Lately I’ve become quite frustrated with myself. Every day it seems like I find something else to try and process through from my past. Some days I just can’t take it. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever feel like I have my shit together. I’m not drowning, I’m not wishing it all away…I’m simply trying to embrace it and work through it. There’s absolutely no reason to worry about me. Why not?
Well we’ll talk about the culprit: I spent two years trying to beat cancer. Cancer was trying to take everything away from me. My body rebelled and disobeyed me. How do you process something like that? I did everything I could to stay healthy including diet and some exercise but it didn’t matter. I still ended up with cancer, twice.
You want to know something I learned? It. Wasn’t. My. Fault. I can’t tell you enough about the emotional release I experienced when I heard those words at Cervivor School Florida. Dr. Phillip Castle had the whole room in tears. People often forget our psychological needs when facing such a difficult disease. I still remember coming home after having chemotherapy and spending days just laying in bed. My only form of communication was in the form of texts, Netflix, and the awful nightmares I was faced with. Half of the time I wasn’t sure if I was in a dream land or if what I was experiencing was reality. It really messed with my head.
After treatment, I got stronger but I kept ignoring things. New Years Day was a day I stepped forward and I grew personally. Even when I was sick I was too concerned about others. I couldn’t just focus on myself. I constantly felt worried or guilty that I was being a bad girlfriend, friend, daughter, sister, etc. I know that I wasn’t, now.
I wanted so desperately to have a normal life. All of my friends were either getting engaged, married, or announcing their pregnancies and here I was just trying to survive. I still don’t feel like I completely fit in. Some of you reading this will get it, some of you will probably think I’m being a little dramatic…it could be a mixture of both, I guess.
I still want a normal life but what I need to realize is what normal means to me now. I’m unable to have my own children biologically and people say “Well, there’s always adoption. You always wanted to adopt!” You’re right, I did. I knew I wanted to at a young age. I wanted to take someone off the street rather than put another on. I guess a woman never gets over the feeling of having that life source being taken away.
I mean, isn’t that what makes us a woman? The ability to conceive, carry, and birth a child? I only got a taste of what the birthing sensation feels like because of my internal radiation treatments in the hospital. The nurses so kindly told me that right before they pulled out the tungsten and ring they surgically placed earlier. Did I mention I didn’t get pain medication during this since my oncologist failed to give the orders?
That was one hell of a (excuse my language) mind fuck.
And I guess, before I decide on children, I should probably consider a partner in crime to spend the rest of my life with, right? I want to be able to have a normal relationship, someone to call my best friend, and someone who can handle me the way I am. It seems like whenever I’m faced with this opportunity that I shut it down just as quickly. Yeah, I’m scared. I have a lot to work out in this area still. Maybe I’m just not ready yet and I have to convince myself that it’s okay to wait.
What concerns me is most people want intimacy in a certain way and I can’t provide that right now. I am working through barriers both physically and emotionally. Frankly, my body has been through a trauma and I’m still dealing with it. My heart and my brain are craving an intimacy in conversation and relationship building. I crave trustworthiness and the feeling of being protected by someone. I crave someone who I can be my authentic self with, not someone I notice myself changing for. I will have that someday but for now I’m focusing on myself.
Along with the radiation damage to my lady bits, I’ve developed body image issues. I didn’t realize this was happening until I had a chance to study Oncology Social Work this summer. I was reading a section on young adult cancer survivors and how they may perceive themselves during and after treatment. There was a part that stood out to be the most, it mentioned a young man joking around about how he was the “old man” of the group and how he couldn’t keep up with his friends the way he used to. I don’t know how many times I’ve used the “old woman” excuse, but it’s been a lot. I’m constantly fatigued from damn near everything and my bones constantly ache from treatment. I can get out of breath just by walking to the bathroom. It’ll get better eventually. It’s just frustrating not being able to be the old me energy-wise.
I have also caught myself saying negative things about my body and they have manifested in my brain causing low self-esteem…again. I look back at pictures of me going through treatment during the first round where I lost weight but not much else and my stomach sinks a little. Then, I look at my second round where the effects were much more devastating and I see when my strength was held high and I see where I was ready to give up completely. I felt like a skeleton for nearly two years. I’ve struggled to gain the weight back and I was about tired of hearing the “Oh, I’ll give you some of my fat” nearly every day.
I know I’m skinny and I’m admitting that I’m struggling. I love food but strangely enough, food doesn’t love me. Having an autoimmune disease before cancer (microscopic colitis) and then experiencing radiation in the pelvic region has left me with far more digestive issues than I care to deal with. There is a silver lining in all of this though, I actually felt like a normal human being after I met a fellow Cervivor sister who was experiencing the same thing. Our stories are goosebump worthy in similarities.
What people fail to realize is when we come out of treatment we are NEVER the same people we were before treatment. We can’t just flip that switch and return to that person. We don’t just “get over it.” Trauma changes us. Those experiences good or bad, change us. Sometimes we outgrow the very people we loved so much before. We all have bad days, some are worse than others and our good days can still be bad, we’re just managing. We’re doing the best we can.