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F#&k You, Cancer

light up jacket

Me, my brother and that awesome light up jacket

Three months ago, I was in Las Vegas celebrating my 50th birthday with over twenty friends and family. Hiking, eating, drinking, laughing. Clubbing. I felt so loved and was so full of appreciation that I was able to welcome this milestone surrounded by all of these amazing people. I couldn’t have had a better celebration. It was exactly what I wanted.

I keep thinking back to the night we had at the club. My brother had arranged for a VIP table. He let me wear his light-up jacket. We breezed past all of the people waiting to get in and were led to our table overlooking the club floor. There was champagne and dancing. I was on a ledge in a short dress and high heels.

I was on top of the world.

vegas baby

I came home feeling so happy. So excited about what the future held. Fifty felt pretty awesome.

And then I found the lump.

Quite a few people said to me, a few days after I made my diagnosis public, that so much good was going to come of this. And I’m sure that they meant well. And I apologize for what I’m about to say if you were one of them. I love you. But that was not what I wanted to hear.

Six weeks in, I’m still feeling the same way. I didn’t need cancer to change my life. To not sweat the small stuff. To value my relationships, my husband, my family.

I was already doing all of that.

No, what cancer has done is turn my life, and my family’s lives, totally fucking upside down.

My son calls me every day from Gainesville to check on me. “How are you today, Mom?” He’s a freshman in college. He should be concerned with drinking beer, meeting girls and studying.

My daughter kisses my bald head every morning when she wakes up and every afternoon when she gets home from school. She is so, so brave but I know she worries.

And my husband is still recovering from thinking that I’m going to die. He knows better now but it’s still hard.

I know I can do this. Fight cancer. Beat cancer. Pummel this shit into the ground.

Yes, I have a positive attitude because I know negativity doesn’t help. And yes, I joke about being bald and using the cancer card. Because keeping my whacked sense of humor is important. I also want to show my kids the right way to respond to adversity. There is very little time for self pity and woe is me.

One day, I do hope to be able to help someone going through this. So many people have reached out to me, sent me the most thoughtful notes and care packages. Those who have been through chemo, or are going through it now, are always available to answer my questions. And many let me just bitch to them.

And I am grateful for all of it.

I know that there are people out there who are still much worse off than me. I’m going to live. My family is doing okay. I have really good insurance and access to great health care. I have an embarrassing abundance of love and support coming my way.

But still…

I fucking have cancer. My body is going through hell. My skin is dry. I’m constipated. I’m nauseous. The inside of my mouth feels weird and I can’t use mouthwash. My neck hurts. I don’t sleep well.

And yes, I’m bald. (But surprisingly, I don’t really mind that.)

Six weeks in, I still catch myself thinking, “Shit, I have cancer.” Me. Healthy, never had any issues me. It’s just so surreal.

I. Have. Cancer.

I’ll do this. Fight this battle with cancer. And I’ll do it well. Because that’s who I am. That’s how I was raised. That’s the woman, parent, daughter, sister and friend I’ve become. There is no other option for me.

So fuck you, cancer. I’ll be shooting you a giant bird from the club in Las Vegas less than a year from now.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to see how this experience has changed my life for the better. But I’m not making any promises.

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