This blog has been a long time coming, and probably my most personal one to date. But it’s something that I want others to understand. Please bear with me.
There are lots of things that people without cancer know about the disease. Chemo, check. Mastectomy (full or partial), sure. Radiation, you betch’em.
But there is so much afterwards that makes your life hell that no one thinks about.
As someone who lost her mom at a young age to breast cancer, I’ve gone around and around on this subject as an adult. While I’ve never been convinced that I NEED to be a mother, as some do, I always thought I would be. And while some would say I fiddle-farted away my best child-bearing years, the truth is that I met my husband at 35, and got married at 40. Every part of me is glad that I didn’t settle for any of the duds that I dated when I was younger. But it does get more challenging when you form your family later in life.
As we found out.
Fast forward another five years, and I was 45. We had just moved halfway across the country, and settled in a new house. And I had not given up on the idea of having kids. We had even given some thought to adopting if my almost half century old eggs really would not function. Then it happened.
“You have cancer.”
And that was that.
A year of treatment. A year and a half of not working. A year back at work with mind-numbing fatigue and pain. More surgery which I’m estimating will set back my physical recovery another six months. This is all a constant reminder to me.
I am 48, and I can barely take care of my cat. My husband spends most of his time taking care of me. We are running out of people to take care of the kids.
Oh, the other part that is a deal breaker? The early menopause. Happens to a lot of us pink sisters. You are welcome for the TMI. But it makes me angry, because at least one decision has been taken out of my hands. And I don’t like that. Cancer took away one of the most personal things I could have done in life, in an instant.
Then there is the whole adoption idea.
I would still like to do it. As someone who was raised by a non-biological mother, I can tell you that actions define a mother, not a bloodline. But my actions are not what most at-risk kids need. Anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, PTSD, fatigue, pain, and mood swings. Not to mention the financial toll that cancer treatment leaves in its wake, although I’m confident I could figure that part out if I could get the rest of it in line.
Why am I telling you this right now? Because like any self-respecting psycho, I keep these feelings tamped down in the back of my brain. It allows me to focus on my day-to-day life with some shred of sanity. But then something cracks it open. In this case, it was a picture of someone with her baby doing some fun activities I had always imagined doing with my kids. It hits me out of nowhere.
And then the denial is broken.
No one asks for this. No one asks to lose control of her body, her life, her reason for being. And all I can do at this point is keep focusing on my mental, physical, and financial recovery. But when you see someone with cancer, ask yourself:
“What hidden side effects does she have?”
Because I guarantee cancer has taken something precious from her. It has derailed her life, no question. And maybe there is some way that you can help, even if all you do is really talk to her and listen. We just want others to understand how broken we are. And how badly we want to be put back together.
At the very least, my cat will thank you.