I’m finding it difficult to put into a word how I feel about today, the day that marks a year since I was diagnosed with cancer.
I’m bewildered to find myself here. I was bewildered a year ago today, and i’m bewildered today. I thought cancer hurt but I didn’t hurt. I thought cancer meant I would feel a lump but there was no lump. I thought cancer was decided by a biopsy but all I had was an ultrasound, a scan, and some blood tests. I thought cancer only struck the very young and the very old–but I was 25, still figuring out my life. In my case, cancer hurts more emotionally (and physically after surgery), cancer means nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss, cancer is invisible. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning not remembering, feeling like “myself,” like I’ve always felt when I wake up in the morning. Then maybe i’ll feel a tinge of nausea, or i’ll see my days-of-the-week pill case on my nightstand, and i’ll remember. This is who I am now. This is what my life is now.
I’m proud that I have dealt with this as well as I have. I’m proud that I have been able to juggle school and cancer–especially this quarter, because I started it wanting to quit. I’m proud that i’m now beginning to incorporate this cancer, this new reality, into my life, that i’m telling more people, that I started this blog with such a positive message–I am a liver–even though sometimes, I feel mostly negative.
I’m exhausted by all I’ve been through in the last year and all that I will go through next year. I’m exhausted by doctor’s appointments, blood tests, pills, and scans. I’m exhausted by insurance, and bills, and pharmacies. I’m exhausted by the future, so I try not to think about it.
I’m thankful that I was diagnosed when I was, where I was. I’m thankful that though my cancer is rare, my doctors are up on the research, work together, and have treated many other patients with NETs. I’m thankful that I had and have health insurance, and that my family pretty much has the means to help me cover what the insurance doesn’t. I’m thankful that I have found mindfulness meditation, and re-found swimming, biking, yoga, cooking, music, and tea or decaf coffee, as valuable tools to help me stay relatively calm and collected.
I’m disappointed that it’s been a year and this isn’t over yet and there’s no end in sight. I think if you had asked me a year ago where I would be next year, I would say, “I’ll be finishing up my last year of grad school, dating this guy, living in this cool neighborhood, and oh–cancer? Well that was over months ago.” I’m disappointed that I might never get to say that last bit.
I’m blessed to have friends, family, sisters, support groups, and a therapist who help tremendously with all the emotions and annoyances that come with having cancer. I’m blessed that I can write–and that my blog readers are so supportive of my writing.
I’m frustrated that there hasn’t been a ton of research done on NETs and that my doctors are trying the best they can but they can’t tell me what will happen in the future. For example: Is a liver transplant the right way to go? My doctors don’t know, the research doesn’t know–how am I supposed to know? I’m frustrated that the health care policy class i’m taking this quarter can’t fix the problems with the health insurance and health care industries. I’m frustrated that in addition to having cancer, i’m stuck dealing with all the administrative bullshit that goes along with it.
I can’t think of another positive emotion, but: I’m sad.
It doesn’t feel appropriate to celebrate this cancerversary. I’m looking at my title–“happy cancerversary”–and wishing there was another way I could phrase it without sounding sarcastic. I’m a one-year “survivor,” yes, but, looking back, it doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment to have survived. I just did what I was told to do. I’m just plugging along. I am a liver.
P.S. I wrote more.