Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On My Mind

Cancer has been on my mind a lot lately.

Okay, it's kind of pretty much always on my mind ever since I was diagnosed. And even though the cancer is now gone, the side effects of treatment linger and so it's hard for me to "get over it" or to "just stop thinking about it!"

As luck would have it, the current book I'm reading includes the wife dying of cancer - it is in the background, a subplot I guess, it has already happened and all we have is the narrators comments about how it was sprinkled through the main story.

The TV show, which I am binge watching via streaming, also just had one of the big female characters diagnosed with cancer.

And just like that, in the blink of an eye, cancer is in my face.

And the book and show are causing a recall effect for me.

In cancer treatment, there is this thing called radiation recall. If you have radiation first, and then chemotherapy within (I think) 6 months, the chemo can cause your body to recall the radiation side effects and you will experience them again. Now, I did chemo first, but when I did radiation, they warned me the reverse could happen (to a much lesser degree) but I might feel like I did after chemo.

It is strange and weird. I have no idea how it happens, but it does. And it's annoying.

These books and movies are causing me to have what I will now call cancer recall.

When she has to tell her husband she has cancer, I am instantly in tears thinking I have to tell my husband all over.

When she tells her mom, the same thing.

Her hair falling out, suddenly I remember when my hair started to go - how I used to walk around the neighborhood several times a day, combing my fingers through my hair to get out as much as possible so it wouldn't be all over my house because I wasn't ready yet to just shave it all off.

When she shaved her hair, I am back in my bathroom, sitting in my tub, as my husband shaves my head and I have to tell him to stop for a minute because I am just not ready, even though I don't really have a choice and we have to finish, but damn-it, I just need a moment.

When she is bed, sick from chemo, I remember being in bed, sick with chemo.

When she is getting her infusion, shivering, wanting people to talk to her to distract her and yet wanting everyone to just be quiet because being in this chair, getting these medicines, was never part of the plan, I am there too.

And yet, when I get a chance to step out of my own head, what hits me the hardest is not what she is going through, but how the show is portraying her husband going through it and her mother and her siblings. I wonder is that how my family felt. Did they have breakdowns like that when I wasn't around to see them. Did they carry this enormous weight of fear and anxiety but somehow manage to tuck most of it away in an effort to care for me?

It is almost too much to bear honestly.

Yes, I know it's television. Yes, I know things work differently in the real world. Trust me, I am aware at many of the inaccuracies of how cancer is played out on tv, and yet, it gets me right in the gut and right in my heart.

Because I haven't moved on from cancer. Even though I have. I am not stuck back where I was three years ago, but a tiny part of my brain still is. Most of it isn't, thankfully, but sometimes, sometimes everything just comes flooding back and it takes over.

I think it's natural. Or I hope it's natural. I think time makes it better, though I'm only 3 years out here, so that's not much time. I'd really like to get a lot of time from this ... 30 years maybe? That would be nice. I imagine that there will always be a piece of my mind that is in Cancerland. I imagine stories and shows and movies with cancer will always touch a special place, but hopefully someday I can get through them without completely bawling.  

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