Friday the 13th is considered good luck for Italians! I should know I have Italian or specifically Sicilian background. I believe 17 is the number to watch, at least, that’s what Italians say… Hopefully you have had a lucky Friday!
Nothing to do with luck, but I finished my last radiation treatment today. It just so happened to fall on this day! It almost felt like it would never end. I have mixed feelings, glad, excited and anxious and even a bit sad. I am definitely glad it’s over. Kind of sad to say goodbye to all the wonderful staff at the hospital. Truly grateful for the level of care and attention they provided. Great bunch! I am excited to be able to get into some sort of “new” normal. I am anxious about what the future will hold. I think the time after treatment will require some adjustment. I just hope it isn’t too much of a challenge. I don’t expect to feel good about everything. So my “new” motto is go slow and give myself time to come to terms with everything that happened.
For example, they told me my skin may get worse before it’s better. Well it’s certainly looking pretty charred..like a rare piece of meat with dark edges! Also, who knew? Nipples can peel? Sounds nasty and sorry for any visuals you are getting! It isn’t too too bad but I have been told I have high pain tolerance. I need to avoid chlorine pools for a bit. I think salt water is fine…. So it may take several weeks to potential months for my skin to heal back to normal, if it does, at all. I also understand that fatigue may set in and possibly not immediately. I mean I was fatigued earlier when I first started treatment but haven’t been too bad lately. I rest when I need to… Plus I make sure to take a good walk everyday. Minnie my mutt makes me feel guilty if I miss a day… Exercise is suppose to help fatigue, go figure?! I can get really wiped out on occasion. I have to find my new normal. I have multiple medical appointments over the next few weeks as follow up.
I am not sure I like the word cancer survivor.. Survivor sounds like some emaciated figure staggering out from the gates of hell. All I know is that I have finished treatment and simply need to recover from active cancer treatment. I did survive the treatment! I feel good and still need to have tests to show no evidence of cancer. I am on maintenance therapy, and on active surveillance. I don’t like the word because survivor implies cancer is gone however anyone with cancer lives with the knowledge that it could come back at any time. Some individuals live for years with recurrences or even metastatic diseases and some people have diseases that never go on to be life threatening. Survivor just doesn’t sound like the right word to me. Maybe it should be Cancer fighter! That said, if someone calls me a survivor, I wouldn’t get offended and would just nod and smile.
I read a great article that Dr. Susan Love wrote that actually really resonated with me. She is best known for her work as a breast cancer surgeon and the author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. She wrote about her discomfort with the “survivor” word. I copied it below.
One of my friends says, “If you make it to lunch on the day of your diagnosis, you are a survivor” But not everyone can see herself that way. Overwhelmed with anxiety, some people see survivorship as some distant shore when cancer will be behind them.
To go back to my shipwreck analogy, everyone clinging to a bit of wreckage in the sea is a survivor as long as they are alive. Some people in that shipwreck died right away. Not everyone floating in the ocean will be rescued, but at any given point, all the people who are still alive are survivors. That’s how it seems to me, but I can understand how the folks who have just been thrown into icy water, aren’t ready to call themselves survivors until the rescue is accomplished.
Dr. Love says “**I am not a survivor; I am a woman living with cancer. ** It may be dormant for now, but there is always a possibility that it will reemerge and I have to live with that knowledge along with the consequences of my treatment. I will probably eventually die of something related to this diagnosis. This defines my reality and I can live with it!”
I just think cancer is insidious. Just because there is no detectible cancer doesn’t mean it isn’t biding it’s time. I don’t want to sound negative, this is just me being realistic or practical. I am sure some would prefer to see cancer as a disease they have beaten, an event in their past or something to move on from with their lives. It will always be in the back of my mind. I think the more months and years that go by where you have no evidence of cancer, it just may not be at the forefront of your mind.
Let me end this blog with some inspirational quotes:
Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You may not be where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be.
You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.
Be thankful for this day.
When it rains, look for rainbows When it’s dark, look for stars.
Optimism: someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster; it’s more like a cha-cha.
I had cancer, cancer never had me.
Cancer is a word, not a sentence.
Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.
Have a great weekend!
Happy Birthday to my dear friend Carol!! (who can’t even access this blog even though I gave her the link..lol)