Cancer log 73: I think…

Cancer log 73: I think I'm supposed to be more upset. It's weird, trying to figure out what the appropriate level of upset is. Since the diagnosis three months ago, people have been...I can't think of a good word. Beaming sympathy at me? Pouring sympathy on me? Barraging me with sympathy? None of those are quite right. But you get the idea -- they hear cancer, and they think death, and even after I tell them that the doctors caught it early and the prognosis is very positive, the sympathy keeps comes crashing in, like waves on the seashore. They can't help it.

And it's totally understandable, and it's coming from a good place, of course, and I don't really mind, except that it feels strange sometimes. Misplaced. For one thing, the doctors did catch it early, and I'm probably going to be fine in the long run. (At least the medium-long run; in the long run, we're all doomed, I'm afraid.) For another, this is breast cancer, which is one of the better cancers to get -- it's heavily researched and they have really effective treatments for it. There are other cancers that aren't nearly as glamorous, and which don't get nearly a fair proportion of available funding, and if I were someone with one of those other cancers right now, I'd be looking at the breast cancer folks a bit sideways. For a third thing, chemo isn't nearly as brutal as it used to be, though the public perception hasn't caught up with that truth in the last decade. For a fourth thing, I really am pretty calm about this, most of the time. A doctor friend told me I was the calmest cancer patient she'd ever met. It's disconcerting when my friends are more upset than I am.

Sometimes I even start to worry that I'm *too* calm. I don't *think* I'm being blas, or that my confidence is false. And I'm not actively trying to have a good attitude (so it's also weird when people compliment me on that, as if it's something I'm exerting energy / determination to do). This is just my nature -- I'm a calm person, and I'm trained as an academic; I take a lot of comfort in the scientific method. I've done my layman's research, and I'm pretty sure my odds are pretty good, and also that I'm doing everything that's reasonable to beat this thing. I'm going to all my appointments, keeping on track with the schedule, and I'm even mostly eating sensibly and exercising, since the doctors seem to think that that's what will best help me get through the treatment with a minimum of discomfort. Maintaining what health is within my direct control.

That's what I can do -- I don't think sitting around fretting all the time, or freaking out in a more dramatic way, is going to help matters any. What actually helps is just getting on with my life, doing my work and doing things I enjoy, spending time with friends and family, and not even thinking about cancer except when I have to.

There is, of course, the occasional dark night of the soul, when I get weepy or angry. Except it's usually more like a dark half hour of the soul, because I am relentlessly cheerful by nature. I got somewhat crabby a few days ago, but I think only my nearest and dearest even noticed, because it wasn't intense enough to radiate out beyond that inner circle. (Warning, close friends: random mood swings ahead. It's me, not you. Blame the chemo.)

I was also a bit weepy tonight -- honestly, I'm kind of dreading tomorrow's biopsy (and MRI), because the last core biopsy was somewhat painful. I don't like pain, even if it is minor and brief. More importantly, tomorrow's procedures may tell me that the tumor is shrinking. Or that it's not, that the treatment isn't working. Or they may not come back with anything conclusive. I hate uncertainty, and the imminence of these results is throwing that uncertainty into sharp relief.

So yes, it's been a stressful few days, and the upcoming procedures of the next few days (Tues, MRI and biopsy; Wed, blood draw and oncology doctor appt., Thurs, second round of chemo) will also be stressful. I'm treating myself with ice cream and berries tonight, which should help. But I'm also expecting that I'll be calm again in a few days, and will likely remain so for a while, unless the prognosis starts trending unexpectedly downward.

Ah well. There's no 'right' way to respond emotionally to cancer, I suppose. For now, this is what I've got. I should stop over-analyzing, and just be happy. Or if I can't quite manage happy tonight, I'll settle for calm. With ice cream and berries.

One thought on “Cancer log 73: I think…”

  1. Taking a lot of comfort in the scientific method, and simultaneously taking a Zen approach to reality overall, is a wonderful combination. Your attitude reminds me of my mother’s attitude when she was diagnosed woth breast cancer.

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