Parking Woes

I had an appointment at the cancer centre today. I’ve been seeing my oncologist for six years and it hasn’t gotten easier. I’m a mess of nerves, I don’t sleep much the night before my appointment, I’m snappy and weepy, and I eat a lot of carbs.  

I say that the cancer centre has the worst parking lot I’ve ever encountered, but I’m not sure if that’s because it’s a truly crappy parking lot or if it’s so terrible because it’s the parking lot of a cancer centre. I’m not in a great headspace to begin with, I’m in no mood to forgive too-tight stalls and endless one-way lanes. 

Usually I park on the other side of the hospital in the shiny, new parkade but today I decided I had arrived early and should take the opportunity to conquer my foe. I pulled into the terrible parking lot and immediately spotted the one remaining empty space. I was stuck in a maze of one-way lanes but I dutifully followed the path of arrows until I turned the last corner just in time to see someone drive quickly the wrong way down a one-way lane and zip into my spot (MY spot). I drove slowly by, giving them the stink eye the entire time, and quickly exited the terrible parking lot. I drove around the hospital and parked in my usual lot, continued walking around the other side of the hospital, and made it to my clinic with approximately 30 seconds to spare. 

The moral of the story is: sometimes things are just terrible and you don’t have to prove you can best them. Sometimes it’s okay to just park in the easy lot, even if it means you have to walk farther to reach your destination.  

National Cancer Survivors Day

Today is National Cancer Survivors Day and you will be shocked to hear that I have some feelings about this day.

On one hand, I see the value in celebrating survivorship. I have benefited from the visibility of other survivors, and I’ve been told by others that being transparent with my story has helped them. Hope, when paired with a healthy dose of pragmatism, is a valuable tool when facing a diagnosis. I think talking about cancer openly removes some of the fear and misinformation. Cancer doesn’t always mean a death sentence.

But sometimes cancer is a death sentence and celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day feels a bit itchy and uncomfortable when I start to think about all the people who aren’t here today, who don’t get to call themselves a survivor, who receive the unfortunate label of “lost their battle with *insert type of cancer here*.”

This post by Lisa Bonchek Adams is forever etched on my heart, especially this line:

When I die don’t say I “fought a battle.” Or “lost a battle.” Or “succumbed.”

Don’t make it sound like I didn’t try hard enough, or have the right attitude, or that I simply gave up.

Today I’m thinking about my fellow members in this crappy club no one wants to be a part of, and remembering those who would give anything to be part of this club if it meant one more day with their loved ones.

Broken

When I had cancer, no one told me to just think positively and I would get over it. No one told me to use diet and exercise, to get more sleep, to focus on the good things in my life, to stop dwelling on the sad things, to change who I choose to spend time with, to meditate, and I would be healed. I was sick. I got treatment. People accepted it as what was going on in my life. 

I don't have a thyroid. I take a tiny pill every day. If I stop taking that tiny pill, I will die. No one tells me that I am weak because I need to take that tiny pill. No one rolls their eyes or judges my inability to live without taking that tiny pill. No one makes me feel unworthy for relying on that tiny pill to stay alive. My body was broken. That tiny pill fixes the brokenness and allows me to live a healthy life. 

If you are depressed or anxious, if your brain is broken, you deserve that same respect. You deserve to feel like seeking treatment, asking for help, taking that tiny pill (or talking to a therapist, or meditating, or whatever it is that makes you feel better) is a viable, valuable option. You are worthy. You are important. You deserve to feel better. 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
Pacific Post Partum Support Society: 1-855-255-7999

 

Five

Five years ago I sat in my surgeon's office and heard him tell me I had cancer and then...nothing. I don't remember anything after that. My world shrank to the size of those two syllables and all of a sudden I couldn't see past that afternoon.  

I was a few months into a fresh decade. My thirties were supposed to be filled with big dreams and opportunities and adventure. My diagnosis turned it all upside down. 

Life has a funny way of keeping on keeping on. Even when I felt like I was taking one step forward and two steps back, days turned into weeks and then months and years. I've not wished away the last five years but I have had this date tattooed on my heart.  

Five years is the magic number. Five years means my risk of recurrence has dropped dramatically. Five years means big dreams and opportunities and adventure don't need to be tempered by test results or specialist appointments. Five years means I can breathe again.  

Five years isn't a guarantee of anything (the first person to tell me we could all be hit by a bus tomorrow gets a punch) but it is a comfort. I can wrap those five years up in a box and tuck them away. Life will keep on keeping on but now I feel like I can start making plans instead of being swept along in the terrible current that is cancer.

I have been cut open and sewn back together. My body is scarred and soft in some places and gnarled and rough in others. But I'm standing strong, five years later, bolstered by the love and support thrown at me from every corner of my life. Cancer has taken a lot from me but it's also filled me with gratitude and a deep appreciation for the different ways people show up. Today is a celebration of my five years, yes, but it's also a celebration of the amazing people in my life who kept my life keeping on keeping on. Y'all, we did it. Five years. 

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