Then I see my bald head in the mirror each morning and think, "What the hell happened??"
I swear, it shocks me each and every time.
Not that I'm in denial, or refuse to accept my diagnosis. It's just too surreal that I have cancer. It doesn't make sense, and it doesn't seem real, because I don't feel or act "sick".
And because it doesn't resonate with me, I was afraid that cancer would consume my life.
On many levels, it has. It has become my new normal for how I live and work and plan my life.
But much of my life has also stayed the same: I am still able to work (thank God!), even if it's an abbreviated schedule; I still meet friends for coffee and dinners out; I still practice yoga; and I still pay my bills, make plans for my future, and make time for my adult-kids and grand babies.
Then every 21 days, I spend a full day hooked up to my "poidicine" (poison/medicine) at the Cancer center and try, as best I can, to weather through the next 10 days of recuperation.
And just like that, after a somewhat grueling and exhausting post-chemo recovery period, I return to work for a full, forty-hour week as if nothing has happened.
My body and mind return to their normal, healthy, joyful states where there are no lasting effects from the previous week. It amazes me that my stamina, my energy, and my mental clarity are fully intact as if my whole system has been rebooted (perhaps it has!).
And although I can remember feeling badly after each chemo, and can even remember writing about about how awful it was, I am like the woman who has gone through labor who "forgets" how bad it was when she declares with confidence and excitement, "I want another baby!"
By the time the next chemo session rolls around, I am usually ready for it, "forgetting" what the previous treatment was like and how I weathered through it (or didn't).
Thankfully, I am not consumed by my diagnosis, nor do I worry about it being a death sentence.
Because in my mind, it isn't.
I forget I wear a wig until it shifts on my head (or tries to fly away in the wind!), and it doesn't even occur to me that I have very few eyelashes until I try to put mascara on the ten I have left each morning (who am I kidding?).
And although my life has remained much the same, it's still not easy squeezing four weeks of life into two each month.
During my eleven days feeling "normal", I am able to enjoy a weekend catching up with family and friends, then return to work another three days before beginning the process of chemo and recuperation all over again: 10 days of cancer destruction and repair; 11 days of feeling normal; then the next chemo.
It is obvious why I am not able to reach out to others very easily or often: I am busy resting, working, or catching up on the life I'd missed while strung out on the couch for ten days.
And mostly, that includes catching up on housework, going to Costco and Target, buying groceries, doing laundry, getting my oil changed, curbing the weeds in my yard, etc--you know, the daily life stuff that I'd usually have 30 days each month to complete. Couple that with acupuncture appointments, walking, massages, and new holistic practices--all meant to ensure a speedy recovery.
Or to save my own life.
Many people in my situation have a spouse or partner; I do not. Early on, my niece asked why I don't take time off from work during months of cancer treatment and my answer was, "Because I have a life to pay for." I'm not bothered or resentful of that fact; it's just another way in which I live with cancer as a single person.
And because I am single, my life depends on only me, so when I am well for those 11 days, I am busily (and happily!) getting myself and my life all caught up for the next round of chemo.
It is obvious why I appreciate being able to lean on others for meals, errands, donations, company, or friendship. And I am grateful when my friends and family show up for me in so many big and consistent ways.
In case you aren't aware of this simple truth: I need you.
But please understand that without warning, and without my consent, my life was abbreviated.
And in the aftermath of that, I am trying my best to live gracefully with a hefty diagnosis while I continue to work as a nurse, hang with my kids and grand babies, write blogs and newsletters, and keep my big life in order.
I'm damn proud of myself for doing so well this far, and for enduring so much alone.
But despite this, I still need you.
I need you to keep reaching out without any expectation that I will reciprocate. Because most days, I simply can't.
I need you to understand that I am only one person, balancing cancer on one shoulder and my life on the other.
I need you to simply be there because I can feel your healing energy and your boundless love and support.
So even though not much has changed in my life, everything has.