Gotta keep on keepin' on.......

Cancer again...that's 3 times in 2 years. This time it’s not breast cancer, but a new one called squamous cell carcinoma. New cancer, same old fighting spirit! My blog is still named for one of many songs that kept me going the first time around. Driving home from an upsetting appointment, I turned on the radio just as this line from Steve Miller Band's Jet Airliner was playing: "I've got to keep on keepin' on" I did just that. And I'll do it again.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Just a regular girl

Feeling like a regular girl again! These last 2 weeks have been great. I really needed that long break from chemo. I wasn't disappointed that my next scheduled treatment fell the day after Thanksgiving, when the cancer institute was closed.

Having an extra week to "recover" from treatment has made a difference. It wasn't physically that I needed a break, more mental. It would only take me a few days to feel better after chemo, and I'd go along my merry way, life pretty much as usual, but before I got too comfortable getting back to a normal routine, I'd get hit again with another treatment.

I realized that I was feeling like a normal person again on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. It happened in Macy's. My sister Susie, my personal fashion consultant, had offered to go jean shopping with me. I had been complaining that I don't have any jeans that I could wear in public without being ridiculed, that I have no sense of fashion, and that I can't be trusted to shop alone. Of course, the Friday after Thanksgiving is probably not the best time for me to be out, with the crowds and the germs a-flyin', but I was willing to take that risk. Susie was leaving early Saturday morning and I wanted to take advantage of her style sense. Our brother David went along, to keep us company and probably also to escape the noise of our busy house.

So we were in Macy's and had great success finding jeans for me plus a few shirts to go with them. Then Susie reminded me that Mom and Dad wanted to buy me a winter coat for Christmas, so we moseyed over to try on some coats. On the way, my hair got all staticky (correction: Audrey-Angelina got all staticky. She's the wig that makes my head look big. I had decided to wear her in public that day, in hopes of conquering my fear of looking like a fat-head.) There I stood, in the middle of the coat section in Macy's, with synthetic hairs standing straight up all over my head! It was a sight. Even though my regular hair would have done the same thing, I didn't appreciate that my un-favorite wig was doing it too. I was embarrassed. So what does my brother do, but reach over with his index finger and touch my hand. ZZZZZttt! He gets a shock. So Susie tries. ZZZZttt! Another shock. They keep touching me and getting shocks, and it was annoying because I got shocked too, but at the same time it was absolutely hysterical. I couldn't help but laugh. We all did.

And that's when it struck me: I AM a regular girl! David and Susie would have done that to me when I was healthy. Why would they not just because I'm "sick"? It was exactly what I needed! I had been letting myself feel sick, with so many people taking care of me, making a fuss over me, some even acting like I'm about to keel over. I don't mean to sound rude or ungrateful, because I'm really not. I know people are worried and want me to get better, and I truly appreciate everything everyone has done for me. My getting better and feeling so rested is directly related to everyone's prayers, to my family being here almost non-stop to help out, to my neighbors bringing us dinner twice a week, and to all the caring phone calls and letters and emails I've received. I know you're all rooting for me, and I know it's helped. But there's a difference between showing concern and making me feel like I'm sicker than I am: It happened a few weeks ago, when we had some guests over, and a friend of the family (meaning well, I know) made a big show, commenting on how great my coloring is, and how my eyes have that spark back in them (I don't think the spark ever went anywhere, and how she'd know anyway, I'm not sure, as I hadn't seen her in over 6 months), and why don't I just sit down so I don't tire myself out? I know she meant well, but the kind of fuss she was making over me only made me feel small and frail, wondering if I should go back to bed. I'm sure I sound terrible complaining about it, because like I said she meant well, but honestly I just need to be treated like a regular person. Encouraging me to rest is understandable, and I do need to be reminded not to overdo it sometimes, but making a big production about it, especially in front of the kids (who know I'm sick with "booby cancer" but don't see me as an invalid) is counter-productive.

Am I really that sick? Yes, I suppose I am. The doctors wouldn't have rushed me to the Infusion Room for chemotherapy if this was an innocent little lump. But do I have to BE sick just because I have cancer? Definitely not! I don't look sick (at least I don't think I do). I can drive, I can cook, I can meet Emma at the bus stop and pick up Leah at preschool. I can wake up in the wee hours to tend to baby. I can chase Frances around the house to try to get her to sit on the potty. I can even rake leaves, something I did this weekend. It felt great. Of course I have moments (or days) when I'm tired and can't do all of these things, and that's OK. I'm learning to stop before I wear myself out, and I'm learning to ask for help if I need it. I just don't want to be made to feel like I should be spending my days in bed, curled up in a ball.

Thanksgiving Day, we were invited to my Aunt Mary's and Uncle Jack's for dinner. My cousin Kevin and his wife Jennifer and their three children (close to Emma, Leah, and Jesse's age) were there, and my Aunt Ann came over too. I enjoyed every minute of our visit. The food was delicious and the afternoon was fun. The kids all got along (plus it was nice for Leah, who doesn't have a lot of playmates on our street, to have a girl her age to pal around with. I think they had fun antagonizing their older siblings).

It was just like when we were little, and David, Susie, and I would have a great time playing with our cousins while the grownups chatted at the dinner table. The only difference was that I was one of the grownups, so I couldn't run around the house playing hide-and-seek (although I did, briefly, and so did Susie). We talked a little about the cancer (I never tire of sharing my progress), but it did not dominate the afternoon. Everyone asked how I was feeling and they were glad to hear I was feeling fine. No one fell all over me, insisting I sit down or eat something, and I was so grateful for that. I didn't feel like I had cancer. I just enjoyed being with family.

Friends are great, too, for making me forget that I'm "sick". I spent a delightful, I'm-really-not-that-sick afternoon with my girlfriends a few weeks back. It was in October, the day after I got my buzzcut. Christine and Susanne stopped by to see how I was doing. That afternoon, my husband had taken Emma and Leah to the pumpkin patch, Frances and Jesse by some small miracle were both taking long naps, and my parents were off visiting my aunt and uncle, so my friends and I had a nice long chunk of quiet time to catch up on gossip and life's happenings. I think we talked a little about my cancer but it didn't fill the room. They ooohed and aahhhhed over my ponytail wig and when I showed them my crewcut, they told me I looked attractive. They think I have a nice-shaped head. Good friends know just what to say. It was really cool just hanging out, feeling normal. The best therapy.

And that's how I felt, once again, in the middle of Macy's with my brother and sister. Nothing like being silly with your siblings to make you forget all about your problems. They helped me remember that I'm still me. I'm not an invalid. I may have cancer, but I'm still a regular girl.


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