It’s true….Cancer is betrayal. The body that you have treated reasonably well has turned on you. The life you once lead seems to be a lie, and you get to live the rest of your life knowing that you are the one in two humans who gets Cancer. It sucks. It’s a terrible feeling because you did nothing to deserve this and now you have to pay the price of being cut the raw deal. Lets talk about some ways of handling the mental crap that comes with Cancer.
I truly didn’t know I was that sick before I went to the hospital. Yeah I didn’t feel well, but when I found out that my entire right lung was collapsed and I was barely breathing I was SHOCKED. I joked about having a high pain tolerance, but the truth is, I was more scared that I didn’t inherently know that something was going that wrong inside of me. I didn’t look sick, I wasn’t bleeding, or weirdly colored, or overly tired. I thought I was just a normal, stressed, 24 year old New Yorker who wasn’t eating enough vegetables, or sleeping her 9 hours, with an incredibly taxing job. The truth was much scarier. I was slowly growing a tumor in my lung for SIX TO TWELVE YEARS. The means for potentially 1/4 to 1/2 of my life on earth I was sick. And I had no idea. And do you know what this translates to now? Stress. I stress that I still don’t know my body well. That at any moment that tiny ache in my shoulder could be something wrong with my good lung. Or I slept 9 hours and I’m still tired, and I think WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME? If I let these stressors get to me, I’d never leave the house, and I’d be calling my doctor ever 25 seconds. So I do yoga, I meditate, I take long showers, I drink water, I close my eyes and take big deep deep breathes. I call my mom, and my friends, and look at pictures of puppies online. There is no perfect answer every time, but even writing this out is helping. You have to find your way to deal with these stressors, but the best way is to remember that you have ten fingers, ten toes, and a beating heart so you can’t be doing that badly.
Now I kind of knew stress would be something I’d have to deal with. What I didn’t see coming was the guilt. The guilt that I scared the ever living crap out of my friends and family by accident. The guilt when I eat french fries, or drink too much wine when I was given a second chance at life and shouldn’t be treating my body like a dumpster. The guilt I feel when I ask a friend to walk a little slower because I’m out of breath. The guilt when a friend of mine passes away from the Cancer that spared me. It is truly worse than the stress. The guilt that I have for surviving something terrible is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. And truly the only way I have found to handle it is to remember that we all have problems, and if the world threw their problems in a circle you’d take yours back. I have to remember that I have 75 years left of my life (I’m planning on making it past the big 100). And I am allowed to have french fries and wine because they are good for your soul. My friends probably didn’t even think of my lung when I ask them to slow down. And my friends that have passed away have hopefully gone to a beautiful new place where there is no more pain or suffering. The guilt is imaginary, and brought on by myself. Which means I can make it go away. And I work hard every day to get that poison out of my life.
At the end of the day, we all have troubles, and pains, and anxiety about just living. That’s what makes us humans. But we need to take it easy on ourselves. Take care of our minds and bodies and remember that we are always healing from something. I would never take back what has happened to me, it made me who I am today. And I’m a fool if I think this is the only curve ball life is throwing me. Until the next one, I’m going to enjoy my french fries, wine and Netflix on a beautiful Sunday in NYC and count all of my amazing blessings.