When I was 36 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer, which makes it sound like it was AGES ago, but I'm only soon to be 39. I am not trying to bring the blog down...you know how I like to keep it superficial and cynical, but recently I've had a lot of people ask me how cancer changed my life, and I found myself unable to effectively articulate the answer. This caused me quite a bit of anxiety because I think there is an expectation that I should be able to say "well, I'm now running 5 miles a day, avoiding soy products, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, and coffee, volunteering at the ACS, starting my own business, and, oh, by the way my book on my fabulous, sexy, diva cancer experience is going to be published next month.” Because I love these people for having the courage to ask me this question and listen to my rambling answer, I hope you might indulge me one meandering, semi-serious, and most likely uncohesive, entry as I explore the question "how has cancer changed your life." There are the obvious changes to my physical world - I lose my words when speaking, I have to make lists or I forget, it takes a lot more concentration to understand complex concepts (which sucks because that's basically my job), there are scars on my body which are inconveniently placed when selecting summer clothes, and coffee, chocolate, and red wine top my list of “eat at your own risk” foods. But true change takes sustained energy as well as the ability to process the experience. When in the midst of treatment each day brings a new symptom, 7 more shots, 3 visits to Walgreens, or a stay in the hospital and the last thing I wanted to contemplate was how cancer was going to change me; the changes seemed pretty obvious at the time and none of them were metaphysical. I guess what I’m trying to say, is the question is premature but not unwelcome. I am just now feeling strong enough to reflect and find humor and meaning in my experience. I’m a thinker and a planner, so I don’t leap easily into the void and the changes in my life may come slower and quieter than some. They probably won’t be as spectacular as forming a new non-profit group, dedicating myself to The Cure, or writing a book on how sexy cancer is. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some decisions in the last year based on an internalized fear that life is too short…bought a fast car, took up river rafting, and travelled a lot. Those are changes, but I don’t think they are the ones that answer the question. So what I’m STILL trying to say is that I continually watch and listen for the subtle ways that cancer has and will change me and my life; a life that involves a husband who was also deeply affected and has been and will be changed; and a brilliant marriage that struggles to redefine itself free of illness.
My favorite change: I have a story that connects me to millions of women one at a time. How has cancer changed YOUR life?