Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Boobs are Trying to Kill Me

I recently found out that a younger sorority sister of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of last year at the age of 25. It is just mind-blowing that a perfectly healthy, young person would get such an aggressive form of cancer that requires a double mastectomy, chemo, radiation and reconstruction. She is choosing humor and honesty as a way to cope with the next 6 months and has begun her own blog to document her journey. I now have it linked on the right side of the page, but I highly encourgae you to read it. She is so open, honest and funny, and a GREAT writer. Keep her in your thoughts, and I also encourage you to visit the blog of another friend's organization, Still Easier Than Chemo, as well.

I went for a long walk today, and even tried a light jog. It was slow, it was embarrassing, I looked like a fool because I wasn’t wearing any of the right equipment, but I DON’T CARE. I am constantly amazed at the mood-lifting power of a little exercise and a little sunshine. Thank you, Lord, for giving Southern California 330 days of beautiful weather a year. And also for inventing iced tea. Amen.

The body is an amazing thing, and I think even more so in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. Here’s this earthly vessel, this flesh and blood that I only get one of, this little 5’2″, 100 pound sack of meat and offal, that one moment tried to kill me and the next spent four weeks miraculously healing me from a traumatic surgical wound.

Of their own volition, my cells saw the holes in my sides where the drains had been, the pokes in my hand and arm where the IVs went, and patched them up, little by little rebuilding what had been destroyed.

One month before my diagnosis, this body carried me to a 1 hour, 51 minute finish in my first ever half-marathon, a time that shattered my goal of two hours and exceeded my wildest expectations of what I was capable of achieving. From August to December, I had the incredible privilege to be a member of Richmond’s X-Team, a group of incredible individuals who wake up each morning at 6am to dedicate an hour of their day to working out in the grass and dew. I was diagnosed on a Friday; the Wednesday before, I ran 17 miles, prepping for my first full marathon. All that time, all those hours I was building muscle, eating kale, doing push-ups, running laps, my body was simultaneously improving and dismantling itself on a cellular level. What a paradox this life can be.

It’s such a cliche to say that having a brush with death will change your outlook, but I’ve found that it’s a cliche for a good reason. I’m not saying I treasure every single second of life, because sometimes, I’m still pissed off about the DVR not recording this week’s episode of Girls or opening the fridge and being out of Greek yogurt. But overall, being alive rules. It just rules, you guys. 

Basically, my post-cancer plan is this:
Step 1: Live.
Step 2: ???
Step 3: Never die.

I’ve been staring at this post for a while, feeling like it’s not quite up to snuff. I was staring at my computer and my notepad for a while this morning, trying to come up with something awesome to say, and failing over and over again. (I think I did okay in the end, though, right guys? Guys?) Frustrated, I went back to just Googling medicines that I have to take, which is something I do with alarming frequency. I’m on something called Tamoxifen, which is part of my fertility drug regimen and will also be a part of my post-chemotherapy five-year hormone therapy. I’m not joking, one of Tamoxifen’s side effects is “reduced cognitive function.”

Are you kidding? “Reduced cognitive function” is like a get-out-of-jail-free card. Assuming my cognitive function doesn’t become so reduced that I endanger myself by, say, injecting myself with vodka seltzer instead of my fertility drug cocktail, no one can get mad at me for being an idiot for the next five years!

So if you thought this post sucked, blame the drugs, because they’re literally making me dumber.

It's stories and people like this that make you think twice about what you are complaining or stressed about and choose to live and fight for those who can't.
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