Cancer Parenting Personal

The Urgency of Cancer

June 6, 2021

Yesterday I accidentally came too close to a nest of bumblebees. I ended up getting the absolute shit stung out of my head and hands. I’m grateful that I have friends that are skilled with this type of thing and one came and removed the nest. I didnt want to kill them. He relocated them to a space at Michigan State University where they can live out their remaining days not stinging me in the pigtails.

I posted about this on social media. Said I was stung like 20 times, blah blah blah. People were concerned and sweet and offered really great remedies for the stings. I was grateful. But then…queue the music… 3…2…1… annnnd here come the DMs. “You need to rest.” “Why are you always doing so much.” “You’re not spending enough time with V.” And then the one diatribe that I had to scroll thru so I could see what a terrible parent I apparently am. All because I decided my damn head would hurt whether I hung out on the couch or finished planting my tomatoes (which needed to be planted ASAP). I planted the tomatoes and finished gardening. GASP- the audacity of me…

FTR here, I am with V 24 fricking 7. She isn’t a fan of sleepovers so this mommy doesn’t get nights off. If I ever had time to orchestrate a fricking date and I got lucky it would mean a quickie at his place and I’d have to rush back home. Just like during my undergrad except I have a mortgage and car payment and can buy my own booze. I really don’t need to hear any bullshit about what a terrible parent I am- especially since I just spent 2 hours sitting with her while she tried to decide between a green or a blue bathing suit. I didn’t even get up to pour a drink. I am mother of the fricking year for that alone. But that’s another post.

This morning I did a guest spot on a cancer podcast and I was asked to talk about the urgency of a diagnosis of triple negative cancer. Quick background- triple neg means it’s not hormone receptive. There’s no targeted treatment after surgery. Essentially they just poison the hell out of you, say a hail Mary, and send you off into the world. I’m almost 7 years out now so my longevity prognosis is good. But… the thought is always in the back of my mind. Take pictures for V in case you’re not here later. Do this thing because you might not be here later. Oh shit- I better do this in case I don’t live very long. And, even if the cancer doesn’t metastasize and kill me there’s the fact that chemo ages you on a cellular level. It keeps you alive in the short term but…remember TANSTAAFL? No free lunches baby. What you gain in the short term you may very well give up in the long term. Everything is a tradeoff. So while the rational me knows we could all die at any moment I still feel this magnified sense of urgency. Doing things, keeping things in order, and being productive all help me to keep a sense of control that I don’t have otherwise. When one gets cancer it happens TO you. It’s thrust upon you (and not in a pleasant thrusting kind of way). Scrambling to feel control and empowered might not be very Buddhist-like but it’s a very real reaction when terrible shit is happening. Earlier this week I told someone I really care about that I feel this way a lot recently. I’m currently on some short term meds that make me acutely aware of the side effects of chemo and the lack of control I have over my own body. My inbox has been flooded today, literally over 200 messages, from women who saw the podcast who felt a sense of connection to the sense of urgency in every thing after their diagnosis. Women who might not have been able to articulate what it felt like and were thankful for my words and frankness and women who, like me, seem to get the wrath of their well meaning friends and family who tell them to rest. That chores and projects will all be there tomorrow. None of us know when we wake up that it will be our last day but for triple negative (or any cancer for that matter) survivors that sense of urgency is magnified.

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