This guy is going to be the mascot for the “Make Jamie Great Again” movement. Get on board, people!
I’ve been struggling with what to write about what should be this post-chemotherapy new world. I’m grateful and excited and optimistic, but there’s nothing really new about this world after chemotherapy. I’m really just returning to the world as it was before I started chemotherapy. Which is fine by me, but I feel like maybe there’s this expectation that as someone who’s gotten through twelve rounds of chemotherapy that maybe I should see everything in a new light…or that things might go differently than before and that I might have some new insights to share with you about that. But I don’t. I think this is because I didn’t have any huge problems lingering in my life before being diagnosed with cancer. I’ve learned that cancer puts a big spotlight on those issues and if they were hidden, they come out of hiding to cause some damage…as if you needed more problems after getting a cancer diagnosis. I’m not speaking from experience, just reflecting on the stories of others.
For example, if you have crappy friends before cancer that you just put up with, suddenly you find that you can no longer justify how crappy those friends are and they flee given the news of your diagnosis. Or, if you’re in an unstable relationship, maybe the girlfriend/boyfriend leaves because they’re not sure how to deal with your diagnosis. Or maybe the problem is you – maybe you’re not a particularly good person and you come to find out this harsh truth when you finally decide to confide in others who aren’t so willing to lend an ear…or a helping hand.
These are all terrible things to go through when you’re also dealing with a cancer diagnosis, but they totally happen! I’ve been reading about them for months and I feel really sorry for these people. But also, these are the types of cancer survivors that have this whole new insight once they’ve crossed the finish line. They see the error of their ways. They finally make efforts to turn their life around now that they’ve been given a second chance. And I applaud them for that, obviously. It’s just that I don’t have a story like that.
I’m surrounded by amazing friends and family. I didn’t lose anyone when I found out I had cancer. I didn’t realize that I’d been a horrible person this whole time (but you’d tell me if I was, right?). I mean, I’m not impervious, I do put a lot more value in my close relationships, but that wasn’t a big leap for me to make. It just kind of refocused me a bit more. That’s about all I can say for this post chemo world. I’m a bit more refocused. But I feel like it’s the same thing anyone would say after an extended leave of absence or a sabbatical of some sort.
So there’s that. I guess I do have a couple other realizations that I’ll share with you. That’s what happens when you start writing…these things just come to you.
I feel incredibly lucky
Okay, maybe you wouldn’t consider me lucky…you might even consider me maybe the most unlucky person you know. I don’t know. But I really do feel lucky in the sense of how I experienced my chemotherapy and how I felt throughout treatment. I’ve listed my side effects for you all a couple of times on here, and they’re not great. But to be honest, they could have been so much worse. I feel lucky I didn’t have any dangerous reactions to the chemo. I feel lucky that my body so readily accepted the drugs and worked so quickly on all of the millions of cancerous cells in my body. I feel lucky that other than the first few weeks of chemotherapy, I was able to get to sleep at night…lying flat on my back in my bed. That wasn’t a thing I could do for about a month before! I feel lucky that I really only needed a couple of pills to minimize my side effects and even then it was just on the bad weeks. I feel lucky that my good weeks made me feel like a brand new person. I feel lucky that even though I can’t go out in public, that I live in this amazing neighborhood where I can hang out with my family or take long walks if I want. I feel lucky, yes LUCKY that my only time being admitted to the hospital was for pneumonia, not because of something even more dangerous. And finally, I feel super lucky that I have such amazing caregivers and people who stepped up to help me and my family throughout my treatment.
I’m a minimizer
You might have gotten a sense of this from the above. Maybe you feel like it’s a #humblebrag. It might be. I’m not that humble. But I am a minimizer of achievements. Don’t get me wrong, I’m gracious. I say thank you when someone gives me a compliment, but if it’s for something I achieved I usually follow that up with “Thank you! But seriously, anyone could have done this.” I know I’m not alone on this. And this isn’t unexpected for me. From the moment I accomplished my first half marathon…the thing I had thought was the hardest thing to do EVER IN LIFE…I had this feeling like, “Well geez, if I can do it, then anyone can do it.” I mean seriously, my first half marathon I think I ran 30% of it and walked the rest because I did a really poor job at training and I kind of fractured my ankle (It’s a long story)…but I still went through with it. My time was atrocious, obviously, but I finished it. I got a medal and everything. And instead of thinking “Heck yeah! I have perseverance! I can do this! I am awesome!”…mostly I thought to myself, “Wow…they must just give these medals away. Seriously, I was like a snail out there. And I’m not even remotely fit right now. I even saw speed walkers pass me. So really, if I can do this, then LITERALLY anyone can do this.”
