Tag Archives: humorous

It’s Complicated…

When I see the phrase “it’s complicated”, I often wonder what makes a particular situation so complex or at the very least more complex than any other situation. It peaks my curiosity. When I see the phrase in the position of a relationship status, I want to know what could possibly be so complicated about your relationship. I always kind of just thought if you weren’t dating, you were single and if you were and it was exclusive, you were in a relationship. So does “it’s complicated” mean that you have imagined your significant other, that it is one sided other than an occasional impromptu rendezvous, is said other person married? Really how complicated are we talking?

The dictionary defines complicated as an adjective consisting of many interconnecting parts or elements; intricate. Synonymous with involved, convoluted, impenetrable, tricky, confusing, bewildering. None of which actually sound like the makings of a healthy functional relationship in the least. And yet as it turns out, I am in fact in a “complicated relationship” with my cancer. (Josh is easy, we are in a relationship albeit one that has a learning curve attached it is quite simple. We are exclusive and thus bound by the relationship title.) My cancer on the other hand requires the “it’s complicated” denotation. Sadly, my relationship with my cancer has been my longest relationship in years (overshadowing Josh by a solid six months). And it was definitely a relationship that surprised me, one I certainly could not have anticipated. Despite my trepidations in the beginning, I had good intentions of making it work (of course that was before I became a statistical anomaly). And well now, fourteen months later, I feel as though I unwillingly entered an arranged marriage and at the very least can hope for a quickie divorce in the near future. So what if I am already certain that this ‘first marriage’ of mine is just not working out for me after fourteen months. Celebrity marriages don’t even usually last this long. Plus it’s not like I picked Hodg, he picked me. And while I may be just as into “50 Shades of Gray” as the next woman, I do not love being in the submissive role to my far more dominant and powerful cancerous partner. Thus my end goal is an amicable divorce, or in medical terms remission. I have missed my opportunity for an annulment (or a cure) but a clear break is still entirely possible. So alas, I have begun the ‘divorce process’ by participating in the clinical trial to eradicate my impenetrable, convoluted, tricky other half.

So far the divorce proceedings are going surprisingly well. One never knows what to expect in a situation such as this one. I have had three sessions thus far and the results have been a bit of a mixed bag. I feel fantastic most of the time and am thankful that this transitional phase has done little in uprooting my daily routine and fun with friends and family. Recent disclosure has yielded great news of disappearing tumors and significantly lower inflammation rates which has made both Z and Dr. J very excited at the prospect of this new immunotherapy regiment for me. I couldn’t be more excited to think that a possible break up is in my future (even if I do have complete the 93 week trial)!  What I do know is that regardless, it won’t allow me to leave unscathed. Several weeks ago, I had to delay treatment because it induced a pneumonitis, rapid heart rate, and a thyroid condition which needed to be addressed before continuing treatments. So as with any complex situation there is always some bad accompanying the good. Who was I kidding? Did I really think I was going to get rid of Hodg so easily? I knew he wasn’t just going to hand over the keys to the house and take all of his junk with him. I acknowledge it’s going to be a process, but at this juncture it may be complicated but definitely doable. I have to admit this ‘first marriage’ has taught me a lot and I believe that even after our ‘divorce’ Hodg and I will continue our complicated love hate relationship.

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My New Normal

Mukherjee, author of the Emperor of all Maladies, had a patient that exclaimed her life after cancer was all about adjusting to a new normal. There is definitely something to be said for that. I am nowhere near remission (as far as I know), but my current state of living a ‘normal’ life with my cancer (in a cohabiting sense) is an adjustment. Cohabiting with anyone is an adjustment and my cancer and I often argue about who gets first dibs on time. Unfortunately, my cancer often wins by default because most of my appointments are non-negotiable, whether they are treatments or otherwise. I have to admit I find my cancer’s selfishness absolutely annoying, especially when it interrupts a perfectly lovely day to go get poked and prodded instead. Although, I can’t complain too much because at this juncture my cancer is somewhat lest demanding then when we first got together (Boston every three weeks until June, when it becomes every other week). But I suppose that happens, that you learn to adjust, to compromise, and to accommodate each other over time. It’s just like any relationship, in the beginning it seems all consuming but as time progresses you learn exactly how to coexist. Now my relationship with my cancer is obviously dysfunctional, I have to make it work and thus adapt to my new normal.

