past-present-future

It was just over a year ago that I was told my cancer had become inoperable, that they could give me chemo to slow down the inevitable, and that without treatment I had maybe a year to live. I later found out that this idiot oncologist hadn’t even read my biopsy results, she had just assumed (as the surgeons had done) that the “buckshot” mess found on my peritoneum during my second operation was cancer –  it turned out to be old scar tissue. Anyhow, this is one of the many reasons she is now my ex-oncologist.

Since then I have had another recurrence, have gone through chemo again (April-July) and am now living on a “wait & watch” basis, with scans being done every three months…

I can’t tell you how much that wrong diagnosis affected me; indeed has never left me. And although I am very happy to still be here more than a year later, feeling relatively hale and writing this blog post, I basically live with my heart in my throat most days. People seem to think I’m so strong & brave, that I have such a great attitude, that I look well & healthy … but I know that I am dying and, quite frankly, that scares the shit outta me. And I know that I am alone with this, and that makes me feel terribly sad at times.

Yeah yeah, I know I’m not dying today, for which I am very grateful. And I am probably not going to die within the next six months (I hope!), but I have stage IV cancer – a terminal illness – and anything could happen. Including a really extra long remission that could last years, yes, I know that’s possible. But there is also an equally good chance (50/50 – remember?) that my next recurrence won’t be as treatable, that the cancer might spread even further, and other scary scenarios. I don’t dwell on this consciously, meaning that I don’t spend time thinking about what might happen. In fact, I hardly ever think about it. But I feel it. I feel the fear almost every waking moment.

I deal with this in various ways. Distraction therapy, going to the gym, a few glasses of wine,  good food, keeping active, keeping interested, focusing on my cats and friends … but I still wake up in the night feeling alone and scared. I can’t remember the last time I had a good night’s sleep.

During the day I try to focus on things other than my neuropathy-affected feet and fingers, the port in my chest, and the pain in my rather extensive scar area (which has actually been quite bad this past week) … but I find myself drifting and unable to stay with one project long enough to make any noticable headway. So added to the fear is self-loathing, because I am being weak and not doing better. Not achieving enough. I go to bed feeling so disappointed in myself. And then I don’t sleep.

How much of this can be blamed on cancer and chemo side-effects, and how much of it is just me being weak? All I know is that I try so hard to make every day count and be something special, and so often I let myself down. I don’t let myself “wallow” – in fact, self-pity is one thing I don’t do and I am rather proud of that. But I do get overwhelmed, or let myself get overwhelmed … you see? I can’t tell the difference anymore.

And I am writing this here today because I am really really happy that I’m still alive a year after having been given a death sentence.  But I am also letting you know that I’m not always okay and so, if I ever come across weird in an email or during an IM chat or in a blog comment, maybe you could cut me a bit of slack? Or check with me before writing me off? Because that’ll be the fear talking. You don’t know how much it means having people stick with me. I’ve lost more than a few “friends” over the past year or so.

I am still “the az” who loves doing geeky things, is in love with my cats and Sevilla, and who looks at life as a happy challenge to be met. It’s just that some days are better than others, you know? But I am always trying …

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