Before starting this post, I looked up the word trauma in the American Heritage Dictionary and found 3 definitions, all of which relate to having cancer.
Definition 1: A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
Well that pretty much sums up the surgery, now doesn’t it? Nothing is really more shocking, physically and psychologically, than seeing yourself in the mirror that first time after surgery. I know I was especially shocked at just how much tissue is gone. In my mind I guess I had pictured it looking more like what a boy’s chest looks like, but it’s not. It’s concave. I have a hard time imagining now what it will look like when I get my foob (yes I’m finally getting around to it). I’m 34 years old, stuck in the body of a menopausal 80 year old. I actually had to get a bigger pill box. 5 Colace a day will do that to you.
Definition 2: An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
Isn’t that the truth? Sometimes I think what cancer does to our psyche is as bad or worse than what it does to our bodies. We don’t trust our bodies anymore. Any new pain must mean it’s spreading. You’re dizzy, it’s spreading. You get a paper cut, you’re sure to get lymphedema (take that elementary school rating!). We don’t look too far into the future anymore. I know I pretty much live week to week with a few exceptions. You start making lists in your head of how many years you need. How many years do I need to live so my kids don’t need me anymore. 15 years? 20 years? I want all my years, damn it. (Take that! again elementary school rating.) Heck, I still need my parents and I’m in my 30s. My family tends to live on into their 90s. I always thought I would too. I still intend to. (Ugh. Now I’m having a hot flash. Hooray chemopause.)
Definition 3: An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
Oh the freak outs. And yes, there are freakouts. I worry that I am a bad mommy because I’m too damned tired to do the things I know I should be doing. Agent J should be going to bed on his own. He should also be potty trained. Instead I let Big J take the brunt of the bedtime and I’m pretty much ignoring the potty. Even then I still cave and cuddle with my baby boy when I want to. Agent L should be cleaning her room and helping out more around the house. But I’m too tired. Cancer is disrupting my time with my children. And I’m pretty angry about that.
Another side effect of cancer that I haven’t read about much is the relationships you form with other cancer patients. It’s like when you buy a new car and you see it everywhere you go. Once you have the baldy cancer badge, you meet people all the time. There are also the others that you seek out. I think this is an important part of the cancer process but it comes double edged. It can be extremely beneficial to talk to people and read blogs about people going through the same things you are. But at the same time, we’re all cancer patients and some of us respond to treatment and some of us don’t. So, smack! Another dose of mortality hitting you in the face. A group of mommy bloggers have gotten together to write Mothers With Cancer, a place I think would have been very helpful when I was first diagnosed. Anyway, I’m digressing from where I wanted to go with this. One of the Mommies is having to make the most difficult choices a mama can make right now and it really brings home how serious cancer is. And then I don’t feel so guilty cuddling with my boy until he falls asleep. (If you’re of a prayerful nature, a couple extra for PunkRockMommy couldn’t hurt.)