Cancer steals so many things. Life and loved ones are the most obvious, but some things are more insidious.
It steals any sense of security one might have… about anything.
Many people have commented on how “great” I look, mostly in regards to my figure and the weight it seems I’ve lost since having Emmie. This should be wonderful and make me feel good (especially in our culture), but instead it makes me worry. One of the questions my oncologist always asks is about “unexplained weight loss.” Since I have exercised approximately never since having Emmie (other than long walks here and there), and I feel like I ate an enormous number of calories over the holidays, this makes me worry. Yes, I am breastfeeding, and yes, I’ve heard often that this can lead to the pounds melting away for some people, but still. I worry. What if this weight loss is NOT normal for a breastfeeding mother? How much is too much?
It steals any sense of normalcy one might have about normal biological functions. Everything, EVERYTHING slightly out of the norm is now subject to intense scrutiny. Headache? Watch that and make sure it’s not persistent because it might mean a recurrence. Back ache? Make sure it’s not bone pain because it might mean a recurrence. Weird spot? Bump? Mole? Take those bastards out because who knows what they could be. Even my hair loss (normal part of post-partum) was worrisome to me. Was it MORE than normal? How would I know? What if it MEANT something???
Cancer also steals any sense of security about the future. However, in some ways, I’ve come to see this theft as a blessing in disguise, perhaps in the same way some fire victims realize that all they lost were possessions.
For me, realizing that none of us are immune from sorrow or unexpected tragedy has freed me from some of the constraints of the myopic view that day-to-day life brings. When all you can see is the to-do list in front of you, you can lose sight of the bigger picture. I have a deep, deep understanding now of the fragility of our lives as we know them. It’s so very hard to put into words (but I will try, in another post), but I am grateful for the keen awareness now. It’s easier to make every day count when you are aware that your days are numbered (because all of ours are, we just don’t know how many are left).
So while the thief, cancer, has stolen so much from me and my family and left nary a branch of the family tree unscathed, I refuse to let it steal my joy. I refuse to let it steal the happiness of however many days I DO have left. I refuse to let it steal ME before I am finished with my most important job: raising a strong and intelligent daughter.
Jill D. said:
Shan, may I add something else that you should refuse to let cancer steal? The knowledge that you have made one hell of a difference in the lives of those around you. To people who are reading this blog, I suppose that they might see the ways in with others have supported you throughout all this–but I can never express how much support you've *given* to me over the past few months. You are an amazing friend, and while I would never, ever, ever in a million years wish this journey upon you, from what you've been through, you have provided me with understanding and comfort that is unparalleled. Thank you so very much for your love and friendship.