One would think the first thing I’d be thinking with this year winding down is “Peace out, see ya later, don’t let the door hit ya”. And, yes, there are things I’d like to say this about, but 2017 also taught me a lot of things and may have improved my life for the better, as a whole.
I lost a lot of things this year, things I never saw coming, things I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to. Here are a few:
Life as I knew it – it’s forever changed – I no longer am able to live carefree, naive to what life with cancer means. The goals and expectations I had for life aren’t the same -some of them I’ve forgotten about and new, modified things have been put in their place. The expectations I have for my life and people are vastly different as well. Feeling like I have plenty of time to do things, is no longer a way of thinking. Being able to ignore an ache or a pain or the way too tired feeling is a thing of the past – I constantly have a tap on the shoulder that says “did you notice that”…yes, I did, I’m trying to silence you, but I know that’s not always an option.
I had (should read “have”, because I’m still on the struggle bus with this one) to let go of the way I thought things should have gone in my life…doing that leads me down a slippery slope of crying and being angry. When I’m able to get in the mindset of “this is the hand you were dealt, this is what’s happening,” I’m much more accepting of losing life as I knew it. Just because I’ve had to adjust all of these things, doesn’t mean I’ve given up certain things, I’m just learning to accept that the way I saw things going in my life isn’t the way things are going to go.
My debunking procedure took away the option of more children – not only can I not carry another child myself, I wasn’t able to try and salvage any eggs for a surrogate to carry, because my life would have been at risk from the cancer continuing to grow – I had high-grade, which spreads like wildfire. Although I didn’t envision more children for myself, maybe someone in my future might have, so I would have liked the option. I’d have liked to have been able to say “no, I’m good”, not having that ability ripped out of my hands. (Yes, it’s a control issue, I’m working on it). I’m blessed with two children, that is what I focus on. And yes, those two children ask the difficult questions – “mommy, are you going to have another baby?” and I have to try and explain to them that isn’t possible, in terms an 8 year old girl would understand.
My hair – Yep, I lost my hair and although it’s growing back and everyone thinks it looks great…it’s very difficult for me, because it’s not what I chose for myself, it wasn’t my decision. I told my one girlfriend the other day I really missed it…it was Christmas Eve, when I was looking back at pics from last year vs this year. Yes, it’s silly, but you try losing your hair to something as stupid as cancer, it sucks and it’s a constant reminder when all you want to do is put it in a freaking ponytail and your at least a year away from that even being a possibility – so instead you put on a ball cap and pray you don’t get mistaken for a guy.
Some people I considered friends – this is a common occurrence. Cancer freaks the hell out of people, I’m not kidding. They say they’re going to be there and they’re going to do “xy&z”, but when it comes down to it, watching someone waste away, lose their hair, their coloring, turn into a sick person, etc, it’s not for the weak. The time I had previously to worry about things like this, I no longer have – I was fighting for my life, I had to focus on me, I had no extra effort outside of what I put forth to take care of myself and my children. You learn a lot about people when the going gets tough. And guess what, it’s really NOT about how this is effecting you…it’s about ME, how this is effecting ME. I’m sorry if this freaked you out and scared you away, but thank you for showing me your true colors.
DESPITE all of those things above there were a lot of positives as well, some things I never saw coming and things I never would have thought were possible – I surprised myself as well.
Renewed relationships – Yes, several people left my life. It might not have been such a bad thing, because in the long run they probably needed to be cleaned off the plate. BUT, I had so many more people come back into my life and participate to the max – it was shocking! Several relationships and friendships that had cooled off as time went on because of one thing or another, were rekindled. When these individuals found out I was sick, they not only reached out once, but repeatedly reached out, showed up at appointments, brought things by the house for me and/or the children, took me out to dinner when I was up for it and have continued to do so. FYI – the stuff after treatment stops is a whole new ballgame and the after effects just don’t stop. I’m still trying to decided what’s more difficult – the mental game is brutal after.
