Monday, January 13, 2014

Day 1,305: The Body

I know that in some sense, if I am to write this blog, I should have written a post last Thursday, when I had my last infusion in this round of chemo. I should have written a post about being "done," about what a long road it's been, and all of that. But I didn't.

I didn't, because I wrote that post three years ago, when I finished cancer treatment the first time, on December 10, 2010. I called it "It's All Over but the Shoutin.'"

I was wrong. Everyone was wrong. It wasn't over.

It might not be over yet. We shall see. I still have about a 25% chance of getting mets. Metastatic breast cancer doesn't care if you had a mastectomy, if you have completed 10 months of chemotherapy in three and a half years, if you are young, if you have children, if you're a badass. It just doesn't care.

So many women with this disease focus so much on the anniversaries, the random dates that might signal whether or not you will live, because you have made it this far, because you have survived.

It's all meaningless to me now. I have probably had cancer in my body for the last seven years. For some reason, it hasn't spread anywhere outside of my breast, but that doesn't mean that it won't. So, on the one hand, I walked away from chemo--again. On the other, I will have lasting effects from it, perhaps permanent ones. In the last month alone, my hair has thinned, I have entered into what I hope is temporary menopause, I have hemorrhaged so badly from hormone changes that have affected my ovaries and other reproductive organs that I needed a D&C, I have in the last few weeks been experiencing horrible abdominal pain, I am anemic, my libido has tanked, and I am tired.

And so it goes. These things can be said in the same tone as many other things: I woke up today and could no longer walk. I had 100 seizures today. I am in a wheelchair, I need someone to move my body so I won't get bedsores. This medication is poisoning my liver, but I need it to avoid potential brain damage from seizures. My gallbladder needs to be removed. There's a gun at my head--literally, a real one, all metal and coldness. I am a baby but that penicillin nearly killed me. I am bald. I had my breast amputated. I am hugely pregnant. I am too skinny due to chemo sickness.

All of those statements describe things that have happened to the body, to my body. But it is just a body. Its purpose is not to be beautiful, to look young, to be a subject of comments from strangers. Its purpose is not even to help push through suffering, nor to experience joy in all the things it can do.

No. The body is a vessel. It is a container, a set of bones and muscles and flesh and fat and neurons and things that break and heal and disappear and reappear and live and die.

The body is something that holds me, that contains me, that allows me to be. It is not something that I choose to fight and it is not something I choose to celebrate. It just is. It allows for me to have a place to hold myself, it enables my personality to come to life, it provides a background for things--all kinds of things. Including this.


  1. I have been thinking, lately, how we all know we're going to die, but somehow live our lives as if we won't. It's always "someone else's" problem. It won't happen to us.

    That's the difference between you and me, I suppose.

    You know better.

    And that, to me, is what cancer has really stolen from you - the ability to cruise through life as though there were no looming period to end the story.

    For that I am truly sorry. I wish I could give it back to you.

    1. Well I came to terms with the whole death thing when I was 9, after the car accident. I haven't had the ability to cruise through life that way in almost 30 years; but cancer might end my life early, as opposed to the car accident: once I survived it (which was touch and go for a while), I survived it. It couldn't kill me later. you know?

  2. Stay strong, Katy! Cancer can indeed change your life forever. Sometimes, no matter how much we undergo just to survive, like go through chemo and even have surgery, it just really wouldn't go away. However, it reminds us that life is too precious to spend worrying about simple things. It makes us realize that we should savor and enjoy every moment we have left in this world. I wish you all the best! :)

    Aubrey Holloway @ Primary Care

  3. Definitely stay strong and remember that you are not alone in your journey. When my mother was suffering from cancer, I could not help but feel a sense of anger over such an amazing person being stricken with such an illness. She was a strong individual and told not to feel anger, but to appreciate any life at all.

    Terry Wagner @ Michael Jeffries Law