I think one of the reasons I put off blogging about cancer for so long is I can’t quite figure out how to briefly state who I am and what I’ve been through in the last year. Somehow, whatever I write sounds too serious or not serious enough. It’s either too focused on my cancer side or too focused on my “regular person” side. It’s too detailed or not detailed enough.
By the time I finish writing about how hard it is to create an “About” section for my blog, I will have probably written one that is sitting succinctly on the Web where it should be. In fact, it is. You won’t know how many hours I’ve spent contemplating who I am, who I was, what I’ve been through, and who I want to be now that I have cancer. These types of existential questions are too deep for an “About” section.
I have my cancer “elevator speech” down for new doctors and support groups and friends I decide to tell: “I was diagnosed in October with pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer—the same type Steve Jobs has. It’s relatively slow growing. I had surgery in December to remove most of the tumors, but there are still some left in the half of my liver that remains. Now I’m on oral chemo that I’ve been tolerating pretty well so far. I will probably be dealing with this for awhile.”
But that elevator speech ignores the other part of my life, the one that I live when I’m not seeing doctors, getting blood tests, getting scans, or at the hospital. Most of the time, I do things normal 20-somethings do. So this blog is an attempt to integrate both my lives, and help me feel more comfortable talking about cancer. It’s part of who I am now and I can’t really ignore that.
Because my particular course of chemo has left my hair intact, and I don’t often wear tube tops that show off my giant Mercedes-shaped surgery scar, no one knows unless I tell them. Cancer ends up being the elephant in the room because it’s so hard to bring up in everyday coversation. Rather, it’s the elephant in my room because most people don’t know the difference. My oncologist hasn’t given me a “prognosis,” except for saying that there’s no cure, and I find it difficult to fathom what lies ahead for me. I am in treatment, but I am not in remission. I don’t feel like I have survived yet. So I am a liver. This is my life as a liver. In case you haven’t caught on yet, my liver is also part of the problem.
When I think back on the last year, I think it’s remarkable that it’s only been a year. So many parts of it seem so unreal, so terrible, yet so vivid. I also think of how wonderful my family has been, spending every second of the 10 days I spent in the hospital in the hospital with me. My parents, losing the countless hours in doctor’s office waiting rooms with me. My sisters, stepping up to be the big sister when I can’t be. My extended family, keeping in touch through phone calls, flowers, and notes. Not being afraid to talk about the elephant in the room. And the few friends I’ve told, listening while I go on and on about something that must be difficult to understand, but caring and helping anyway. And all the wonderful people I’ve met: doctors, nurses, fellow patients, therapists. Thank you.