“How are you?” The question I’m asked over and over again, each and every day. I don’t mind answering how I’m feeling, it’s a completely normal thing to ask, but let me explain what better or okay actually means.
“How are you?”
Better can mean so many different things. This past week I went from a 10 to an 8. Yeah, I feel better, but far from the better most associate with the word better.
We spend so much time sometimes trying to explain how we are feeling when, to be honest, its no easy task. Am I ever okay? No, I have cancer. But I am okay because when I’m feeling up to it I choose to be OKAY. Man is this hard to explain.
This is where positivity and determination tend to get mushed into one meaning. Am I the super positive wonder woman? Or am I a 6 on the scale and I just want to make the most of it because someday I’ll be a 10 again.
I was dreading Tuesday because I thought that I might be developing a reaction to my chemo, but Monday came and so did the pain. We don’t know why or what’s going on with me, but cancer, health, and life is hard to have all the answers for. Monday I felt the tightness in my liver, hours later the spasms crept in and by Monday afternoon I was stuck in bed afraid to move. Tuesday was supposed to be chemo day but it turned into ‘how can we try to help Larissa’s pain level get to be a 9 a least?’ By Wednesday the pain medication was finally kicking in and I could say I was finally an 8 and ready for chemo but my nausea spiked. Usually you hear of people throwing up from chemo but I was throwing up right up until chemo. Thursday I sat on the couch on my computer all day unsure what to do other than get caught up on computer stuff. I felt ironically better. What’s better? 7.
Life with cancer is no walk in the park and describing it is a very challenging word hunt! Part of cancer is being sick, so being under the weather shouldn’t surprise anyone. But how do we really feel? Well, better technically, but still in bed.
Tuesday’s have normally been a day that could be full of medical appointments. Majority of my chemotherapy days tend to fall on Tuesdays. This Tuesday is no different. Usually, it comes along and passes, I can experience slight anxiety but nothing people tend to notice.
But over the past couple months twice I’ve experienced mind blowing physical pain for several days after infusion. The first time it happened I feared the pain meant progression but didn’t think to connect it to chemo. Then we celebrated it wasn’t progression! But last treatment just hours after infusion the pain set in and left me incapacitated for days. Unable to walk, laugh, breath deeply, and function. Moments like these can leave you quite hopeless, but I clung on to hope that this to shall pass and it did.
Hope barely got me through those days, and now I fear it will happen again this coming Tuesday. I have tons on my plate after people I counted on jumped ship in my life. I will have to figure out pushing forward while in excruciating pain which I can’t even imagine. Life isn’t fair and never have I thought it would be. I mean if life was fair I wouldn’t have cancer and I would be on my way to starting a family surrounded by loyal supportive friends. Oh how I love to dream.
I haven’t been afraid of much this journey, but this Tuesday has me shaking in my bones. What if it lasts longer this time? I barely survived last cycle. I accept that fear is normal, and we have to face fear sometimes to get stronger but I’m willingly walking into something that is similar to torture. Can I face that? Am I ready to re-grow my relationship to my bed while it turns in to my roller coaster cart for it to whip me around and thrust me against the sharpest corners around.
Am I suppose to not be afraid of Tuesday because I’ve been so strong these past 2 years? I might be more scared of Tuesday, more than I was on the Tuesday of my double mastectomy. You might be wondering if your so scared why go through with this? Erublin has kept my cancer at bay, it has been the one chemo to reduce the size of my chemo. So it leaves you questioning: life or pain. I have chosen life so I have to tolerate it for awhile or until we know for sure its coming from the chemo, which we don’t 100% know as of yet.
Tuesday I will walking into the house of horrors which I usually look at as a party of wonderful people. Which they are still wonderful people!
When I look in the mirror I see many scars.
My chest is striped with two large scars. Two scars that remind me each day that pain is temporary.
I look at my arms and see needle prick scars from all the IVs and blood draws.
I see my port scar, a bulging lump that marks where my chemotherapy is administered. Oh my dear heart.
I see my short, dark hair as a scar, since it isn’t the hair I began my journey with.
I look down at my feet to remind myself that they are still there.
My teeth ache as I wait for the opportunity for my blood counts to approve so I can see a dentist.
I see my 60-pounds-lighter body, which is bittersweet.
I see my slightly pronounced right collarbone, which fractured in my sleep.
I feel my hip, which hurts every time it rains.
I view in the mirror my complexion, my chemo-aged skin and wrinkles.
I now have freckles ... which I never asked for.
And last, my biggest scar of all -- which is invisible to everyone but me. My infertile womb, the reality of which I struggle with each and every day.
My scars remind me that whatever comes next, it might not be as bad as what I have dealt with. But if it is worse, that pain can truly be temporary.
My scars are a part of me and a constant reminder that I survived this long, and they offer me courage for what’s to come...
Woman battling all stages of breast cancer loose a piece of their identity. Even though we may smile publicly, when we are alone with the mirror, it can take a few seconds to remember that is YOU staring back through the mirror. Sometimes you need the opportunity to see a different you, but a you your proud of now. Adjusting to the new you can be a challenge itself and for me a boost of confidence was exactly what I needed.
The Fab-U-Wish program was developed by Guliana Rancic to help make women like me feel beautiful again. Before cancer I NEVER wore makeup. People I leaned on told me I never needed it and I loved never wearing it.
I don’t think I’m ugly now, but I do appreciate the opportunity to have someone doll me up like a princess. Sometimes that dose of confidence can turn what may be borderline depression into a day of depression relief. You can bet that when I’m down I ask someone to help me grow and shine.
Guilana Rancic’s program helped lift me up. Learn more here...
Metastatic Breast Cancer Thriver/Founder of Metastatically Speaking
My 32nd Year
Now that my 32nd birthday is in my rearview mirror, the questions begin: was that my last one? Will I see 33? Am I living my life the way I should? Is my focus in the right direction?
Many times when phrases such as “when I die” or “if I see 33” spill out of my mouth, they aren’t meant to sound negative, or imply that I don’t believe I will live. In my opinion that’s not being negative, but rather positively realistic. Of course I don’t want people cheering on my demise, and it’s not that I don’t believe in the power of faith. Being positively realistic helps keep my mind on the goal: to live my life in the now.
I wonder constantly if I’m spending too much time working, or if being lazy is wasting valuable time that I might not have a lot of. As I sit here writing on a Saturday in bed, I ponder: should I get up and do something else? There is probably no correct answer, because the answer is something very personal to each and every one of us.
Even though I’m facing rising medical bills this year, I’m not going to allow that to stop me from living. I’ve been positively realistic through most of my journey and it is a big reason my husband used some of the last of our savings on a used RV last year. Money won’t follow me to where I go next, but the memories I leave behind will be priceless.
So my 32nd year will be full of opportunity. I gave myself three goals: Shine, Thrive and Live. Shine bright to attract opportunity, thrive to show myself anything is possible and live each day even if it can be a little scary. We will travel, we will see my cousins walk down the aisle, we will keep fighting and praying for a reduction of my cancers, and I’m going to continue to grow as an advocate.
Goal-setting when your future is unclear is like working hard on something that you know you might not finish. It’s hard to put all of you into something that may be left unfinished; well, at least for me it feels that way.
So this year’s bucket list, a.k.a my three goals of 2018: