Grief Tsunami

It’s taken me a long time to write this post.

Like a long, long time.

It’s not that it hasn’t written itself in my head; it has. I just couldn’t muster the will to put it out in the world.

Me, today, January 22, 2021

Quick recap: January 3rd, 2021, marked my One Year Cancerversary from diagnosis.

I’ve been done with chemo since May 2020 and had my reconstruction surgery last August.

All along, I told everyone who would listen that “I’m doing great!”

And here’s the thing: at the time, I meant it.

Strength, wit and grit have gotten me pretty far in life and cancer was no different.

I jumped in head first to cancer treatment and at every turn, I took the harder path.

The dirty secret was that in the end, it didn’t *seem* too bad.

I took off less than 3 weeks for my bilateral mastectomy and 3 days for the reconstruction.

I barely scheduled any time off during chemo, minus the infusion day itself (and I even worked a half day leading up to my date with the IV drugs during one of them).

My energy was ok. I ate food. It didn’t taste great (Hello, metal mouth), but I managed to gain and not lose any weight (whomp, whomp). I exercised every day. I worked a lot. I was advised it was ok to go back into the clinic to see patients a month after finishing chemo so I went back one week BEFORE the final one (I’d worked virtually for two months at the height of lockdown in the spring).

And then, around October, it all caught up to me.

Cancer causes trauma. Period. Despite the strength I felt, and I genuinely do not think it was a front, a tsunami of grief flooded over me. I still can’t shake the PTSD.

My oncologist and other cancer survivors (yes, I am now tentatively calling myself a survivor) have told me that my experience is not unusual.

Diagnosis brings Go Mode, where it’s all adrenaline and fighting the beast. The treatment phase is Survival Mode, where you just need to do what it takes to get through it. But I am still figuring out the manual for Survivorship.

Post-cancer Me is different. I don’t want to go back to the old Me but I also don’t exactly want to stay like this.

On the plus side, I’ve got hair again and for the first time in my life, it’s CURLY. Like curly curly. I got it recently shaped on the back and sides (and was only charged for a men’s cut!) and the shape is approximating a pixie.

On the majorly negative side, I discovered that I am insulin resistant, aka pre-diabetic. My eyelashes are stubs and my brows – after a lifetime of Brooke Shields-esque unruliness – are ghosts of their former selves. The weight I managed to gain during chemo is stubbornly not coming off. I have an old person’s pillbox that is filled to capacity and every Sunday I painstakingly replenish the little AM and PM boxes for the upcoming week.

The Global Pandemic has kept me from doing something – anything – celebratory to mark the end of treatment (I had so many vacations planned!), which contributes to my feeling that the ending of the story remains unwritten.

I bought myself a pair of custom pink sapphire earrings with inverted, spikey stones and gold studs to commemorate (and never forget) the journey.

I immediately lost one, which is the most Me Thing that has probably ever happened.