The other 10

I’m fine, most of the time. I’d say 90% of the time I don’t think about what’s going on, or can keep my brave face on. But I have moments where everything builds up and I fall apart.

It’s about to get really heavy. I’m not in this place now, but want people to know it happens. I don’t want to portray this person who can fight off my troubles every minute of the day. It’s not healthy and it’s not healthy for people to think that should be expected.

There seem to be thoughts that always lurk and I return to when my mind goes south. I call them my ‘bad places.’

1. Songs that could be played at my funeral. These are the worst because I’m always blind sided. Listening to music getting ready, driving to errands, I catch my self entering this bad pace and quickly skip forward to something else. Anything else.

2. Wondering if THIS is the reason. I’ve given up on trying to figure out the answer to ‘why is this happening?’ I hear so often that, ‘this will all make sense eventually’. What if I don’t beat this and so many hard times in my past happened because I wouldn’t make it? I mostly apply this to break ups. I’ll conclude that I’ve never settled down because that would make my hubby a widower by 35 and my kids motherless.

3. Deciding when is the appropriate time to get my accounts in order and put my house up for sale. I’d rather do it now than leave a mess for my family to deal with when so many other emotions would be running high.

Like I said, I’m in control 90% of the time and can manage my thoughts. Some of my resources from Mayo have helped me practice ‘anxiety control’. Practicing meditation has helped.

But it’s healthy to be sad and łive in that emotion for a while. I let it happen when I can feel emotions building, sometimes that means pulling my car into empty parking lots and just slathering on as much sadness and pity as I can for about ten minutes. Then get on with my life.

Often I’ve found it follows times of extreme happiness. I’ve always said there’s a thin line between love and hate, and I guess there’s one between sadness and joy. I would rather live in a place where I feel too much than be numb to my feelings; I did that last year.

The song, ‘Wake Me Up’ that’s popular gets me worked up for this reason. I like the beat, but it’s like it’s advocating not experiencing life and the beauty of making mistakes and learning from them. It’s hard, but that’s what makes you wiser. And cant just fast forward and expect the be a different person. Embrace and live in life’s moments. – the bad and the good.

Since I’m making this a downer of a post, I’ll throw this in here too; let’s talk about my scary numbers.

The worst thing about cancer is that you don’t know if treatments are working. Surgery yields physical results. Chemo yields statistics on other people. Come December when I finish my last round, it’s not the end. I still have five years of regular follow-ups and scans to make sure the cells haven’t come back. The only way to tell if they are they are there is if they start growing in another organ, called recurrence, and for me, stage 4. If I haven’t recurred, I’m considered cured after five years.

So, the current percentage of people with my same stage 3c colon cancer who live five years after diagnosis is 30%. Just 30%. Only 30 people out of 100 live five years after they are diagnosed. If I go into remission and am staged at 4, it becomes 8%. Only 8 out of 100 live another five years.

Also always included by this number, is that other causes of death weren’t factored in. With a cancer that generally hits people older than 50 I try to convince myself there are a lot of those.

But I’m young, so I have better odds, right? Wrong. Young adult cancer is the only age group where survival rates aren’t improving. Some theories are that our cancers are genetically different so treatments aren’t as effective. Others are that our stubborn ‘that won’t happen to me at this age’ attitude causes delayed diagnoses and late staging and alters our stats.

So, to my friends that have asked and considered getting checked out for one reason or another, do it. Now. Chance are its minor (6% of all cancer diagnoses are in young adults) and you can go on your merry way. But if it is something minor, know what might be coming. Learn your family medical history and what increases your risk. In my case, it was mostly red meats and alcohol.

After I get through this, I’m doing more research on my other risks. Just because I’ve had cancer once, doesn’t mean I won’t get a different type. It’s not a one and done deal.

I read an article last week with a finding that women who drink frequently (not heavily) before having kids are at a 13% higher risk of developing breast cancer. Also that all these birth control pills we’ve been taking maybe huge risk factors as I think breast cancer is largely caused by hormones. I don’t know, I haven’t fully gotten around to doing my homework yet.

I’m just worrying about one cancer at a time for now.

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Author: Clarissa A.

The older I get, the less I know.

5 thoughts on “The other 10”

  1. If it helps Claire, you are perfectly normal and so are your thoughts – both the positive and the ‘bad place’ thoughts. I’m all for optimism, but I think it’s good to have a little bit of realism too.I always thought it was almost disrespectful for people to act as though there was no way things could end up without a happily ever after ending. It takes so much away from everything you have to deal with both physically and mentally. It’s ok (and probably healthy) to have some of those ‘what if I don’t make it’ discussions. Especially if it helps to put your mind at ease. I found it almost easiest to have those with people I wasn’t super close to, as I couldn’t bare to put them through it. Although, looking back, I’m sure they thought it anyway. Honestly, we should all have living wills and it’s something that I’ve been meaning to do – as working in a hospital you constantly see people dealing with the unexpected out of absolutely no where. But don’t get down about those low survival stats though. NO reason that YOU can’t be in that 8% if that’s what it comes to. Why not? Someone has to make up that 8% and why shouldn’t it be you? And so many people defy their stats. My Uncle Larry was told he wouldn’t live another 6 months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. That was over 15 years ago now and he’s still enjoying life. Thanks for reminding me, yet again, how lucky I am to be alive today. To wake up and be able to enjoy the rain and the wind on a dreary, but beautiful morning. To be able to curl up with my dog without even being aware that I feel good – because it’s normal now. Thanks for reminding me not to take any day for granted. Sending strong healthy vibes your way.

