My Breasts are Gone and It’s my Heart that Hurts
The sadness is suffocating. It didn’t start that way. I think it’s been creeping in like an approaching fog bank that was once off in the distance but now envelops my very being. It’s been eight weeks since I completed my year and a half treatment protocol for breast cancer. On last week’s calendar: blood work (tumor markers), cat scans and oncologist visit. Bracing for the worst and hoping for the best is my motto. At least that’s what I tell myself. But, if I’m honest, what I’m really thinking is that I’m tired of the life and death drama that has become my life’s plot over the past five years. I can’t tell you how many cat scans and blood draws and oncology visits I’ve had since this all began in 2013. No, really. I’ve lost track. I guess I thought with my veteran status that this might get easier. In reality, I think it’s getting harder. My sympathetic nervous system has been in overdrive and I’m feeling the side effects of this chronic “fight/flight/freeze” response.
The test results? No evidence of disease (NED). “Remission” has fallen out of favor. No Evidence of Disease is pretty much what it sounds like at face value. What I hear is “Hey, listen, we can’t detect any cancer with this current level of technology. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. It means we just can’t detect it.” You know, words of comfort. This is the world of the post-treatment cancer survivor. No wonder two-thirds of us have post-traumatic stress type symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, and flooding (that’s when familiar smells, sights, sounds take us back to traumatic event). It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
I’m committed to embracing all that comes with being alive. Even this. I will sit with this sadness. I will sit with this fear. I will sit with this exhaustion. I will continue to view these challenges as opportunities to flex my emotional resiliency muscles. As much as I want to run away from this intensity for fear that it will swallow me whole, I will strive to stand still and let the waves of emotion ebb, flow, swirl and occasionally crash into my shores. This is my life: my sometimes “hot mess” of a life. But, it’s the only one I’ve got. I’m going to try to make it a good one.