Archive for September, 2011

Conviction for calm.

So, I’m just absolutely dreading my scan, my lab results, the whole nine yards. So many unpleasantries ahead.

There’s the possibility of bad news. Maybe not even a likely possibility. Maybe I am overexaggerating. I don’t wish bad things upon myself.

I must, absolutely must, outright refuse to let anything bad happen to me. I cannot will the circumstances, but I can will my attitude. I can take on any medication regimen and show that my life isn’t shattered by it. I can refuse to give disappointment the time of day.

Quite frankly, I have things to do, people to see.

Granted, this is a work in progress. I can’t say I will never react to bad news. But I’ve got to adopt a Buddhist-like mentality of being completely unfazed by the chaotic world around me.


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Wisdom and Doubt

I haven’t been feeling 100% the past two days. My throat feels tight, my chest feels heavy, my energy is lackluster. This could be a reaction to low thyroid hormone, or a swelling of tumors. Or it could be that I’ve fought back tears a few times this week, can’t get a deep breath because I’m stressed, which sucks all of the energy out of me. I can’t take the unknowns.

I’ve been clinging to people, or at least trying to or wanting to. Immediately I considered it an immature, infantile attachment or a cry for help, that I can’t be completely independent or mentally stable alone. But then again, maybe I’m just growing up. Maybe being an adult is all about realizing that the only significances in life are people, and that I have the choice to reject that happiness or fight for it, against all of the obstacles trying to make me alone.

This realization came in Broadway Market while buying sushi. Don Henley’s End of the Innocence came on the radio, and I almost cried. This was the song that my father used to play for me, that would soothe my tears. But now that he cannot play it for me, because of terrorism, which truly ended my own innocence, this song represents all that I fight against: solitude and disenchantment.

I need to calm down. I’m hoping that my gastronomical lecture (Science and Cooking) will be a gluttonous source of emotional eating, and that my froyo date, dinner plans, and study break snacks will falsely inflate my feelings further. That’s all I can really hope for, right? Just to keep rollin’ along.

If you’re going through hell, keep going. –Winston Churchill

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Some days are just so good, and inexplicably, a little fall can precipitate a major crack in my emotional stability.

As I began my day, I got a phone call with test results about hormones related to fertility. The reproductive hormones were fine (we think), but I was told I might need to start thyroid replacement therapy. This is a common problem after radiation like mine. Initially, I wasn’t too stressed out, but I feel a little anxious now, since I can’t actually be treated for the problem for at least a week.

Then followed a long day of getting a haircut (nerve-wracking for someone who desperately wants hair, after so long of not having it), buying food for a class, not finding a seat in the dining hall, rushing to office hours before a class, having a three-hour debate about abortion and euthanasia in my class, and then being extremely thirsty and tired during flute ensemble practice, to which I’m always late coming from class. Really, discussing the dignity of death is really a great way to jump-start a cancer survivor’s day.

I think what bothered me the most about today was the disappointment of missing another social activity I had planned, after so many instances of that last year as Schneider of the band while on treatment. This compounded with the worry about what the side effects of the medication are and the creepy mystery of having something wrong with your body and not even knowing it.

I’m really fighting against the little volitional obstacles in my life, to a degree that clearly shows I’m still not okay with the unchosen path my life took in the last two years and that I have a control obsession. But of course I’m thrilled that thus far, my path has led to a happy destination.

I wonder if other people struggle with these things or if I’m bordering on a minor psychosis. I think very few people realize the issues I have unless I shout from the rooftops as the face of survivorship on campus, and it makes me wonder just how much shit I don’t know about other people. Maybe I should cut everyone else some slack. I’d appreciate the same.

Edit: I wonder if people think this is the hairstyle I chose. Yet again, a bitterness towards my lack of volition.

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My blog. My life.

These graphics really sum up this blog, and my life in the past year.


