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breast cancer: sucks AND blows

“Dude, that totally sucks”

“Oh shit, that totally blows”

Sucks and blows. Words that seem to have opposite meanings, yet mean the same thing.

Today marks TWO years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and yes, it sucks and blows at the same time.

Once I digested the news of breast cancer, I decided right away I wanted to share what I was about to go through as a way to process what I knew was going to be a FUCKING JOURNEY. You can read my first post about the irony of getting the breast cancer diagnosis after climbing Mt. Rainier for the “Climb to Fight Cancer” for the Fred Hutchinson Research Center HERE.

Typing like I had Edward R. Murrow riding my ass became my outlet.

For two years, I have been in a groove, writing about everything from first appointments to surgeries to mental health, losing my hair, and everything in between. But lately? Lately, I just haven’t wanted to write, and I can’t tell you why. I have been feeling devoid of thought, yet can’t get my mind to stop swirling.

Even when you get to the ‘other side’ of breast cancer, meaning all the chemo, radiation and breast removal is done, you never really get that Julie Andrews moment in the hills. You are grateful to be alive, but it comes with a lot of trade off.

The fear of recurrence lingers like the regret of a bad one-night stand. I don’t know if that feeling will ever truly go away.

Looking in the mirror, my body reminds me on a daily basis of what it has been through. It looks and just feels weird. Where my boobs used to reside, I have two place holders, completely different sizes, deeply scarred and both hard as a teenage boy in sex-ed class. 

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, the stress, some of the treatments and the bi-lateral mastectomy led to a 30-pound weight loss. It is hard to put into words what a mind-fuck it is to lose weight in relation to a life-threatening disease. I am thinking about writing about that separately, because like most people, I used to obsess with whatever extra weight was on my body. I haven’t written about it, because I am still trying to reconcile it. One thing I know for sure: I would put the weight back on in a heartbeat if it meant not having had breast cancer. 

I have always been a physically active person, but the “fuck-cancer” drugs I take daily leave me achy, moody and gross. What one Twitter account I follow (@thankscancer) calls “side-effucks”. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful the drugs exist. They will hopefully make sure I die of old age, not cancer.

The past two years have been a whirlwind, full of fear, tears, pain, laughter and yes, hope.

I am utterly grateful for my family, especially my husband who has stood by my side through every emotion and physical change I have endured. He has held my hand, held my hair, and held my heart through it all.

I appreciate more than I can even articulate, the friends who have checked in and checked up on me. 

I know as I get farther away from breast cancer, it will get easier. I even had one breast cancer survivor tell me as time has gone on for her, she will sometimes forget she had it. I don’t know if I will ever get there, but that is okay. I am not in a hurry to forget. We all have our own experiences.

Despite the rosy description I have given so far, it hasn’t been all terrible. I have actually learned that life is indeed short, so I don’t sweat as much of the small stuff as I used to. I see things differently now and I try not to obsess over things that ultimately don’t matter. Do I still get annoyed by stuff? Sure, I’m not a robot for fuck’s sake. But I don’t obsess over losing an expensive set of earbuds, or breaking a favorite coffee mug. I acknowledge it, say “well, that happened” and move on. 

Breast cancer does suck and blow at the same time.

No doubt. 

But I have discovered things about me I’m not sure I would have otherwise: I have a deeply sick sense of humor. I let myself cry easily. I now say “yes” whenever possible, and not feel terrible when I need to say no. I try to forgive others as well as myself more easily. I am physically stronger than I ever thought was possible. I use the word “fuck” more liberally.

And I accept when things suck and blow at the same time (do with this one what you will…).