Thursday, April 10, 2014

A friend and I were talking recently about years past, and they asked to see a picture of me from that time. When I showed it to them, they looked shocked and asked, 'That's YOU???' And that's a perfect illustration of how I feel. Whenever I explain to someone that I can no longer relate to the woman in those pictures, they look at me as if I'm insane, like I'm having some weird out-of-body experience. When really, all it is is that her outlook, her experience is so drastically different from mine, that I feel like whoever she was--whoever I was--'died' a long time ago. I look at those pictures and mourn the loss of her sometimes. Where was the cutoff point? Probably at our wedding. It's a shame to have to look at the pictures in our wedding album and know that I was sick and didn't know it. It makes me slightly uncomfortable to be honest. I can't look at those pictures without seeing the lump in my neck or the exhaustion in my eyes, both things I'd ignored in the months leading up to our wedding, and would continue to ignore for months afterward. All the strange symptoms I couldn't put my finger on (the bouts of inexplicable nausea, the cold that never seemed to go away, etc.); it was my body trying to tell me something was wrong. Strange that the year of our wedding, while we were still in the planning process, I had a moment of revelation: I was going to die. This was months and months before my diagnosis, but it brought on a series of panic attacks (which I'd never experienced before), and made it hard to face the world. Again, I should've listened to my body, because that was probably around the time the cancer had started growing. But of course, I had 'more important' things to do.

Now I look at my sister, who's dealing with a cancer recurrence, and I beat myself up for not being there for her as much as I could've been the first time. I'd already seen my father-in-law diagnosed with colon cancer shortly after I finished treatment, and I didn't quite know how to deal with that as I was still reeling from my own experience. The following year my sister would visit from Seattle after five years of being away and tell us she'd noticed a lump in her breast. She didn't have insurance at the time, but I urged her to get it looked at anyway. Within weeks, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and was on the road to starting chemo and radiation. She would later have a double mastectomy and be told she was in remission. When she visited late last fall, I was helping her with her lymphedema sleeve and prosthetics, and she talked about the fact that she'd been having trouble breathing. She'd had a lung collapse on her before, years ago, and she thought that it could've been related to that. It wasn't. My mom called me about a month later to tell me that doctors thought her cancer had spread. It had. After another round of tests, she started chemo once again. I have yet to even send her a card this time around. I see that she's been back on Facebook for the last week or so. She posted a rather poignant picture of herself the other day. It was a headshot, but one half of her face was from a time before the cancer, and the other half was from when she was undergoing treatment. I wonder if she also has trouble relating to the person she was before the cancer...

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