I found a me I didn’t know existed – This could be due to the fact that I’m a mom and I don’t really have another choice, but the person I found inside of me, when I really needed her, was bigger than I ever thought possible. I surprised myself, and keep surprising myself. Prior to ovarian cancer I would have considered myself a “runner” – when things got tough, I picked up and moved on…literally would move sometimes…took the easy way out and did whatever was possible to minimize the pain and impact it had on me.
This chick you’ve all seen is new…she’s different. She’s not the same, I won’t ever go back to the way I was before the diagnosis and that’s okay. Honestly, I’m 110% okay with it. If you hadn’t realized it, and you thought you really knew me, I’d been struggling for a long time with inner peace and being the person I really wanted to be. I had so much inside to say, but I was too worried about what someone might say, how they’d look at me, etc. Let me tell you…walking around bald, dealing with all the BS society deals you during this process of being sick, it breaks down all of those things. You have to have thick skin to take on the cancer fight in and of itself, then add on all the petty and stupid things that go along with it. I like this girl…she may take awhile to get adjusted to though…and I still need to refine a few things, but I think that comes with time…my fuse is still quite short, I’m working on it.
Living in the moment – no regrets – this is completely new and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do and said I was going to do for the past several years. Britt, I wouldn’t have flown to Austin in the past…I’d have made myself sick with worry over things I couldn’t control – “what if she doesn’t like me”, “what if she isn’t excited”, and on and on and on. I say what I want to say (these are positive things, no one needs for you to be negatively opinionated) – this maybe a random text that says “I love you” when someone least expects it, or messaging someone, whom I’ve never met, something I think might help them out.
Epic trips, things I’ve always wanted to do. Exploring cities I’ve been to, but haven’t seen all that I want to see (if I’m headed your way, get ready, I have lists!). Experiencing new places I’ve never been to – food, exhibits, “best of’s”. The only regret I have…that it took a cancer diagnosis for all of this to happen. I was in a rut of only going and doing certain things.
This is my one shot to get this right – no more do-overs, no more “I don’t think the time is right”…chances are, it’s never going to be right, just do it. Live in the moment, quit looking for perfect or I’ll do it next year.
A “girl gang” like you’ve never seen – in a world of women tearing each other down, be the girl that’s building others up. I’ve found a group of women, most of whom I’ve never met, who are those building each other up – sending positive messages, giving you the “go get ’em”, “you got this”, “ain’t no thang but a chicken wang” when you’re heading into something big. Find these people, these are the ones you should focus your time on. I had no idea the impact the followers I would have socially would end up having in my life – they not only check on me, but my other friends they know I’m close with to make sure they’re okay too.
Maybe it’s because all of us have been through the worst, don’t have time for all the BS and know the importance one simple word can have…maybe that’s why we’re there for each other. Or maybe it’s because good people really do still exist and it takes something life changing to happen in order for you to see past all of the things you might not have in the past to see them. Regardless, I never saw this one coming…and I’m thankful for every single one of you reading this, that fall into this category. You showed me how to keep going, that it was okay to get upset over silly little things and that life after is difficult, but we can somehow figure this out. Thank you for giving me friendships I never would have had.
So yes, in a year where I could have said “get the F- outta here, I’m done”…I had just the opposite reaction, it was more of a “thank you, I needed this”. Although ovarian cancer has changed me forever, has put me through the ringer and is one of the most trying things ever, even after the treatments stop, I’m thankful for the perspective it’s given me. I’m thankful that this time, I actually listened to the wakeup call I should have had in the past.
Tonight and tomorrow, as you reflect on the year 2017 may have been or not been for you, try to find the ways in which it’s possibly improved things. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still angry from time to time, I cry and I have bad days…2017 was supposed to have been “my year”, not the year that tried to break me. But it didn’t break me, and for that I’m grateful. 2018, I’m coming for you with big goals, big plans…I lost most of a year and have some making up to do!
Happy New Year – stay safe, have fun and kiss 2017 goodbye in whatever fashion you deem appropriate!