In addition from lobbying for time with my demanding cancerous partner, I also have to adjust to the little everyday things that come with this relationship. In any relationship there is generally some consideration for your appearance. In my mind I have always been fashion conscious, so that hasn’t changed but my overall appearance certainly has. My cancer forced me to go all Britney Spears during her crazy phase and now it has given me a whole new look. Pre- cancer I had light brown pin straight thin hair and suddenly I have very dark brown ashy wavy course hair that I have no idea how to style. It’s like relearning how to handle your own hair. So now I’m in a phase of trying out new products that I never needed before like styling paste and volumizing mousse and curl control shampoo. Steph always claims it took her nearly thirty years to get the right product and styling down, which means I’ll be in this phase for awhile. I also enjoy headbands like never before, they somehow make my short hair style full of cowlicks and unruly behavior somewhat more manageable. So my new normal also includes a fairly extensive headband collection, they’ll go great with my hundreds of scarves. I also have to be uber conscious about my skin regiment; moisturizers, vitamin e cream, sunscreen, etc. Hodgkin’s creates skin issues as do most of the treatments, so skin care is both a necessity and a process. I don’t think I’ve ever had so many products which add time to both my morning and evening routine. Aside from hair and skin care, my cancer has done very little to impact my overall appearance unless you consider the scaring from my biopsy sites and port and permanent tan on the back of my neck from radiation, but I only notice them when I notice someone else inadvertently staring at them. In other words, they are just part of my new normal.

Now I can acknowledge that prior to my cancer I wasn’t exactly ‘fit’ but I wasn’t exactly out of shape entirely either. I had been an athlete in high school, albeit not a very good one. But still an athlete. And in the months leading up to my cancer diagnosis and the affirmation of our cohabitation, I started noticing how difficult it was to walk up a single flight of stairs. And now after a year plus of treatments my new normal generally consists of taking the elevator when the option is available or reenacting my role as the tortoise in the tortoise and the hare fable. Now I know that slow and steady wins the race, but i will admit I’ve never been all that patient. So I have to rebuild muscle strength and that is going to be a long and slow process. I have been told that the extent of my ‘training’ can only be a 20 minute daily walk to start. I know that is reasonable, but when I set my mind to something I like to go all in so the restraint elements of this are tricky for me. So my new normal has also forced me into a slow and steady pace, but also recognizing the need to make life changes in regard to exercise and food. The food piece has been a learning curve. I ordered cookbooks and pinned a bazillion recipes on organic whole food eating. I stopped grocery shopping and had an organic delivery service bring food to me to help minimize processed foods. I drink a smoothie every morning with vegetable, fruits, superfoods, ginger, tumeric. It has been a whole new way of looking at my diet. This is not a fad but a necessary lifestyle change, so I can keep my cancer from taking up more of my space and time. And I know that these pieces will be part of my new normal even after my cancer.

My new normal looks a lot like my old normal in ways too. I still go to work every day (unless it’s a treatment day). I still have dinner and drinks with friends. I still binge watch Netflix and lounge on the couch. I still spend any chance I get outside with Jax when the weather is conducive. I spend quality time with my boyfriend doing silly things and just enjoying our ‘unexpected’ relationship. The only way my cancer has altered any of this is that I appreciate all of it so much more. So my new normal in some ways is better than my old normal. And once you’ve lived with cancer you can never go back to who you were without it!

(Sur)reality!

“The things I imagine cannot be real and yet the things that are real, I cannot imagine.”

Said by me.