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I have that sinking feeling again, that it’s all too good to last.  For a week, I rid myself of compulsively feeling my lymph nodes and conjuring ailments, allowing myself the possibility of genuine tiredness and hormonal fatigue.  But as the 9.5-month scan looms, and I arrange my schedule in preparation for the trips to New York next week, I can’t help but feel a sense of dread.  At least now there is placation in repetition, just as I mellowed to the rhythms of cancer treatment: I’ve had these spikes of dread, escalating to the results day, that have ended in scheduling another appointment down the road and happily saying my goodbyes to the clinic.  I have that to hope for, as my inner doubt nags me with the possibility that I’m ill and haven’t presented B symptoms.

But the silver lining is feeling alive.  My friends can’t tell me what their diaphragm feels like.  They don’t relish a spring in their step or appreciate a good breath or exalt minor improvements in their wellbeing.  I feel caffeine, I sense alcohol, I am invigorated by a well-balanced meal.  I’m so in tune with my body, for better or for worse, that I just feel more.  And only cancer could give me that.

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I awoke in hormonal anguish, and fleetingly soured to the prospect of a long academic day.

Until there was chocolate.

My hormones and I are usually not friends, surviving each month with my trusty sidekick Aleve.  Honestly, my menstrual cycle kicks the crap out of me.  Sorry, I had to be that blunt.  Crippling pain and unannounced waves of fatigue can make a hardcore Harvard schedule impossible to uphold.

But instead… chocolate.

I’ve written before about my looming chances of early menopause, and how strange it will be not to have monthly bouts of drama.  Because for all of its pain, it makes me stop and take care of myself.  It makes me appreciate life.  And it adds another level to relishing chocolate that truly can only be captured during hormonal haywire.

In menopause, chocolate will never be the same.

My worries and hangups are really quite absurd, it’s true.  But it’s those little acknowledgements that bring amusement and intrigue to being alive.

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I once met a lymphoma specialist who called himself a “lymphomaniac.”  While I’ll never trust him (for reasons to be discussed another time), I get it.

This isn’t hypochondria talking when I say I probably have a slight form of lymphoma-driven OCD.  Yet, it’s completely hypochondria, because I fixate on my health.  In other words, it’s a legitimate problem, just probably not a legitimate cause.

I did really well over the summer–slept well, savored life, put lymphoma concerns on the back burner.  Somehow, I move into Leverett, and chaos ensues.

I wake up parched and achy.  My chest feels tight. I feel groggy starting my day.  I get a lot of scrapes and bruises from clumsiness that shatter my moods. I break my LiveSTRONG bracelet that I got when my brother’s friend had cancer, that lasted me all through my treatment.  I feel exposed and unprotected, only coupled by the absence of my family and now, by school without my boyfriend.

Is it my still-healing body adjusting to the overdrive of fall semester? Is it an outlet for my sorrow, escalating in anticipation of the tenth anniversary of September 11?   Or is it a real problem?

So I check. I take my temperature: still hovering between 96 and 97 degrees, so far from a concern for fever.  I weigh myself: perhaps not as plump as before, but I’d been gaining a lot of weight recently.  I palpate my neck: is there a bump? Hardly palpable, but I know its there.  Does everyone have that bump in their neck anatomy? It hasn’t changed much. I breathe in lavender and my breaths calm… maybe it isn’t so bad.  I list my symptoms, my appetite, my sleep schedule.  I corroborate my feeling with my habits, and make another list, one of the symptoms I don’t have, just for an extra ego boost.

But I’m still not satisfied.

I need to make a pact not to check for a week.  Because really, there’s nothing that can or should be done.  Unless any rate of cancer growth could dangerously escalate over the course of a week, I need to breathe, and wait the three weeks until my next scan.  Doctors won’t push it forward unless something truly dangerous or life-threatening has occurred.  Until then, it’s a waiting game.  And I should cherish it: it should be three weeks of blissful ignorance, but I’m treating it as three weeks of impending doom.

I’m just trying to tell myself this to force myself to believe it.

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