  2. Morning Claire!

    Isn’t it enough to drive you crazy–at least 10% of the time!!

    Cancer is so complex, it can touch the healthiest as well as the unhealthy…

    the medical field hasn’t been able to figure it out

    statistics is a numbers game with all kinds of variables that are figured in or not figured in … leaving one feeling unsure of their future.

    Doctors and holistic practitioners are sometimes right and sometimes wrong..

    I know you must have come to some of the same conclusions from all the articles we read…trying to figure this out and find reassurance that it will all work out. It can leave you bewildered.

    So sometimes I find I just need it simple to help me catch my breath and to keep on going…

    Simply… each day we have a 50/50 chance, whether we are healthy or not….we are going to live or we are going to die…

    that is life….no one “really” knows….

    So whether you have cancer or not …Take care of yourself…wake up and enjoy the day given you. Make the most of it..take it slow or take it fast…..laugh and cry……open your senses and take in the beauty…give to others and also receive from others and don’t forget your prayers! Your day can be truly amazing!

    Everyone’s llfe will end sometime….You are here today…make the most of it!

    Love you!

  3. I believe it’s healthy to have the depressing thoughts you are having and I think sharing them with others is also important. If you weren’t feeling down at times and struggling with the unknown of the future I’d be worried that you were allowing yourself to live in a fantasy world where the ending to stories may not always be happy.

    Having watched my sister go through the same sort of thing, (I will not speak for how it has changed her) I know I was able to come away with a perspective that acknowledges how lucky I am to be alive and be able to appreciate the things we all take for granted so much of the time. The smell of fresh cut grass, early morning sunshine, a hot cup of tea on a rainy afternoon. All little things that don’t seem to matter until they are not there.

    What you’re experiencing allows you to live with your eyes truly open, seeing the real picture that most of us never really get to see. Once you are through this it will allow you to see life in a different way and while I do not envy your current situation, I know that you have been given a chance to see life in a way that I do not know and may never know or truly understand. It seems that this can be powerful in both an enlightening way and as a force of destruction. No matter what happens, remember that you get to choose how you will respond to it.

    We love you!

  4. Well Claire, your mom and my children said what needs to be said. Most of the Katie was in treatment, I did not think about where things would go. i would do what I had to do to get through that particular day of doing the wash working at our doll business and then getting in the car to go see Katie, 2 hours and 15 minutes each way. What could I do to make her laugh or good. How to get her to eat something. Was there something I could pick up along the way? And I was fine. But every morning I would wake up and stretch in bed and smell the fresh spring air until a huge rock would smash into my stomach. A few moments of sheer terror and sadness. Then I would get up and think what do I do today and move on. It was difficult. but as long as I took each day one by one I was ok. And even now, when she has her yearly blood work done I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    As Liz says, It is reality. And you are not the only one who is going to die. We all are. None of us know when. You don’t KNOW for certain how all of this will turn out. I need to go to town tomorrow and buy things for a birthday party. I could die in a head on collision. I could fall down the basement steps and break my neck. I trip a lot… I could be struck by lightning. True, your chances are higher than mine because of the cancer but you have the same odds of getting hit by a bus as everybody. I have not made a living will ( I don’t want to be kept alive on machines) or made the changes I mean to make to our estate will. I haven’t planned my funeral and I think I really don’t want one. Have I made that clear to my family? Have i said I love you to Henry lately? To family and friends? Maybe I should start worrying as my age really puts me in a closer percentile to you in your condition, I could stress about it. But I won’t. That is not a good way to live. If I die before I do those things, it won’t really matter.

    You should plan ahead. It’s constructive and gives you some control Don’t sell the house unless you need the money. Choose the music and make final arrangements and then put them away and live the rest of your life as best you can. 5 years is a long time to do a lot of things you would just put off if you thought you had 55 years. And you will enjoy them more. Love you Claire. Face the bad places but keep them in their place.

  5. There is a lot of good advise here. I can guarantee you that everyone who loves you has had the same thoughts, so never hesitate to bring them up when you feel the need. They won’t, but they are struggling right along with you, and while their suffering may not be physical, you can bet that they suffer mentally and feel helpless when all they want to do is help. You need to be strong, but you are not alone. Any of these people would jump at the chance to do something to make things easier for you. Let them. I am told that you can say anything with statistics so I say this, none of the statistics tells you anything about the people involved, only numbers. If you are willing to fight for your life and have a dedicated support group, your chances for a successful outcome goes way up. I saw that with my daughter Katie. Maybe it is because we fight harder so as not to disappoint the people we love. As one doctor told my dad in response to whether he should sell a house he and my mom had just bought just before his cancer diagnoses, the doctor encouraged him to prepare to live his life as long as he was alive. We are all in the same boat, not knowing when the end will come, but we don’t function as if today is our last. I don’t know you, and hopefully someday we will meet, but from what I have heard and read in your blog, you have what it takes to do much better than the 8%.

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