Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sometimes, I kind of miss being bald. It made playing the cancer card a lot easier.

In other news, there have been a couple of instances recently when I have told people that I had/have cancer, and they ask if I'm in "remission." I have no idea how to respond to this. First off, because I had operable breast cancer, I don't think I'm a candidate for remission. I'm either cured, or not cured. On the one hand, my tumor has been removed and there has been no evidence of metastases. So, I think that means I'm cured. On the other hand, I still get an infusion every three weeks, so I'm still in treatment. And on the other other hand (just pretend you're that soccer octopus for a second here), I doubt any doctor would say I'm cured. There is always a chance for relapse, and I'm not really trying to tempt fate here. (If you think that's superstitious, you should see me analyzing my data and praying for significant results.)

Since I'll be taking pills as part of my hormonal therapy for the next 5ish years, at some point I will need to make a verbal transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Making the verbal transition means making the mental transition as well. That's something I'm not really ready to do yet. I'm still dealing with the effects of the Avastin and a lot of post-chemo fatigue. My body is still kind of wandering around in a daze thinking "WTF just happened to me? Where am I?" It's not ready to jump back into the game. I think that saying I'm a cancer "survivor" indicates that I'm back to normal, and I'm so clearly not. I'm in a period of transition, where I'm beating a new path between pre-cancer normal and post-chemo, post-surgery normal.

The weird thing is that my hair is very much tied up in this period of transition, way more so than my breasts. Part of that is because hair can be tied up and breasts cannot. Another part of it is that, unlike my mastectomies, which I see as battle wounds, scars that will always be there, my hair growing. It's slowly but surely making its way back to its previous state.

But, it's not there yet. So, every day, when I look in the mirror, I don't see the longer hair of pre-cancer me or the baldness of chemo-me. Instead I see this short haircut that, although I rock it like whoa, I never wanted. I see all of the time it's going to take to grow out.

For me, that regrowth time kind of symbolizes all of the work, physical and emotional, that needs to be done before post-cancer me begins to feel like normal-me. It's a manifestation of the road back to myself, and how, even though, the cancer has been removed from my body, it will be a long time before becomes just another thread in the cloth of my life.


  1. Do not stop posting. I think the thinking through of hair as symbol is really strong and I've never heard it before (cancer fan-fic not being my favorite fantasy genre).

    That said: cancer survivor cards.

  2. Really? There is some amazing cancer slash fic out there. You should really give it a try!

    (Oh, fanfic jokes, will you never get old?)

  3. I get questions all the time like, "Oh, I'm sorry - so are you good now?" I always just say, "I hope so..." because that's something I don't know. I'm too superstitious to just say yes. Once your world gets rocked like that, it makes it a bit harder to be confident in the absence of things lurking within! One day you're fine, the next you have cancer. Maybe as I get further out, I'll feel more confident proclaiming myself cancer-free, but I don't know.

    On the other hand, I do consider myself a survivor - I survived a lot of crap and am surviving every day with this new body and the threat of a recurrence hanging over my head, regardless of whether I actually have any rogue cells left in me or not.

    I'm keeping my hair short. Besides that it's SO much easier to deal with, it kind of reminds me of what I've been through, and really, I'm proud of the way I handled it and that I came through it all as unscathed as possible.

    It's a lot to process - not like you're just DONE with cancer the minute you're done with surgery or treatments or whatever. Wouldn't that be nice, though?!