One year ago today, Jimmy and I sat in my surgeon's office and the world shifted. I know that's an overused statement, but at that moment, I really felt something shift. Emotionally, mentally, everything shifted. At that time, we thought it was early Stage III. We found out after the lung biopsy that it was, in fact, Stage IV. I remember the day so clearly. It was snowing, and everything was closed. I was so glad that the doctor's office was open so we wouldn't have to wait any longer for the test results. I remember pulling into the hospital parking lot and finding it mostly empty, except for a few cars and the plow. The plow driver seemed none to happy to see another car in the lot, let me tell you. ;)
So, we got the news (I have a previous blog post talking about that). We drove home in the snow (you can see the progress in my facebook photo album entitled "Cancer" starting with this one). We sat the boys down and told them. We told my sisters and my husband's siblings. Then I posted it on facebook for all to see. I'm trying to link that post here, but can't seem to figure out how. I just wanted to illustrate the outpouring of support I received that day, and every day since.
Over the past year, I've learned a few things --
Family and friends, and even some strangers, are amazing. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it also takes a village to care for someone sick. Here's a Caringbridge post talking about that. The same thanks hold today, and more. It's really overwhelming to me, the amount of support we've received over the past year. I say "we" and not "I" because, really...
...the whole family is affected when cancer hits one of them. My husband was forced into the primary caregiver role. All of a sudden, it was like he was a single parent to two teenagers and a toddler. Our teenagers became more independent (which is a good thing really), and really stepped up. The 18 year old planned, shopped for, and prepared quite a few meals. The 14 year old came every time I called for him. My sisters took time out of their lives to spend time with me when I needed them here. My husband's brothers and sisters, too, and their families, have been here for whatever we've needed. Everyone is affected. It's not just cancer, either. I've also learned that...
...everybody has something. Once I made my diagnosis public, in addition to the support, I heard from quite a few of my friends with the struggles that they go through. Some have been through the hell that is chemo and offered advice. Some have been through mastectomy surgery and offered advice. Others are living with their own chronic illnesses, some on the same or similar medications I'm on, and offered advice. All offered advice, a shoulder to cry on, tips on handling the situation, the surgery, the medication, the new way of life, all offered someone to commiserate with. Let me tell you -- everybody has something. You may not know it, you may not be able to see it, but everybody has something. Be kind. Always.
I've learned that Stage IV cancer patients are treated somewhat differently than early stagers. I am a member of a few facebook support groups. I've found that in some of these groups, questions asked and concerns written about by Stage IV ladies can be scary to the early stage ladies. I've found that people are uncomfortable with talking about Stage IV. It's scary. It's not a pretty pink ribbon-wrapped package. It's not going to go away. It will be with my all of my days. Don't get me wrong -- I love pink. I will wear the pink ribbon. I am, however, under no illusions that my cancer will be cured. It is Stage IV, after all. If you'd like more information on Stage IV breast cancer, and how to swing the pendulum from awareness (because, frankly, we are all aware) to research, take a look at metavivor.org.
I've learned to take pleasure in the everyday, even the mundane. This week I was able to make dinner twice for my family (you may have seen facebook posts about that), and I was so excited about it! I did need help, but I was still so proud of myself. I pretty regularly do the dishes. I love seeing the dog catch the bright orange ball I throw for him. Although I don't knit quite so much anymore, or maybe because I don't knit quite so much anymore, I seem to enjoy it more. It seems more relaxing. Sometimes I wish I didn't have to work anymore (spending the hours I have the most energy at work), and then the one of the classes does something to make me glad I'm there. There are so many other things. Enjoy the little things in life, not just the huge things.
I've learned that being positive is a good thing, but there can also be an excess. No one can be positive 24/7. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to cry about your situation. It's all okay. I think everyone should watch the movie "Inside Out". That's a great message. In conjunction with this, I've learned that Xanax is a good thing. ;)
I've learned that bouncing back after chemo and surgery is ridiculously hard. I thought I'd be back to my old self by now. I've learned that staying awake until 9pm without having taken an afternoon nap is quite a feat.
To those of you who read my blog, and can get through the disjointedness, I thank you. To those of you who like all of my facebook posts, I see you there. I thank you. To those of you who I haven't seen in awhile, I know you're there. I thank you.
On that note, it's nap time. Hubby and I have a date at a winery later. ;)