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Seriously, I'm Not Mad
Seriously, I’m not mad - even after being diagnosed in 2007 with a quick-moving, invasive breast cancer. Even after initial treatments were no cake walk - surgery, chemotherapy, radiation that in total took a year to get through. I’m not mad - even after surgery left me with scars and chronic lymphedema in my right arm - both which were disfiguring and remind me every day of cancer. Even after years of tamoxifen, a.k.a. hormone therapy, caused estrogen levels to drop so that cancer has a hard time coming back. But it also meant that I was tired, I gained weight and I had multiple really uncomfortable uterine biopsies because of bleeding (a side effect of tamoxifen). I’m not mad - even after opting to have a hysterectomy - no uterus/no uterine bleeding/no uterine cancer. I’m not mad - even after more (post-hysterectomy) hormone therapy. Even after multiple visits to the ER to treat cellulitus - a dangerous skin infection that is a real risk in limbs affected with lymphedema.
I’m not mad - even after varied surgeries to reduce swelling from lymphedema in my right arm meant difficult recoveries leaving me with scars that need to be stretched and smoothed years after the initial surgeries. Even after reconstructive breast surgeries left me feeling less not more attractive. I’m not mad - after learning that my original breast cancer metastasized and showed up in the bone of my left femur/hip. Even after more radiation and more hormone therapy. I’m not mad - even though the targeted drug therapy (Ibrance) drops my white blood cell count and makes me quite tired all the time. I’m not mad - even though Stage IV cancer causes me to think more than I did before about end-of-life, life, living, not living.
I’m well aware that I have every right to be mad. I really know that. But that is simply not the way I’ve ever felt since hearing the life-changing words - “you have cancer,” both in 2007 and in 2021. I’ve tried really hard to will myself to feel mad, get mad, be mad. But I just haven’t been able to do it, to feel it, to be it. I’ve seen others get mad but nope, I can’t and don’t have the desire to get mad. I know that I could say “F-ck Cancer” a million times a day, scream at the top of my lungs, clench my fists and stomp - no one would think I was being irrational or unreasonable. I realize it empowers, feels good, is cathartic for many - it just hasn’t and isn’t a part of my experience. Maybe eventually it will be; maybe it won’t.
I’ve talked about it in therapy, wondered about it and have decided that it’s OK that I haven’t embraced that emotion. And it’s not like I’m in denial about my history related to cancer. My mind is processing, considering and thinking about cancer every day, many times a day. I’m reminded of it every time I see myself in the mirror - scars on my right arm, in my right arm pit, alongside, under and on my breasts, in the crease between my torso and left leg. Lately I’m reminded of it because my left outer hip is usually sore and tight - likely due how radiation affected the tissues around the tumor. I’m reminded at monthly appointments for bloodwork, check-ins with my doctor and prescription pick ups from the specialty pharmacy - because you just can’t get Ibrance from CVS or Walgreens. And PET scans every three to four months certainly remind me about cancer because it’s when I know if the existing tumor is active or if new spots have shown up elsewhere in my body because that’s a real possibility with the kind of cancer I have.
I have feelings, lots of them. Sometimes I’m sad and afraid. Sometimes I’m ambivalent; other times accepting. Sometimes I’m relieved and grateful. Sometimes I’m anxious. But mad just hasn’t been one of them, seriously.
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