So after surviving my night of scanxiety, my Dad and I trudged off to the hospital for my fifth PET scan since my diagnosis in March of last year. I recall my first PET experience much like a virgin might describe her first time, it was surreal. I remember taking in the backdrop, the lighting, noticing the aroma, and being surprised by the actual process. But at this point it was somewhat mundane, clearly the PET and I may need a healthy break from one another (of course if I’m being realistic we are stuck in some form of dysfunctional relationship for at least five years from when I can claim remission status). It became clear to me that we had been together far too long, when I could find my way around both the radiation oncology wing and radiology area practically blindfolded. If I had been blindfolded, it may have rekindled some of the excitement (clearly I need to stop watching the 50 Shades of Grey teaser). But I have to admit that the fact that I know my way around both the radiology wing and the cancer center with such ease seems surreal to me. A year ago, that would have been unthinkable and now it is a part of my everyday reality.

It’s interesting how the concept of one’s reality can be altered nearly instantaneously. (And suddenly I find myself longing for my old Philosophy text, hoping for some real explanation of the universe.) A year ago, things seemed much simpler, but they also seemed much more superficial. I wasn’t pleading with God on the nightly in hope that his will matched my dreams, in fact I think I had far less faith in my life than I do now, interestingly enough. I wasn’t really paying attention to the moments of my life, in some ways I think I was almost sleepwalking through them. I think that may be the reality for a lot of people who get lost in the rigamarole of our daily lives. We wake up to the alarm, work, run errands, have dinner, spend some abbreviated family time, sleep and repeat. It’s easy to get caught up and stop taking notice. This very surreal experience forces me to take stock in my very real life. And I’m glad, because I fully believe that being grateful has made me happy.

Other things I would never have imagined include my love of the headscarf. If I actually took the time to inventory my collection, it would easily surpass fifty scarves in all different shapes and sizes, oblong and infinity, patterned and solid, heavy and sheer, even glittery. It has become somewhat of a trademark for me. I have made it my mission to match my scarf to my attire. (I fully blame my mother for this OCD obsession.) So while losing my hair was part of my reality, I find my love for accentuating that loss somewhat surreal. Even more so is the number of people who want to touch your head as your hair comes back in. Susan, one of my favorite nurses joked about how this form of unwanted touching is much like being pregnant and the very unsolicited belly rubbing. I laughed, but admit I can see where that could be very true.  I also could never have imagined starting a relationship and falling in love all while fighting cancer. I could barely imagine it all, who am I kidding. I can’t even recount the number of times I told Steph over the past ten years that my future was looking like me and a couple of Golden Retrievers. So while Josh is my reality, the whole idea of it is still very surreal to me. Another surprise for me was the relationships I have forged with the people who are a part of my cancer world, other fighters, survivors, and the oncology nurses and doctors. We all swap emails and recipes and sometimes even go out for drinks. The community aspect is surreal and real at the same time.

So now onto my very real news about my PET scan. What I know is that I have significantly less cancer than I did. Nearly 90% less. Which no matter how you look at it I call that #winning. In fact I was really excited because I thought that this would mean I would be downgraded to stage 1. But it turns out, it doesn’t work that way. You remain at the stage of your clinical diagnosis. I responded that categories of hurricanes are down graded and while most agreed that the analogy I chose to use was fitting for my personality it had no bearing on my stage. I find this reality frustrating, primarily because I always liked to get the better grade. When I was in high school I would even argue to get those few extra points if I thought my view was valid. Despite my arguing, I remain a Stage 2. But it feels great to know that I am a stage 2 with very little if any active disease. See at this point the results of the scan are slightly ambiguous. The small highlight may be the result of inflammation caused from radiation. Generally following radiation it is customary to wait nine weeks for a scan, but due to the stubborn nature of my cancer they opted to test early. Unfortunately that means I have to wait for additional eyes to review my scan before an official decision is made, so here I wait. But from where I stand I call Door Number 4 (Radiation) a success and now I just have to wait and see what the next level has to offer. The excitement around this small victory feels surreal even though the reality is that I still have more fighting to do. But at least I won this round!