So if you read the article about me in the Dallas Morning News, you’ll know that my initial reaction to my diagnosis was anger. You also might assume that I’ve spent most of my adult life angry, being a trial lawyer and all. Well, I’m not angry about my diagnosis any more, and I never understood lawyers who were actually angry rather than just zealously advocating for their clients. My clients are sometimes angry, but I’m just arguing a point. I don’t think it’s healthy to take the job too personally.
Yet, the end of active cancer treatment means you have time for a lot of emotions to come to the surface. There’s a little bit of PTSD involved. Many people get depressed, or anxious, or cry for the first time. Me? I’m angry. Angry in a way that surprises me. Any enough to join a support group at my local Cancer Support Community and tell them with sense of bewilderment, “I’m just so angry.” (The other members of the group assured me I was perfectly normal.)
So if I’m not angry about having cancer, what is it about cancer that makes me angry these days? I’m so glad you asked. In no particular order:
- Cancer ruined Halloween for me, at least for the last 2 years. Last year I was waiting for the biopsy results and not in the mood; this year I was in the mood and had costumes picked out and then I got a fever at the last minute and had to miss all three parties to which we were invited. Yay. Third year’s a charm?
- Cancer ruined pink for me. I love pink. If there’s a color choice and purple isn’t an option, I’ll choose pink every time. But now every pink thing I buy feels like a statement about breast cancer.
- “Save the boobies” or “save the tatas.” You know what? I couldn’t save those. But hopefully I managed to save my life instead. Why is it only breast cancer that focuses on the body part and not the cancer? No one talks about saving the livers, or the lungs. You don’t see men marching around with signs to “save the balls.”
- That 30% recurrence rate that no one wants to talk about or hear about. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring the women living with stage 4 cancer doesn’t make them go away, either. (And unlike “Julie living with metastatic breast cancer” in the Ibrance commercial, most of them had to give up their careers to focus on their health and constant treatment.)
- The stupid Neulasta on-pro commercials. Notice all of those people have their hair? What’s up with that? And why do they all live in huge, gorgeous houses? Heck if I lived there I wouldn’t want to leave my house either.
- The lady who came to talk to my cancer transitions group (which I love) last week and said “Oh, I’m not supposed to call you cancer patients, I’m supposed to call you group members.” WTF? Are they hoping we’ll forget that we had or have cancer even though that’s the whole reason we’re there?
- My cast. OK, that isn’t directly related to cancer, but I was just getting better from chemo neuropathy and radiation fatigue and the cast means I’m back to constantly dropping things and having trouble eating dinner without using my fingers.
- That fever I mentioned getting over the weekend? No one knows why it happened. I have to call the oncologist if I have a fever over 100.5 (mine was 101.2) but then they were just like, “huh, weird.” I know they’re not magicians, but it’s frustrating.
- And along those lines, people who are sent home to die because their oncologists, even at MD Anderson, have run out of ideas. Not mad at the doctors, mad at the universe on that one I guess.
- People who tell me I’m lucky that I got breast cancer because it is a “good” kind of cancer. In some ways it is, but it’s cancer. Not feeling super lucky.
- Still not feeling physically or mentally ok. Apparently that may take another year (or even longer depending how the hormone blockers affect me). Yay.
- Everyone assuming that I am 100% back to normal and feel fine because treatment is over. I don’t know that I’ll ever be back to the normal I was before. But I’m certainly not there now.
- The saying “your new normal.” Yeah, it’s new. It’s not fucking normal.
- (Sorry for the potential TMI on this one.) Turns out cancer is really bad for your sex life. Between surgery, no feeling in my breasts, chemo, radiation, immediate menopause, and now hormone blockers….
- People who insist that cancer patients or survivors or whatever always have a positive, sunny, grateful attitude. Is this specific to breast cancer? Because it’s annoying as hell. It’s cancer, not a pink slumber party.
- People who insist that all cancer patients are warriors, or fighters, or whatever. I chose the title badass for myself, but some people don’t want to be warriors, they just want to get healthy in a quiet way and not think of their current life as a constant struggle.
- Health insurance. And I have a good policy, but who has time to fight over coverage of a wig or appeal the denial of payment to the anesthesiologist your doctor chose on your behalf? Seriously, between this and the appointments, y’all, it takes SO MUCH TIME to have cancer.
- Doctors being too positive and hiding the true outcome/side effects/statistics. I had to be clear with a couple of them that I wanted the truth, not what they thought I could handle hearing. I’m an adult, don’t treat me like a child.
- People trying to sell me shit with faux science. No, I’m not interested in Gerson therapy, homeopathic medicines, essential oils to cure cancer, or coffee enemas. You do you.