Sunday, March 08, 2015
The Side Effect I Wasn't Warned About
The first hurdle was surgery. I was told possible complications, I was told about healing time, and expected hospital stay. I even asked my surgeon how long until I could knit again (she is a knitter and she completely understood my question!).
From there, it was chemo time. The chemo side effects were so serious that for the three chemo drugs I took, not only did I get a list of side effects and what to expect, I had to sign a paper saying I was told the side effects, the possible complications, etc and that I was comfortable receiving said drugs.
Next up, radiation. Again, a list of side effects. A list of what to expect. A nurse going over all of it with me. How to care for the radiated skin, things to watch for, things that were normal, things that I should call if happened.
Side effects on top of side effects on top of side effects. Some minor, some major, some barely noticeable by me, others impairing my quality of life.
Except, there was one side effect no one warned me about. No one prepped me for. I never expected it in a million years.
A side effect of having cancer is making friends with people who have cancer and having to grieve for the friends who die.
While friendship is a good side effect, and one I never expected, grief is the worst side effect I've faced so far.
As I see some pretty wonderful people die from cancer, my heart shatters all over again. And I rebuild it the best I can.
When I was first diagnosed, I was very active in breast cancer groups on-line. I tried a couple support groups. One wasn't a good fit me, but another one was. It was good. And then a friend passed away. And another passed away. And another. And another. And another. Jenny, Susan, Rachel, Jada, Barb, Dave ... all friends who died from cancer.
It was too much. It was just too much for me.
I realize this is quite selfish on my part. Sometimes I have to be selfish though.
And so I pulled away. I pulled away from chats I had participated in. I pulled away from some friends. I pulled back and tried to bury my head in the sand. To pretend that I wouldn't lose anyone else to cancer.
If only. If only it were that simple.
In the last few weeks, several more people have died. My heart has shattered a few more times. Another friend received bad news: treatment not working, time for the next one. I have cried and been angry. I have shouted. I have whined that life is not f*#king fair. I have woken up, and done what needs to be done, all the while wanting to crawl into bed and just hide away for a while.
Even when I try to build walls, to protect myself, life ticks on. It keeps going. Friendships still get made. Good moments are celebrated. And sad moments still happen.
I wasn't told about this. I wasn't warned.
I'm not sure someone can be warned though.
This is life: it is comprised of birth and death and the time in between. Some get a lot of time in between and some people are robbed of time.
And I can't try to hide my heart away. I can't try to protect it. My life is richer and better because of the friendships I have. I've learned things from them. I carry some of their words in my heart. They have helped me on bad days and celebrated with me on the good. I hope I was able to do the same for them.
It doesn't make my life better to pull away, to hide, to try to protect myself. I would much rather have wonderful friends in my life. Yes, it is hard to say good-bye to them when the time comes. Yes, my heart is heavy with loss. Yes, I will cry and be angry and sad and upset and pissed off.
But I can't hide away and pretend like nothing bad will happen. Because it does happen. And I can't let fear hold me back.
As Helen Keller said, I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.