Ohhhhhh. This last week has been a complete mindscrew.
I didn’t see it coming. I never do. It doesn’t ring the doorbell or wipe its feet on the mat. It just barges right in and sets up shop in my happy little field of flowers.
The what ifs.
I’ve written about them before. And I plan to always share them. Partially because it helps me track them. And partially because I hope it helps you, if you too have the what ifs.
I’ve been very transparent in saying that for the lions share of my days, I never think about or worry about recurrence.
But when I do, well, I’m a maniac.
And it just replays over and over and over again in my mind.
For me, it always begins with some new sort of pain. This time… a pain that is always sorta there and was likely exacerbated by a rousing game of frisbee golf. Proof that my arm just isn’t as strong as it once was. Proof that an entire reconstructive surgery and radiation have taken place in my body. And the minute I realize it’s there, the pain, I wonder how long it’s been like that. I go through all of the same emotions and thoughts I went through when I found my lump initially.
I think about the fact that I felt perfectly healthy when I had cancer in my body.
I think about the fact that friend’s cancer has progressed.
I think. And think. And think.
I obsess. Until I am in tears. Fears.
I think of how I want to see my grand babies. Yes. I know. I don’t have grand babies. And my kids may never even have children. But I think about how I want to be here with them to see all those stages that lead up to it.
I think of how I just want to be able to be 40 and be over the hill and enter into what people say is one of the best times of life these days.
I think about my parents. And my siblings. My tribe. I think and think about putting the burden of cancer back on my people.
I think of how I want to have energy with the kids. And see Hawaii with them. And travel the world and see all the states. And with Adam.
I think about how much I still have on my to-do list and I don’t want to be sick in perpetuity.
I think about how many moments I might not have appreciated as I get further out from “that time” and I vow to do better.
I search Google for the pain I am having. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. I find 89% answers that quell my fears. 11% that spin me right round baby right round. I vow to stay off of google.
I pray and pray and pray for a calmed mind. I pray that all of the “work” and statistics and treatments are as in my favor as they are meant to be.
I call my mom. In tears. I cry to my husband. I talk with my Oncologist. They all reassure me that this part… these fears… are part of the process.
I talked with a friend who was just dealing with similar fears.
I talked with my therapist and asked for my anxiety meds to be refilled. I decide this mind over matter is not going to work yet. I realize I am still healing from trauma.
We talk about a scan, my Oncologist and I, just in case seeing is believing. I am hesitant. Scans scare me more. Even though I’ve only had x-rays, I still become a bundle of nerves. And they’ve all been okay. And then it’s good to know. But no one is pushing a scan for now.
I traveled this week. Without Adam. Without the boys. And my anxiety was almost uncontrollable. My whole body felt like it was firing on all nerves.
I tell you all of this because this is what anxiety feels like. It reaches deep into your core and tells you that everything is a lie. It’s the Devil, really, trying to squash your faith. It’s a bulldozer wreaking havoc on your safe space. And it’s completely overwhelming.
I traveled for a meeting. I gathered with other women. Other cancer survivors. We talked about survivorship. And fears. We talked about recurrence. One had it three times. Another, a few different forms of cancer. One woman was metastatic. Five years out.
I was thinking it would send me further off the cliff. I felt nervous to talk about cancer all day.
These women are EMPOWERED by all the knowledge the have about breast cancer. They are advocates for people to be their own advocate. They are thought leaders in the landscape of breast cancer communities. And they are taking their disease and making it matter.
Just like I can only hope to be doing in some way.
The day was not hard. In fact, I left so full. I realized I am not alone.
I am not alone.
I am not the first 33 year old Mama to get cancer. And I won’t be the last.
My cancer was early stage and my outcomes should be pretty darn favorable.
I can exercise. Eat right. Take my therapies that are available to me right now. And I can live life.
That’s the reality.
And the biggest reality that I know is sort of a sad trombone? Life before cancer was no more guaranteed, it just presented as such.
I am working through my fears. I navigated the city I was in and didn’t let the anxiety keep me tied to the room. I enjoyed time with friends. I made mental note of all the times the pain wasn’t there. And the way the rest of me feels perfectly normal. I did meditation and positive affirmations. And again, I prayed and prayed for a peaceful mind.
This is going to happen. It may happen for you. You need to know you are not alone. I have never talked to a single survivor who doesn’t ever wonder “what if?” And the reality is, “IF… then we shake this shit up again. That’s what if.”
We need to know that the anxiety comes and it goes. It may not have a thing to do with cancer. It might have to do with grief or loss or ppd or trauma. There is not always a trigger (one of the women in my round table said that and she is so absolutely right on). We don’t usually know when it’s coming. In fact, I looked back and I don’t think I’ve had similar fears for about 6 months. But we cannot run away from it. We have to work through it. We have to process the why. The what. The how.
And then, when we get past this bout, we have to send praises that we do not have to live in that space every day. And that we are not (hopefully) continuously crippled in fear.
I’ve had a week. It’s been rough. But I also know that it ebbs and flows and that if I did cancer, I can do this. But it takes time, practice, and grace.
And maybe some anxiety meds. Because For now it would appear that Jesus and Chemistry are my jam.
I am hoping over the next few days, I can get it to pack its bags and get off my lawn. But until then, I will be over here taking deep breaths, watching funny movies, hugging the men in my life, weird out fear plans, sharing, and finding the purpose in my pain. Because while this part is hard, I am so lucky to be here and learning how to process it.
Anxiety is not my life. But it can creep into it. And it’s my job to give it its due and then bid it adieu.