to deal with- all survivors do whether they realize it or not.  Alone.  And now alone dealing with fear and dealing with people saying the platitude of "it'll all be okay".

In 2010 I met a lady in Madisonville who was going through treatment at the same time as I.  We became friends on Facebook and she will drop by the office occasionally. It's always so nice to talk to her.  A fellow survivor.  It's almost a weird sensation to be able to do so.

Today my friend stopped by the office and we began talking about having things go wrong with our bodies and we immediately fearing our cancer is back.  She talked about some lung issues and a mass on her chest which had to be biopsied.  I talked about a swollen lymph node in my neck and being tired all the time and another number finger and occasional bruises and my eyesight becoming worse and worse. We both talked about the fact we have chemo brain and wondered if we'd ever, ever, ever have ability to remember and process things as before.  We also discussed our neuropathy.  Her's in her feet, which is horribly painful.  Mine in my left pinky finger.

Tonight's "Chasing Life" April is dealing with fear of her cancer returning after a nose bleed. How appropriate after my friend and I's discussion.  Her blood work says she is 99% chance of never having a reoccurrence.  However April starts having severe anxiety and nervousness about cancer.  About being in the 1%.  She even calls her doctor about a bruise on her arm at 8:00 am while her doctor is on vacation.

The fears are new for me and hard to deal with.  I often worry that the further I am from my diagnosis in 2010 the more they will strike.  After all I'm young.  There are many years that lie ahead in which something could happen.

I've never been a worrier.  Not even through chemo and radiation and four failed reconstruction surgeries.  (Although last year's two surgeries really had my anxiety high.  For the first time, the absolutely first time, I really thought I would die.  I was very, very ill for at least six months  in 2014.)

But now I find fears creeping in.  How to defeat?  Yes, I am a Christian and believe with His help I can overcome what I'll allow myself to overcome.  I don't believe in the philosophy of "let go and let God" or "give it all to God".  I don't believe in being passive in my faith and depend on God to do EVERYTHING for me.  I believe God expects us to work at many things in our lives-though salvation is NOT one of those things. Through work (not that it saves) we can refine our gifts and learn to resist temptations,  Ok, this post is going into an entirely different direction.  The whole passivity of faith would be another post so I better leave this.  I'm getting off track and the topic is too deep to delve into with a paragraph or two.

So back to fear.  My friend and I and April on the TV show and all the other survivors at some point in our cancer journey will fear cancer returning.  Yes.  I do.  I'll finally admit it because I'm finally feeling it after five years.  I'm realizing it's not weak to admit I am afraid of cancer and it's probably pretty natural.  But I need to learn to balance overreaction and trust that sometimes things going on with my body are just normal reactions to life situations.

Those bruises? Well, I bumped into a corner of a desk at work.  That swollen lymph node?  I had a horrible cold a few weeks ago.  Being tired all the time?  Either I'm lazy or not fully recovered from those surgeries last year. My eyes?  I am 43.

My new number finger on my right hand? Too much time on my Smartphone and too much time tapping away on the keyboard to write on this silly blog.........

2nd chemo. Not very scared. Just trying
to satisfy the crazy steroid monster hunger
within my tummy with the bland ham
sandwich, chips and sprite the chemo
ward provided.