Don’t Tell Me You’ll Be There

Don’t tell me you’ll be there for me. Don’t say I can depend on you.  Out of the numerous family and friends who have made that statement, I can count on one hand those who actually mean it.  So don’t say it…and I won’t be let down when I realize you don’t really mean it.

It is often said that living with a life threatening illness is an interesting dichotomy. On one side, you have those people who have said they would show up for you and really do.  The other, not so much.  For those of us living this life, we understand that for everyone, life goes on.  We all have our priorities and our own challenges to deal with.  I know I do not begrudge anyone for living their lives as they choose just as I choose to live my life my way.  The rub is that I am consciously aware of my mortality, all of the time.  My challenges are life and death, pain and well-being, fear and peace.

I wish my biggest worries were money, job headaches, and weight gain.

As stressful as those things can be, I now reflect on those trials with a fond innocence. Oh to be worried about bills and nothing else, how cute I was. I do not place the level of importance on them that used to consume me.  When staring your mortality in the face, you realize with all certainty that the only important thing is your relationships with people.  That being said, when those relationships fail you, it is all the more deeply felt.

Expectation is the root of disappointment.

In my heart and my perspective, I have never had the ideal relationship with my family. I love them.  I know on some level that they love me. Some I am closer to than others and some I have sporadic contact with, at best.  And some, well, some seem to go out of their way to make my life harder or more dramatic than it already is.

I learned a long time ago that you cannot expect anyone, especially family, to treat you the way you treat them. To love you as you love them.  Or even to place the importance of your relationship with them on the same level that you do.  Because of that, I have found myself retreating from some of these relationships as a kind of defense mechanism.  If I don’t expect you to be there for me, it won’t hurt as much when you aren’t.

I Cannot, Will Not, Do it Anymore

Have you ever had someone in your life that acts like tragedy is a competition? My illness is worse than yours.  I know you have cancer, but this headache, back ache, knee ache just won’t go away.  If you have experienced this, then you know how exhausting it can be when you are already exhausted from the universe having its way with you.  I can’t do it anymore.  I made the choice a while back that unless someone is adding something positive to my life, then stay away from me.  I will not go down that rabbit hole of someone else’s desperate attempt at martyrdom.

How about the people who get mad at you for irrational or petty reasons? All I can say to that is bye, Felicia.  These are not the people who genuinely care for you.  These are the people who crave attention.  Narcissists who have no logical reason to try to cause you distress other than their own irrational need for controversy.  Be mad at me, I really do not care anymore, because if you were really in my corner?  Petty issues that upset you would be discussed, not lashed out at.  I would not have to see passive aggressive attempts to get my attention for a contrived slight.  I know I’m not perfect and I make mistakes as much as anyone.  I own my errors and would be happy to have a rational discussion about it, especially with someone to whom there was mutual love and respect.  But four years after a terminal cancer diagnosis and I am a no- drama-llama all day.

Never Enough Time

We are all here on this Earth for a very short time. A blink in the eye of the universe.  Whether you are facing a life-threatening illness or not, at the end there is never enough time.  I, and most other metastatic cancer patients, understand this on a fundamental level.  We have gotten used to the people who disappear from our lives.  Personally, I am okay with it.  I respect that life goes on and I respect their choice not to make my issues a priority in theirs.  Go on your way with love and fondness.  But, please, do not pretend, do not make promises, and do not give me hope to expect something more from you than you are capable of giving.

Life can be hard for all of us. We all have struggles, challenges, and fears.  I do not choose to live my life in that zone.  I choose to live in hope, positivity, and action.  I choose happiness over sadness and peace over distress. My life and my circle of friends and family have SHOWN UP.  They said they would and they did, they do, every time.  I am content and my peace of mind is my sanctuary, my home.  Do not come into my home and disrupt that.  I am real, I am ME, and I am not changing.  I love the woman I have grown to be and everything that has gotten me to this point…even cancer.

You do not have to. And, I won’t expect you to.  We will not disappoint each other.

To my friends, my true family, those of you that I’d swim through shark infested water for (well, maybe those sharks that don’t have teeth, but you know…), I appreciate every day that you are THERE. Whether we met two years ago on the internet or have known each other most of our lives, you have taught me what it means to be loved and respected unconditionally.  I take that lesson to heart and put it back out into the universe, to you.  Never underestimate the importance of your relationships.  At the end of your life, that is what you’ll be thinking of, that is what matters.

