I'm lax. A slacker. Not really, but it feels good to say I've kind of forgotten about my blog lately and the reason is a fairly good one, I think. Life has been going well and by that I mean pretty normal.
Normal is hard for a person affected by cancer to ever say because once cancer has come into your life, nothing is ever normal again.
On my fridge hangs a schedule of future medical appointments. I'm happy to say there's only one cancer related appointment among that list and that appointment is in March.
How'd that happen???
It seems I've been under constant surveillance for so long and now, I'm on annual watch. It seems like I'm a recently freed prisoner or something. And it feels weird - kind of like the safety net has been pulled out from under me. But, I'm thankful. Very, very thankful.
I can never forget about cancer though. Every time I look in the mirror, I'm reminded of how it changed my life. To this day, almost 10 years post diagnosis, I have no feeling on the right side of my chest. The long incision where they sliced away my breast tissue damaged nerve endings and those haven't rejoined. When I touch my skin there, I can feel a slight pressure, but nothing more. It's an odd feeling.
I've kind of gotten used to being flat chested. At home, I don't wear my boobs because they're cumbersome and irritating. When I go out, I do. Mostly, to help myself fit in. I don't want to be stared at because I'm different. When I wear my prostheses, no one knows I had breast cancer, unless I tell them.
My husband and my family know they may or may not see me with boobs on and they've grown to accept it. But now, my youngest daughter has a new boyfriend and he isn't familiar with my health journey. I've given her permission to tell him about it in hopes he'll understand and accept me with or without my female anatomy. I don't want him to be uncomfortable wondering about me if I don't look feminine, especially when he doesn't know me well enough yet. And when I meet his family one day, I'm hoping they won't know my secret.
It's hard to keep a think like that hidden but I feel it's my right to share or not share.
Sometimes, it feels like this has all been a bad dream.
I made it through Thanksgiving this year without balling my eyes out. In the past, I always cried as I remembered all God has brought me through. I definitely don't take any of that for granted, it's just this year, I'd come to a place of contentment.
Now Christmas is upon us and I can't help but feel nostalgic. As I put up decorations, I think about all the people I've known who are no longer with us. Many of those were friends who fought cancer hard and lost. It breaks my heart to think about their valiant fights, but each of them possessed a bravery I can only hope to mirror one day.
It's nice that cancer isn't my main focus any more. I still can't believe how much territory I gave it those first few years.
There are still some friends who're fighting hard to make it through cancer. Seeing their struggle makes me so sad. I wonder why God has been so gracious to me and yet, they aren't as blessed. I have to remind myself daily, I could be in their position just as easily as they could be in mine.
I never want to take a day for granted.
That's one gift cancer has given me - the gift of gratitude. I used to assume too many things. Now I don't.
One thing I've learned recently is I don't need cancer as a convenient excuse anymore.
Yes, I still experience side effects from radiation - my right lung was damaged and sometimes I struggle to breathe properly. I do get tired more easily than I used to, but that could also be because I'm older now than when first diagnosed. I still have body image issues on the bad days, but usually, I can push through them. Most of all, I'm just glad I'm still around.
I love getting to watch sunrises and sunsets. I love listening to instrumental Christmas classics, I love smelling oranges or cookies fresh from the oven. I love seeing the wrinkles on my husband's face when he smiles a big smile and that twinkle in his eyes when he's happy. I could be missing all those things...
I don't know if cancer will ever rear its ugly head in my life again, I pray not, but if it does, I'll worry about that then. Until that day, I'm moving forward. I'm living my life to the fullest and I'm really glad I can.