Four

Four years ago I had my followup appointment with my surgeon. My appointment was on Friday evening but that morning they called and asked if I could come in the afternoon instead. Shawn had planned to meet me at the surgeon's office after work. I told him not to bother to try to get off work early; I'd go by myself. Fortunately, Shawn and his boss were smarter than I was, and he was there when my surgeon told me the mass they'd removed from my neck was cancerous. 

Poppy is nearing the age Grady was when I started to get sick and it's affecting me in ways I didn't expect. When I was diagnosed, I went into action mode. We made treatment plans and nutrition plans and try-to-enjoy-life-even-though-it's-difficult-right-now plans. There wasn't a lot of time for reflection. Or rather, I didn't let myself delve too deeply into the emotions attached to being diagnosed with cancer while 30 years old with a 1-year-old baby. I distinctly remember telling my family to feel their feelings, just not on, or near, me. 

But now Poppy is a similar age and she's so small. You guys, Grady was so small. It all could have been so much more terrible. It's messing with my head. (I'm also spending today at the cancer centre for my routine tests so my head isn't in the best place to begin with. Scanxiety is a thing and it's a bitch.) 

Today is my fourth cancerversary. I have an excellent support team (both of the family / friend variety and the medical variety). I have a number of promising scans bolstering me as I trudge toward my 5-year mark. I have gratitude for what cancer has given me (an appreciation for what I have, and a severe decrease in my level of give-a-fuck for the minutiae of life) and optimism for what's to come. I still struggle sometimes (like today, when my head is full of angry bees and I feel like I need to itch myself out of my skin) but overall, four years after my life imploded in my surgeon's office, I'm just happy. Happy to be here. Happy my life is so full. Maybe it's boring or silly or weird to mark a cancerversary but to me, it's a celebration. I've come a long way in four years. Here's to many more.

A Little Bit Crazy

I went a little bit crazy after Grady was born.  

I don't use the word crazy lightly. And I don't mean any harm. If you are a little bit crazy - or a lot crazy - please know that I don't use the term in a negative or derogatory way. I think maybe we hesitate too much when it comes to talking about mental health. Much in the same way I refuse to refer to my cancer as "the big C!" or ::whispering, check over your shoulder to make sure it can't hear you:: "the C word," I won't be cute about my postpartum anxiety. 

I was obsessed with this idea of fitting my life back together the same way it was before Grady was born. I felt like an orange. I'd been peeled. I'd been separated into pieces. I could fit a segment or two back in place but there was no way I could put myself back together, wholly, completely, unscarred, and unscathed.  

A few weeks ago we ended up in labour and delivery after Lady Baby was suspiciously still for 12+ hours. I know that 12 hours is too long to wait but I've not felt a ton of movement throughout this pregnancy (thanks to an anterior placenta) so it wasn't obvious right away that something was off. Anyway. We got to the hospital and the nurses hooked me up to the monitor and within a couple minutes we could tell that everything was fine. My nurse was brusque and managed to both tell me off for not coming in sooner, and make me feel like a hysterical woman for coming in at all, all in the same sentence. I had to stay to be monitored for a few hours and the next time my nurse came to check me, her tone had softened. "Your chart says we're keeping a closer eye on you," she told me. I was bored and lonely and exhausted from being alone with my thoughts (hospitals make me panic) and I wanted her to stay and chat, so I asked if she was referring to my low iron. No. My low calcium? No. My molar pregnancy? No. My cancer? No. By this point we were kind of eyeing each other up like, what is this bird on about? "Your mental health," she finally told me. "We're watching out for your mental health."

It was strange and unexpected and a little comforting, if I'm being honest. I don't know if I'm going to go crazy - a little or a lot or maybe not at all - after I give birth this time but it's reassuring to know that my chart can be my voice, even if I don't know how to ask for help. Part of me feels like I've been through too much since Grady was born, there's no way postpartum hormones can bring me down if cancer can't. But as I approach my third cancerversary, the realistic part of me acknowledges the cumulative effect of the medical struggles I've faced. It has been exhausting. It has been challenging. It has shown me I possess strength I never dreamed I had, but it has also worn me out. Sometimes it is all just a little too much. 

So. As Lady Baby's birth day approaches, as I cross things off my list and think calming thoughts, and as I prepare to unpeel the wonky and slightly lopsided orange that is my put-back-together life, I'm trying to remember that we all struggle from time to time and it doesn't mean we're ungrateful for what we have. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, even if I am a little bit crazy. 

Two

Today is my second cancerversary. Recently I mentioned my cancerversary and someone asked why I celebrate the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I hadn't really thought that acknowledging it is celebrating it but maybe it is. Everything changed the day I was diagnosed. I changed. Toxic things and people and situations that had held space in my head and my heart for too long melted away. The things worth holding onto became crystal clear. That's not to say that I don't get distracted by bullshit now, I'm just better equipped to identify it and move on. Life is too short to waste emotional energy on people who aren't worth it (and you have to trust your gut to tell you who is worth it.) (Life is also too short to sleep on the ground, drink bad gin, eat diet ice cream, etc. The list grows.) So today I will celebrate clarity and strength and tenacity. It's been a tough two years but it's shown me I'm unbeatable. And I think that's worth celebrating.

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