When I was first told that I had lymphoma, my immediate thought was that cancer kills. But that was quickly usurped by the idea that it wouldn't be me dying, at least not then.
Even though I was smacked with a diagnosis that leaves many dead, I felt blindsided for only a few minutes before I made the decision to be one of the survivors, no matter what it would require of me.
Fortunately, it has so far been my fate.
When my hair-shaving party was held just over four months ago, I didn't want to be there. I kept shoving others in front of me to get their hair shaved because I had no desire to do so, even while dozens of people who love me surrounded me in support.
I cried every time someone happily sat down on the stool to have their head shaved, like they didn't give a rat's ass that their hair would be gone with one swipe of the clippers.
Why not, people?
I was falling apart knowing that I didn't have a choice but to lose my head of hair.
I had to fight back tears when it actually happened, and cringed with the sight of myself in the mirror.
I flip my wig or bandana off of my head as soon as I walk in the door to my home and spend the rest of the evening bald. Sometimes, I even remove whatever I'm wearing on my head as I drive home, allowing cool air to soothe my hot scalp. If I'm really in the mood, I go in public with a bald head (I would do this more readily, but my head gets cold quickly!).
I constantly rub the stubbles on my head in a weird, OCD-kind-of-way because I love the way it feels as I drag my hand across my scalp. And since my hair began growing back a few weeks before my final chemotherapy, my head feels like a baby chick's, all soft and fluffy, so it's even more enticing to touch.
I was certain that I would feel mortified without eyebrows and eyelashes, but they fell off so slowly, I only noticed they were gone when I tried to put mascara on the few remaining hairs.
Now I highlight my eyes with a brown pencil, put on red lipstick, and call it good.
I don't fuss over make-up, nor worry about how I look before strutting out the door, confident as though I had a full head of my own hair with eyebrows and lashes to match. Even though my eyebrows have mostly grown back in, they are now very blonde so they still don't show up against my light complexion.
When I lost feeling in my fingertips within 12 hours after receiving my first chemotherapy treatment, I got used to it within a few days. When the same cotton-under-my-skin feeling reached my toes just a few weeks ago, I knew what to expect. This neuropathy may even follow me for a lifetime.
The chemotherapy may have numbed-up the tips of my fingers and toes, but it also saved my life.
I am sure I will even get used to the idea of dying should that scenario be my story before I'm ready.
Although I just learned a month ago that the cancer could no longer be detected on my PET scan, my mortality was put into question during the months when I had no idea if the chemotherapy was working or not.
Fortunately, my treatment went well and I am finally done with nary a trace of cancer.
But while I was home recovering after each treatment, I missed 7 days of work each time, which also meant lost wages, sometimes twice in one month. You can imagine that I lost a lot of money during that time, and you'd be right. My absence totaled just over eight work weeks, which amounted to about 20% of lost income for this year.
That financial loss is a huge chasm that I will most likely never be able to recoup, but the upside is that many of you contributed money, while others donated vacation days, making my financial loss a bit more manageable.
The external losses of cancer are obvious but they are also temporary, and will soon be just a distant memory.
Sadly, other losses have been more difficult to deal with and understand.
During one of the most challenging times in my life, I was given an opportunity to see a real-live snapshot of how people behaved while watching my journey unfold. You've been privy to how beautifully so many people came to my aid.
As surprised and ecstatic as I was (and continue to be) by the outpouring of help and love, I am just as sad to report that some of the people I thought were part of my support network disappeared when cancer came on the scene.
No explanations. They just never showed up. Or they quietly vanished. It was perplexing, but I just assumed each time that perhaps a diagnosis of cancer was just too much for some people to face.
My chemo nurse confirmed this when she told me, "I've seen so many people lose best friends over cancer. It happens all the time."
And I was shocked.
Because I lost one of mine, too.
It was both heart-breaking and confusing when she disappeared because I didn't see it coming. She slowly started to fade into the background of my life, then her final departure was swift and harsh.
There are so many questions left dangling.
And so much sadness left to face.
Of all the losses that cancer has thrown into my life, losing trust in someone who was like a sister has been the biggest loss of all.