as always, what a week. it feels never ending; the days when you’re in the process of finding your way through to the other side of a scare. big ones. small ones. ones that come often. lumps. symptoms. side effects. it all kinda runs into one. at this point, i feel like a pro. recurrence is just a word that gets kinda jumbled into conversations with my team of doctors. it doesn’t bother me when someone suggests it or even wants to run imaging at this point. i would rather be safe than sorry. and maybe that just comes from how it all started. how advocacy became the game from the very beginning. how well i know myself from the inside out after literally being stripped of my existence. establishing new norms within myself has been one of the most taxing processes of them all. trying to begin to understand what feels new or different versus what just is reality. because when you sign your life away on dotted lines; both in an intensive care unit for a raging virus or when you’re alone in an oncology office- you become this person. different already. your whole life gets put to the side. you suddenly have to give yourself up to making it to the other side. for others. for your family. for the people who still want you around. for yourself. and it becomes really hard to manage all the emotions that go into saving your own life. and the things you have to do in order to make it out alive. for most, it probably seems really brave or heroic. for others, it’s probably this insane amount of strength and resilience. but it doesn’t always feel like that. it’s kinda lonely. and exhausting. it also feels very spotlight, one woman show sometimes. it feels heavy in responsibility and it also feels a little burdensome. staying alive during the fight for my life was easily the hardest thing i have ever done. and i have done it twice. and sometimes, it feels like even though the big scares and big tumors and big viruses are gone- that every day is another day of fighting to stay alive. that i can’t possibly do it again. that the other side is just as challenging. but it can be really hard to say that out loud. because with it comes the whole damn cheerleading squad. the one that’s laced with “but you already did the hardest part!” or my favorite “the recurrence rate is so low. don’t worry!” or a classic- “are you sure you’re not just overthinking it?” for sure. i am chronically overthinking. that’s my whole existence. but it also is how i caught my cancer strictly by accident. just before my thirty first birthday. with zeroooooo family history and a pretty historically clear medical record. one that is now over five hundred pages long. i had only broken my nose. never had stitches. never been in the back of an ambulance. no genetic mutations. no crazy birth stories. no scrapes on the playground or broken arms off a bicycle. never been in a cast or used crutches. my first, second and third surgeries were for cancer. my fourth will be to fix all the things that make me still feel broken. cancer rules the game. cancer calls the shots. cancer still lingers. bringing all the bells and whistles it can. and sure, i am a pro at getting what i want to clear the anxiety for a few more months. i can call and be in an mri machine before you all have had breakfast.
and my world continues to march on. and inside, i silently grieve the life i lost. the time i lost. the patience that’s thinning. the anxiety that’s just under the surface. the grieving of friends who continue to fight their cancer battles. and the immense grief when one never wins the war. the burials of five friends over the last two years. the survivor guilt. the pride. the advocating. the brushing off of the “i knew it was nothing!“ the arguments with the insurance company. the medical bills. the paper trail that has to exist in order for certain tests to happen. the shame. the worry that i worry too much. the worry that my story is too much. the worry that every scare is too much. the fear that there will one day be a scare that isn’t just a scare. the fear that my life could be uprooted and stripped away again. that this process- this whole building it all from the ground up thing- will be even harder next time. that my soul is kinda tired. and that every time i mention the cancer’s potential dreadful return & i am wrong- i feel ashamed. for causing a scene. for bothering anyone. for suggesting it need any thought or attention. because the other side- well for a while, it felt like this far away place. and once i made it here after a gruesome battle with cancer and an eight day stay in intensive care; well, it never felt right. it never fit. never filled my soul or healed my wounds. it’s been rocky and uncomfortable. it’s been lonely and painful. it’s been ugly and heartbreaking. it’s been this constant shedding of different parts of an old identity. it’s been this transformative time. one that feels a little never ending. it hasn’t been a good time- which i think is what is often expected. it’s been a lot of growing pains and a lot of work on healing. it’s hard to say it but it’s still not finished. after all this time. it’s still not healed. my heart still feels like it’s a little broken. my body still feels incomplete and not finished. my soul feels tired and each time i feel something off, it takes me back to the very beginning. waiting for the other side.
and i know that the other side has a lot to offer. and i know that the other side is pretty beautiful. and i know i am meant to be here on the other side. and believe me, i know it’ll someday feel like it fits me perfectly. this is the other side. and sometimes, the universe likes to shove me back to the other other side. and both have their drama. and both are sides i have visited.
and right now, i am just trying to build a home on this side. and it’s taking longer than i would like. and it feels shameful. and embarrassing. and lonely. and full of emotions that just cannot be understood. but i am here. with my tools and hard hat- just trying to build something beautiful and secure on this other side.