So, here it is…I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer when I was 40. I have a lot to write about that, but not today. Today I’m writing about the t-shirt.
I have this one t-shirt that lives in the back of my dresser drawer. It’s a cancer survivor shirt. I have put it on several times, well…more than several. Each time I look at myself in the mirror while wearing this “Survivor” shirt, I end up taking it off, folding it neatly and putting it back in my t-shirt drawer. I continue to wonder why I have difficulty wearing this shirt. I mean, really, why? So here are my thoughts.
I struggle with embracing the cancer journey vs trying to forget it. BTW-it’s not like anyone forgets that they had cancer.
Journey-that’s a ridiculously stupid way to describe it-like I ventured on some kind of amazing travel experience to some exotic island…there is nothing amazing about being forced to take a trip to “Cancerland”. It’s a crappy, crappy place. Seriously, you do NOT want to go there.
Wearing an item of clothing that announces that I am a “survivor” seems to diminish people who did not respond favorably to treatment. It somehow seems disloyal to them.
Wearing a “survivor” shirt seems insensitive to people I know who are fighting bigger things than cancer.
“Survivor” seems to be a deceiving term. It gives the illusion that the person with cancer has fought hard enough and as such, they are now bestowed the title of “Survivor”, when in reality the “survivor” just happened to be lucky.
Is it appropriate to call yourself a “survivor” when you know that if you didn’t have access to health insurance and excellent doctors, you likely would not have survived?
What’s the timing on becoming a “survivor”? Like when I was walking around with cancer but I wasn’t aware of it, was I already a “survivor”? Or, did I become a “survivor” the second I was diagnosed? Additionally, is there an end limit on being a “survivor” or is it that the longer you survive, the more you become deserving and worthy of the “survivor” title?
I recently asked one of my oncologists how we will know that I am a “survivor”. Her response was, “When you live to be really old and then die from something else.” Umm, WTF? That was not the answer I was hoping to hear.
How can someone be considered a “survivor” when they still get scared? A new person diagnosed or re-diagnosed, a doctor’s appointment…these can cause a new symptom to emerge for the “survivor”. The term “survivor” connotes bravery. It doesn’t feel brave when you are scared and can you really be brave when you don’t have choice?
If I acknowledge publicly that I am a “survivor” will it temp fate? Will it somehow cause a recurrence and why on some level do I believe that it will, although I intellectually know that’s a faulty premise?
I guess I will simply keep the t-shirt in it’s home, in the back of my dresser drawer.
My parents bought this house in 1968. I lived here my entire childhood so I feel like it’s appropriate to say goodbye to the house that holds so many memories, both good and bad. The new owners are about to start their family, 52 years after my parents started our family.
Goodbye to the house where I…played school when I was 4 years old-possibly knowing on some level that I would eventually become a teacher.
Goodbye to the house where I…knew how to sneak down the hallway in order to avoid the floor creaking, so that no one would hear me. This came in handy right after Santa came and the house was quiet.
Goodbye to the house where I…slept in a twin bed next to my twin sister and rocked myself to sleep for years.
Goodbye to the house where I…stole my older sister’s clothes after she left for school, placed them in my backpack, changed into them in the middle school bathroom and wore them all day before returning them to her closet when I arrived home from school.
Goodbye to the house where I…had trouble sleeping every night before the first day of school and had long conversations with my twin sister about the upcoming school year.
Goodbye to the house where I…sat on the porch steps, more times than I can count, late at night, with my dad when I had croup.
Goodbye to the house where I…woke up early to go to the bakery on weekend mornings so that I could have alone time with my mom.
Goodbye to the house where I…planted seeds in the garden my dad created in the backyard. He would make a hole in the soil with the wooden handle of the shovel and I would follow him and drop a seed in each hole.
Goodbye to the house where I…picked what seemed like a million peanuts off the vine during that one year my dad decided to plant peanuts.
Goodbye to the house where I…would hug and kiss my dad every night before bed until age 8.
Goodbye to the house where I…would stay awake and listen from my bed for my dad to get home so I could hug and kiss him goodnight, even when he worked late.
Goodbye to the house where I…cried myself to sleep after my dad left when I was 8.
Goodbye to the house where I…learned what kind of a mom I wanted to become and not become.
Goodbye to the house where I…camped out on the porch with friends during summer nights.
Goodbye to the house where I…celebrated birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmas mornings.
Goodbye to the house where I…was emotionally abused.
Goodbye to the house where I…learned the importance of being independent.
Goodbye to the house where I…developed resilience and defense mechanisms that have served me well throughout my life.
Goodbye to the house where I…developed my sense of humor.
Goodbye to the house where I… mixed vodka and Tang together and drank too much of it at a too young age-but only once-lesson learned.
Goodbye to the house where I… had my first kiss.
Goodbye to the house where I…would run home as the streetlights turned on, the sun was setting, and I heard, “Carol, time for dinner” being called from my yard.
Goodbye to the house where I…played Kick the Can and ran though the sprinkler on hot summer days.
Goodbye to the house where I…would “lay out” on the black asphalt driveway with baby oil on so that I would “get a tan”. I’m fairly certain that was a bad idea.
Goodbye to the house where I…played on the swings in the back yard and watched the ants near the slide go in and out of their homes. Sometimes I would make a bridge using my fingers and/or arms and the ants would have to crawl over the bridge to “get home”.
Goodbye to the house where I…shoveled snow after what always felt like the biggest snowstorm ever.
Goodbye to the house where I…played with Barbies and acted out Ken and Barbie getting married. Typically there would be some traumatic event leading up to or immediately following the wedding nuptials-the event was usually a death or serious injury of Barbie or Ken. I believe this was a result of listening to a variety soap operas that became the background soundtrack of my childhood.
Goodbye to the house where I…laughed, cried, played and learned.
Here we go…my very first blog post. I’m not really sure what I will be saying/writing/communicating here but the name of my blog, “Blogged but Unspoken” sort of gives you an idea of where I might be going. I am fairly certain this blog will end up being mostly about the things I think about but don’t say. I do that a lot. Like, seriously, all the freakin’ time! It makes me wonder why we all just don’t say what we mean. Is it because we are worried about offending people? Probably. Is it because we wonder that what we are thinking won’t make a positive contribution to whatever conversation is happening around us? Maybe. Is it that we overthink personal interactions? Well, that’s probably a “yes” if you are female and quite possibly a “no” if you are male.
I can honestly say that I am somewhat tentative about this whole blog thing but I also know that I have tons of unspoken ideas and observations that very well may be similar to so many others who decide to be “unspoken”. For me, I think it’s time to tell my story. I’m just not sure where to begin.