|The bachelor party crew, pictured here in |
our natural savage state
Another big change from where I was in April was that I recently had my port removed, which is freeing. I constantly find myself touching the spot where it was to remind me that it’s really gone. The actual incision site is still covered with medical glue, but it appears that the scar is healing nicely. The scar on my hip from my orchiectomy (which was nine months ago) has faded into almost nothing.
Another physical difference is that my hair has completely regrown to its normal length. I even had to get a haircut recently since it was getting too long and ratty. While losing my hair helped me to realize that my outward appearance is not the only thing that makes up my identity, it definitely helps me feel more like myself when I’m able to spike it up again.
While the color and texture of my hair initially seemed to be completely different, it’s getting back to normal. Before chemo, I used to have one strand of hair in the back of my head that was frizzy and curly. No matter how many times I cut it, it always grew back that way. However, since chemo, that strand has not reappeared. Some people get chemo curls; I got chemo straightening.
However, the latter two effects may not be due to chemo at all - they may be related to my ongoing struggle with emotional healing. As I outwardly regained my sense of self after chemo, I found that the internal battle to heal continued to rage on.
I’m not the person I was before chemo. I’m not the person I was during chemo. I’m not even the person I was directly after chemo. I am a changed person. While many lessons learned from cancer were for the better, I really find myself struggling to stay upbeat and positive at times.
To be honest, I am terrified of a recurrence. While I am not performing self-checks daily like I was in April, I still find myself habitually starting to perform one. Just recently, I thought I felt another lump. Sometimes I feel pain in my scrotum. Are these symptoms real concerns, or are they the paranoid thoughts of a cancer survivor? I don’t want to be the Boy Who Cried Wolf, but I also want to have constant vigilance. Finding that balance has proven more difficult for me than I thought.
I also struggle to stay even-keeled in my attitude. I often go through drastic mood swings. One moment, I will be totally fine, and the next, I’ll become very sullen and agitated about the smallest things. I know that it’s hard on those around me, and I don’t mean it to be. It’s something I’m aware of and still working on.
|Port removal scar|
Though it has been tough at times, 2017 has brought a lot of good, too - remission, a new car, another new job, a second clean scan, and our upcoming wedding. But at the same time, it’s much tougher than 2016 was. The physical difficulties brought on by cancer are now pretty much gone, but my experience continues to be hard on my internal self. People tell me I should be happy and excited because I am in remission and survived, but I find it hard to be at times. I don’t really have a real reason for it other than the internal healing is much harder than the physical.
I suppose there is no real timeline or recommended course of action to help overcome this. I was in therapy for a few weeks, but I never seemed to talk about cancer during sessions. The thing is, my downward spiral about cancer isn’t something I can talk about at a regularly scheduled time. It comes and goes as it pleases, announcing itself unexpectedly, much like the cancer did.
I struggled with mental health in high school to the point where I was in weekly therapy and on anti-depressants. I don’t think I’m quite at that stage yet, but I’m also not ashamed to ask for serious help if it gets there. I know that having depression at such a young age gives me a higher likelihood of experiencing it later in life, and I imagine a traumatic event like having cancer further raises the risk.
When I am fine, it seems trivial to talk about. When I am experiencing an episode, I don’t want to talk about it. When I need it most, I can’t bring myself to verbalize what I’m feeling. I know, that’s such a cop out. I tried to talk about how I am feeling with Mallory a week or two ago, but I broke down in tears. When she asked me why I was crying (which is an extremely rare occurrence), I said I didn’t want to talk to her. One of the few people in the world who loves me unconditionally, and I was shutting her out. The next morning I was fine, but we still never discussed why I was so upset the previous evening. This is the cruel irony of cancer remission. I want to talk about it, but at the same time, I don’t.
|Here's a slice of pizza and cupcakes for |
reading this post.
The arrangement was definitely not staged.
I’m well aware that this post started as a “hey, these are some great changes” and took a hard left into “my psyche is shattering” and that I’m not providing any real action steps for myself or for others. I don’t think I have any action steps right now; I just need to ride this out until I figure out what to do next.
My next post will most likely be more aligned with the generally witty/happy theme of ABSOT, but I do want to make it a point to always share the full truth of this journey. It’s not always a ball (pun intended) to be a cancer survivor, and I think it’s important for people to know that. For now, I’ll try to keep my spirits up, but I also recognize that it would be more damaging in the long run to always try to mask how I am truly feeling to people who care about me.
Well, that’s a really cheerful post. I’ll end on a positive note. Here’s a testicular cancer joke I found on the web:
“A testicular cancer patient sees a urologist to schedule an orchiectomy. The doctor tells him the operation will cost $4,000. The patient asks him if there's any way he can get a discount. The doctor answers, ‘Well, I could do two for the price of one’.”