 

And to my beautiful boy…Colin, if you are reading this, I love you more than all of the stars in the sky.  You are my favorite everything, but please, please stop playing Fortnite.

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A Case of the Blahs

It has been three years and eight months since I was told that my breast cancer had not only recurred, but had metastasized to my bones.  All this time spent with my mortality staring me in the face, precariously perched on the edge of a precipice.  Over three years of being grateful to wake up, yet waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I know I am one of the lucky ones.

With the median life expectancy for metastatic breast cancer at 36 months, I know how lucky I am to be here, to have woken up today.  I got up, showered, took my son to school, and headed into work.  My hips hurt and I have this electric shock-like pulse in the back of my skull, but I am here.  I shouldn’t complain.  Yet here I sit, in a sort of numb wariness, feeling just blahhh.

If I had my choice, I’d still be in bed, possibly crying, most likely just staring at the wall.  I don’t want to be that person, but sometimes I know my inner, secret self is that girl just trying to pretend this isn’t happening.  Today, I can already tell, will be one of those days where I just go through the motions of life, not really feeling as though I am living it.

This week has been a spiral of negativity.

Two days ago, I received my PET scan results from my oncologist.  While not horrible, it is his wording during our discussion that is haunting me.  Per my scan, I am about 90% stable, however three of my largest cancerous lesions on my bones are growing.  I was actually surprised by this as I’ve been feeling relatively good and active lately.  My oncologist does not want to change my current treatment regimen of Aromasin and Affinator because, as he said, my next option is chemo.  According to him, I have “blown through my aromatase inhibitors too quickly”.

This statement is like a shovel full of dirt from my grave.

For those who don’t know, my cancer is hormone (estrogen) receptor positive.  Because of this type of cancer, I have been on medications (called aromatase inhibitors) for the last almost four years to decrease the amount of estrogen my body produces in order to give the cancer less to feed on, limiting its ability to grow and spread.  I have already been on Tamoxifen, Ibrance, Letrozole, and Faslodex prior to the current two I am taking.  I have also had surgery to remove my ovaries to even further hinder estrogen production.

With cancer treatment, you can never go backwards.  Once I have used up my last anti-hormonal option, it’s all chemo, and progressively worse chemotherapy at that.  I know that I am fortunate to be here this long and to have been able to get here with the treatments I have had.  I have even been told (more times than I care to think about) that I have the “good” cancer because it is only in my bones.  Never say this to anyone, there is no good cancer.

In my mind, I cannot help but think about what this means for me, for my son.  In theory, not all chemotherapies force you make major life changes or have the visual evidence of cancer present.  Hopefully, I am still a way off from having to stop working, losing my hair, or being unable to play with my son in the backyard.  Hearing those words just forces me to see it all as I did, the fear of what is to come, the same way I saw it when I was first diagnosed.

I am scared.

To add to this already difficult week is the minutiae that comes with living.  An argument with a friend that you put a lot of faith in, now fractured.  The need to pick up groceries and clean the house.  Trying to figure out how to get my adorable dog to stop chewing up every damn thing she can get into her mouth. Bills. Pain. The damn ending of Avengers Infinity War (I have a 7 year old son, y’all).

The irritants and disappointments in life are mere pebbles when faced with the falling boulder of terminal cancer.   I am not thinking about fractured friendships or cleaning my house…I am thinking about my son, having to see his mother bald and sick.  I am scared of dying, but it is leaving my child that tears me apart.  Hearing those words from my doctor was a fresh reminder of what this life has in store for me…and my son.

So today may be hard, but I will go on.

Actually, every day may be hard, but it will not deter me from living my best life.  I will laugh when I catch my son singing “Jones BBQ and foot massage” (thank you internet, for that one), and I will get groceries because the thing about kids is you have to feed them.  My house may not be as clean as I want it, but no one is calling the health department anytime soon.  I watch Hoarders, I know I am still good.  As for a falling out with friends?  As any cancer patient will tell you, we lose friends all the time.  It is how we know that the ones still there are our real ones…and I have plenty of real friends.

As for my head…well, the doctor did say my recent brain MRI showed I had a normal brain, so I am sure I will get past this.  I have learned to live with fear.  My normal brain and I will focus on the 90% good news and whatever comes next, I will face that too.

I always do.