Life as a Survivor

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Gosh, it has been forever since I last posted something!  That’s good news though because that means there’s no personal cancer news to share!  

I actually wrote part of this post a while ago but never published it.  Thought I’d post it now.

Life as a “survivor” is definitely different than life as a “cancer patient”.  I never expected to change as much as I think I have, but it’s true, cancer changes you. 

Before cancer, I never thought twice about the chance of not living into my golden senior years.  Now, I look at older people and think they don’t know how lucky they are to have lived such a long life.   I was looking at an old women parked next to me yesterday at a traffic light.  She was hanging her hand out the window flicking her cigarette out into the 20 degree weather and I couldn’t help but wonder why she hasn’t gotten cancer and I did.  I’ll never know why I got cancer and don’t wish it upon anyone but I am glad about where it has brought me in my life today and can be thankful for some of the things it brought me – like Aidan! 

Before cancer, I was a tad uptight about certain things.  For example, I never said curse words unless I was so mad I couldn’t hold them back, and then I felt bad afterwards like I had disobeyed and belonged in the corner.  Now, I swear just a little more, but usually just in a joking manner to be funny or light-hearted.  It feels weird to say these words sometimes (since I’ve never been a cusser) but then I think to myself, who gives a shit if you throw in a curse word here or there, does it really make you a bad person?  No.  Well, I guess if you swore every other word or in a nasty tone – then maybe. 😉 

Before cancer, I never worried about my health.  Now, I am a hypochondriac and every little pain worries me that the cancer is back or something else is.  You would laugh and think I was crazy if I told you all of my worries.  For example, I broke my toe earlier this year getting Aidan’s stroller out of the trunk in the rain.  I asked Dr. Limentani if that could mean bone cancer, because the bones are the most common place for breast cancer to spread (beyond the lymph nodes where my cancer had already metastasized).  He laughed and said it would be the first time he’s heard of breast cancer spreading to the pinky toe.  Another time, I felt a weird lump in my neck and questioned whether it could be another malignant lymph node.  The nurse told me it was my vein.  These are laughable things now but you’ll never know unless you’re in this position how your mind can worry about every little thing – especially since the doctors told me not to worry for so long.

Before cancer, I filled out medical forms during doctor’s visits and had a pretty clean questionnaire.  Now, I have to “continue on the back of the page” to explain all my medical woes and surgeries. 

Before cancer, I was proud to be an organ donor.  Now, I feel disciminated against for not being allowed to be an organ donor or blood donor.   I guess I understand but it’s yet another reminder.

Before cancer, I had long thin hair.  Now, I have short poofy thick hair that is grows into a mullet if I don’t cut the bottom when the top starts to catch up.

Before cancer, I never had any lingering issues to worry about.  After cancer, I have to worry about things like lymphedema, axillary web syndrome, neuropathy, bloody noses, cognitive dysfunction (chemo brain), capsulectomy surgery, followup appointments, painful mammograms, etc.   

Before cancer, I never met my out-of-pocket maximum for my health insurance.  Now, every year, I spend about $3,500 on medical expenses after insurance and have definitely earned my fair share of medical benefits. 

Before cancer, I obsessed about my fertility and tried my hardest to control my destiny by undergoing fertility treatments to get pregnant.  After cancer, I look back on my miscarriage and know that baby saved my life and realize more than ever that “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” 

Before cancer, I would have been devastated to realize I would never get pregnant.  After cancer, I am so thankful for my Little Scrumptious Aidan, wouldn’t change anything and could care less about not being able to get pregnant, since I would rather give Aidan another adopted sibling because now it’s all about him.

Now for some acknowledged differences between life as a cancer patient and life as a cancer survivor…..

As a cancer patient, people checked on me every day and flowers showed up at my door step weekly.  As a cancer survivor, I don’t get any flowers.  What’s up with that?! 😉

As a cancer patient, I had no hair, and my eye brows and eye lashes were dwindling every day.  As a cancer survivor, I have bad hair days again but am thankful for them because I know what they mean.

As a cancer patient, I was optimistic that I would be cured.  As a cancer survivor, I worry it’ll come back.

As a cancer patient, I visited the oncologist’s office or went to a related scan or appointment 75+ times, each time feeling that I was fighting as hard as I could.  As a cancer survivor, I only visit the oncologist every three months, each time in between worried that I’m not doing enough anymore. 

Well that’s all I can think of for now I guess.   Latest cancer related news – I had a surgery a couple weeks ago to remove internal scar tissue that had formed from the radiation treatments (it wasn’t a big deal and the recovery was much easier than I expected).  I also have what seems to be permanent neuropathy in my back (also from the radiation) – it’s basically a tingling/vibrating sensation in this one spot that’s due to nerve damage from radiation (yep, it beams through all the way through the back – powerfull stuff).  Still taking my Tamoxifen (pills I’m taking for 5 years for the estrogen receptor positive status).  Last mammogram came back clear.  Next mammogram and MRI will be in March.  That’ll be my two year mark.  That’s the highest risk period for recurrence so I’ll be happy once I get past that point.  I’ve been reading a lot of breast cancer memoirs on my Kindle (which I love) this summer, including Nancy Brinker’s Promise Me.  There are so many things about Nancy Brinker that I didn’t know.  It’s surreal reading a book written by someone I’ve met (well at least met over the phone/radio).   Other than all that, and my continuous hypochondriac self, I’m marching on with life.  Other personal events going on in my life are Nina and Waylon having their baby, me getting a new job (working downtown now), Aidan turning one, and Natalie getting married soon.    Lots going on and loving every minute of it all!


6 Responses to “Life as a Survivor”

  1. darlene Says:

    You are my hero! You are filled with grace and your light shines brightly. I love you brave one…to the moon and back.

  2. Bekah Says:

    I am so proud to call you my cousin! I hope I would have half as much strength as you had if I had to go through what you went through. You are the most awesome chick I know. I’ll send you some flowers if you want. 😉

    • Danielle Kragnes Murray Says:

      Thanks Cuz! I’m glad you’re my cousin too. Every time I go to the store to buy pet food, I’m tempted to buy kibbles and bits because of your starring role in our childhood skit. Hahahaha. Love you and miss you!

  3. Kelly McCombs Says:

    Loving you!!! Your cancer changed my life as well, it has opened my eyes to the beauty of life and how we should love every minute of it. I’m so proud of you!!!

  4. Carol Says:

    I loved this post. I used to get flowers too before I was married… what’s up with that??

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