Having a baby is one of the biggest moments (maybe THE biggest) in my life, and Mike's too. Starting a family the way we are, by having a stranger carry and give birth to our baby on the other side of the world, makes it that much bigger and more special. But I can't write about this without also writing about the cancer because cancer is just as big and it's the reason we are where we are today.
It has been nearly 2 years since my diagnosis and I have just recently begun to accept my new normal. I call it the "new" normal because what was normal for me 2 years ago is not the normal of today. Cancer changes and affects everything...much like a baby. There have been times when I have wondered if I should give myself more time to adjust to my new normal before we bring a baby into our lives. But we were ready for a baby before cancer and cancer has taught us to live life today because tomorrow is not a guarantee.
The first 10 months after my diagnosis were spent getting through treatment. The object of every day was simply to get through the day. My job was to show up to appointments, take the drugs that they gave me, and basically do everything in my power to keep myself as healthy as possible..while feeling like death warmed over. That meant resting, and eating (healthy foods) and drinking LOTS of water (chemo dehydrates). Mike's job was to handle everything else. He managed the house and the cooking. He managed our fledgling business on his own. He managed the logistics of getting me to and from my various appointments and treatments. He even managed the communication with family members about how I was doing so that I didn't have to deal with phone call after phone call when I wasn't up for it. He took care of me. My job through treatment was easy. Mike's job was the hard job.
The year after my treatment ended was arguably the hardest year of my life. While I was going through treatment, I was focusing on getting through each day and I wasn't able to grasp the enormity of what was happening. Looking back, that's a good thing because if I could have seen how big and far reaching cancer would be, I wouldn't have been able to get through the day. I couldn't deal with the emotional part of cancer while I was trying to get through the physical part of cancer. Treatment ended, the physical part was over, and the emotional part came crashing down on me.
I was warned that after treatment would be a difficult time, but like everyone else, I thought chemo would be the hard part. After months of doctors, and drugs, and nurses, and CBCs (complete blood counts) suddenly I was cut loose. Suddenly my cancer freeness was only being monitored every six months and I was not actively doing anything to keep the cancer from coming back. The possibility of a recurrence seemed huge and terrifying. In addition, I found myself consumed with an irrational anger toward everything and nothing. I was constantly on the brink of tears. Life seemed so hard for me and so easy for everyone else. I had no hope that things would get better and that my life would move forward. Mike was worried about me. I was worried about me.
The thing that made those months the hardest was, to everyone else (except Mike), cancer was over. I was "cured." I'd had a rough year, but it was behind me and I didn't have to think about it any more. But that is not how cancer works. Until the day I die, I will be SURVIVING cancer. To me, the word survivor indicates that something was beaten. Given the insidious nature of cancer, I will never be under the false impression that I have "beaten" cancer. This is why I cannot stand to hear that I have been "cured." My cancer could recur today, or next week, or twenty years from now. For the rest of my life, it will be something hanging over me.
I have worked very hard for the last 6 months to get my head in a better place and to get my life moving in a direction again. It was maybe the hardest thing I have ever done, to fight the fear and anger and hopelessness. I took control of my life again. It feels good. I know that many IPs have written about the lack of control they feel with this process. I get it. Feeling a loss of control over your life is a horrible place to be. True I have almost no control over anything that happens from here on, but I CHOSE to do this. I made a decision to be out of control. After two years of having no control and no choice, this feels amazing.