And then that little minimizing voice just kept going and going each time I would reach a new height of accomplishment. Chemotherapy was definitely a new height for me. Before I’d gone through it, I didn’t know a lot of people that had gone through it. Pretty much just my sister. So she was a rockstar in my mind. She went through (I think) eight rounds of chemotherapy and then also had radiation after that. She did it when she was 23 and I thought (and still think), “HOLY CRAP, SHE WAS SO STRONG TO GO THROUGH THAT!” And a part of me can see the ridiculousness that I don’t hold myself to that level of awesomeness, but there’s still that minimizing voice inside me that once again says, “If you can do twelve rounds of chemo, then LITERALLY anyone can do twelve rounds of chemo. There is nothing special about you that makes you more impervious to chemo than other people. It’s a thing people do all of the time.” So yeah, that’s kind of where my mind’s at on that. And if you congratulate me, I will be gracious, but just know that I secretly also believe that anyone could do what I do and that I’m not more special because of my experience. I’m just sayin.
The kid gloves can come off now…if you’re ready.
I got a lot of help while I was going through treatment. So this last week or so has been an interesting transition point. I’ve been trying to transition out of “helpless, sick Jamie” into “MAKE JAMIE GREAT AGAIN!” haha. I kid. But there’s some truth to it. This will be my last week of being neutropenic and I’m excited to both get out into the world and take on a bit more responsibility. And I’m ready. Really ready. It’s Wednesday of my good week. My last good week (I mean…they’re all good weeks after this week so that’s not a bad thing, it just doesn’t require a name anymore). I’m ready to go out with friends. I’m ready to go to a movie with my family. I’m ready to split our parenting duties a little more evenly again. I’m ready to help out when needed or take on projects. I’m ready to get back to work. I’m ready to go back to how life was before I was diagnosed with cancer. But I’ve found that maybe not everyone else is on the same page. I think some people may still walk on eggshells around me, and it’s not really up to me to force them into my “Make Jamie Great Again” mantra, so this is my formal way of saying…you can take off the kid gloves…if you’re ready. If you’re not, I’ll be understanding…up to a certain point. Because just like our presidential election, “Make Jamie Great Again” is happening whether you like it or not. I mean, I hope you like it. Let’s hope it’s less controversial. If anyone wants me to continue to be sick, I encourage you to stop reading this blog. Did that make sense? I hope so. Now I’m going to go start my “Thank You” tour. 😉
A lot of awkward conversations in my future.
One of the great things about being a shut in for six months is OF COURSE that I don’t have to wear makeup most days, but also, I haven’t had to deal with “the public” for a really long time. I don’t have to think about if I’m getting weird looks…which for the record I really don’t get because I never lost all my hair…and to be honest, I’m not perceptive enough to notice these things even if I was getting weird looks. I digress.
But anyway, I haven’t had to think about…how to explain the last six months if and when it comes up in conversation with people who don’t know what I’ve been going through. But all of that is about to change, very soon.
Yesterday, for example, I was out taking Max for a walk and we met a new dog named Bella who was a full on German Shephard. She is only a year old, but she’s a beautiful creature. Her owner and I talked about the dogs and training and where the good dog parks were and I was super happy to meet a new neighbor that shared this common interest. We introduced ourselves and told each other a little about our families and how long we’d lived in the neighborhood…normal stuff…and then it just kind of came up. No, I don’t introduce myself by immediately telling people I had cancer, but then I had treatment and now I’m good. That seems supremely awkward and way too much info for an initial introduction. This is how it came up.
Her: Oh so your son, does he go to 4k at Donges Bay elementary?
Me: Actually no. We decided to just do the 4k program through his daycare…well…because…I had cancer…BUT I GOT TREATMENT AND I’M GOOD….I’M GOOD!…but to cut down on germs and new environments, we decided to keep him where he’s at, and he’ll just start there for Kindergarten next year.
Her: Oh man, well I’m glad everything is good!
Me: Yes. Totally good. I’m going back to work in January, and I’ll be working from home for the next couple months.
Her: Oh that’s great! Especially when you have a puppy.
Me: Yes, for sure!
Now, you…being a more eloquent person than I…may have found a better way to have that conversation go down. Or…you may have decided that it’s really none of this new person’s business to know WHY we decided to keep him at his current daycare and been okay with that. Well, I am not you and I am not that forward thinking. So yeah, there will be a lot more awkward conversations in my future. With new people. With coworkers. Just in general, I suppose. It’s a part of my life that I now have to give as an elevator speech and make sure I don’t leave the person feelings of dread in about 10 seconds of time. It’s weird. And obviously I haven’t perfected it yet.
Look at the time…
Okay, this post got super long and I need to take Max for a walk, so I’m going to table chemo karaoke and some other topics for another post. Have a great Wednesday!