Jay-z’s lyrics to 99 Problems has absolutely no resemblance to my life at all, but the chorus is catchy and can totally be manipulated to work for what I wanted it to. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, it sort of consumes your life. In some ways it has to as you run around for appointments and treatments and in other ways it seems to be what everyone wants to talk about when they see you. Everyone asks “how are YOU doing?” meaning how are you doing dealing with your new found cancer status. It becomes less about you as a person and more about your cancer. But the thing is you are still just you. When people ask how I am, I often respond great and ask how they are in return. Some people even appear baffled by my nonchalant happy demeanor. To be honest during my initial treatment (ABVD), I rarely thought about my cancer at all. I was too busy enjoying my life and working. I do think about it more often now that I am facing this life changing procedure (my auto stem cell transplant) but even still it is far from the only thing on my mind. All of my neuroses that existed still exist now, because like I keep telling people “cancer doesn’t change that”.
Your life goes on as it always did regardless of your cancer. After all your life was taking place when your cancer was hiding, so just because it has gone public doesn’t necessarily mean that everything else has changed. At the end of the day I am still far too sarcastic, I have workaholic tendencies, a slight hoarding problem, a shopping addiction, a book problem (I buy them like they are going out of style, and thanks to e-readers some day they just may.), I am a commitment phobe, have trust issues, and am probably one of the most stubborn people on the planet. Oh and did I mention I’m terrible with money and am somewhat of a perfectionist. So to channel Jay-z, I have 99 issues and cancer ain’t 1. This was the gist of the conversation I had with my new man friend. I can’t imagine why anyone in their right mind would want to date me without even factoring in cancer, but lucky for me he does.
I have always struggled with the dating scene, primarily because as a workholic you have little to no time to actually date. I tried the whole online thing, because Steph convinced me that it was the only way. She had doubts that the man of my dreams would break down in my driveway and knock on my door or sweep me off my feet in our local bookstore. And since I was about the furthest thing from a barfly, she was probably right. As a matter of fact, I had met someone just a few weeks before my diagnosis and he was a great distraction from all of it. And in some ways I was a little upset that my cancer diagnosis came on the heels of my first attempt at dating in a very long time. Needless to say my cancer diagnosis and his own issues abruptly ended any ideas for moving forward. So I pretty much abandoned the thought of dating or men in general. I figured I’d pick it back up a year from then when my cancer was gone and maybe I had worked out some of my other baggage. But the age old expression “when you least expect it” rang true in my case.
My cancer diagnosis led me to reconnect with a guy I once dated in college over 10 years ago. He facebook messaged me about my head scarf photo and I sarcastically commented on how it didn’t mean what he thought, ‘that I had converted to Islam’. After that conversation, we started talking more regularly and found that we were still able to communicate really well. He recently drove across the state to visit me and we had an awesome weekend of dates. But after dinner on the night that he arrived, I asked him what his intentions were. If I didn’t mention prior, being blunt might just be number 98 on my list of issues. Of course he likes that about me, because it takes the guesswork out of things for him. He told me his intentions were honorable, you know the usual…we are friends, I wanted to show my support…yada yada. But then he said he always kind of wanted a second chance at us and well that I got my attention. (Not to mention he had already won me over by bringing a bag of tennis balls for Jax, my Golden.) I was surprised that anyone would want to get involved with me at this point. He already knew most of my previous baggage, so to each his own, but cancer on top of those 99 other things. I didn’t exactly consider myself a catch, but he does. So in the midst of having cancer and preparing for a stem cell transplant, I have also decided to try being in a relationship for the first time in years. Because honestly this is still my life right now and cancer can’t take that away from me. And so far, I’m very lucky. My new man friend (because the word boyfriend terrifies me) is a great guy, who even sent me chocolate covered fruit for absolutely no reason. He obviously knows the way to a woman’s heart is through chocolate.
So while my 99 other issues might get in the way, my cancer won’t.