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.


  1. You've always been regular old, wonderful Laura to me.
    Can't wait to see you again! <3

  2. I'm a random reader, about 24 weeks out from my last chemo. I initially came across your blog when I was exploring hair regrowth after chemo, and I was sucked in to your writing style because we share A LOT in common in terms of how we think (and I, too, haD stage 1 ER+, HER2 - cancer). I can't tell you how valuable it is for you to post about how post-cancer aches and pains don't mean recurrence. As I begin my journey away from the shitstorm of my past year, I worry about aches and pains on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Keep up the writing, I'll be checking back! Best to you...