Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why I Write

Long before I had my own cancer blog, I became obsessed with another (you can find it here). I've had the good sense to turn this man into an internet friend - he's actually my one and only. All of my other friends are people I've actually met in real life but his story was so important to mine that I couldn't possibly not count him among my friends. We don't have the same cancer but I think we've shared an outlook: a desire to find a way to live this experience with hope and positivity, allowing it to showcase all of the wonder and beauty the world has to offer even when it's also giving you lemons. (Also, side note, why do lemons get the bad wrap metaphor? They're awesome. I digress.)

I read his blog with a passion that borders on creepy. I checked it so often he actually mused in a post about his readers in South Korea!  I remember reading and thinking "If I ever face something like that I hope I can find a sliver of his world view." I didn't know how soon I'd get to test that wonder. But when I was diagnosed all I could think was that I had to somehow pay it forward.

The blog was born because I love to write and I wanted all of my family and friends spread over the globe to be able to keep up with me, in spite of time differences and long distances. But it was also born because I wanted to be able to say "yes, cancer sucks but here is everything about it that you can laugh at" and if I was lucky, maybe help someone the way that Ruban's blog helped me.

Cancer can make you feel alone, especially if you don't actually know anyone in real life who is dealing with it. All the more so if you are navigating treatment in a country where you don't speak the language. I write to feel connected to a world filled with people who get it in a way that I hope no one in my "real" life ever will.

I've had 14,500 hits and a handful of comments from women and their families telling me that this blog had helped and I can't tell you how much joy and peace that brings me. That is why I write. Because if I can bring comfort or a smile to someone on the same path as me, cancer is (almost) worth it. If I can help just one person resolve to find a silver lining in their diagnosis, I will have paid forward the gift that Ruban gave to me.

Really, at it's core, writing is selfish. It helps me to feel better about being diagnosed. If it helps you feel better too, I'm glad we could share the lemonade.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

Our time here in Korea is drawing to a close, more quickly than I would like. These past three years have been filled with adventure and exploration and oh, yeah, that whole cancer thing. I can't believe how long it has been since I was diagnosed and how much has happened since then.

On Friday, we are setting out for what is likely to be our last trip in the region. We're taking a long weekend and flying to Phuket. (Yes, I know, my life is awesome.) But in preparing for the end of our time here, in squeezing in as much adventure as possible, I've started to become nostalgic  I'm nostalgic for a place I haven't even left yet, which is kind of weird. But honestly, I look around all the time and think of how much I will miss aspects of this place.

Part of me wonders if I will leave behind some of my worry when I get on the plane for the final time to return to Canada. If I will be able to associate cancer more with Korea than I do with myself. People have a funny way of creating false realities and this might be something I do.

Although I have no wish to taint my memories of Korea, I do want to start moving away from thinking of myself as a cancer patient or a cancer survivor. I want to just be Laura again. I think this is probably wishful thinking. I'm finding the further I go from actual cancer treatment, the more I worry about recurrence and metastasis. It would be lovely if all that worry stayed in Seoul when I finally leave, but I don't think I work that way. My cancerous shadow comes along.

I'm in the midst of a month long headache which the doctors are very, very confident is just stress and anxiety. When I'm being rationale, I agree with them. But it is hard not to worry about every ache and pain. However, if you are reading this as a survivor, here is the list of post-cancer aches/pains/weirdness that I've had since finishing radiation that I actually went to the doctor about and they turned out not to be cancer:

  • hip pain
  • rib pain
  • back ache/spine ache
  • headache

I'm sure there were others that didn't last long enough for me to get them checked out. The reality is those aches you are worrying about are probably just you getting old. Plus chemo is no picnic. I mean, the rule of thumb is any new symptom that lasts longer than two weeks is something to check out, but try to remember that more often than not it really is just a new ache and not the first sign of your impending doom. Now, if only I could say that to myself and believe it forever! Maybe you won't believe it either. People farther along on this road tell me that it does get easier with time. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm reading books on worrying less and trying to follow that advice. I'm a good student, but controlling your own mind is very difficult. I have started meditating which I am truly horrible at. Keeping my mind from wandering for more than five seconds is, at this point, a feat of strength. But like anything, I will get better with practice.

I'm hoping the serenity of a near-empty beach may help motivate me.