Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Emotional Toll

One of the things about cancer that people don't talk about enough is just how much it messes with your head.  It challenges you on so many levels - how you see yourself, how others might see you now, how you process the grief cycle, how you reevaluate everything you thought you knew about your life - never mind the physical challenges, which just serve to make everything worse.

For example, thanks to chemo killing fast growing brain cells and the cancer train in general (you know, the one that knocks you down at the word "cancer" and continues to drag you for months), my brain processes are just shot.  I sometimes have to hear the same things over and over until it really sinks in with me.  I forget things (sticky notes and lists are my new bffs).  I space out.  I find it hard to concentrate.  I take things too personally.  I get easily frustrated with myself because of these things and I'm even more impatient now than I was before.  I'm smart, damn it, so why can't I process stuff sometimes?  This all makes me very hard on myself in ways I never have been before.

I also have more self esteem issues than I did pre-cancer.  Some days it's hard to be bald, to be so very different from every one else.  Most of the time it's hard to look in the mirror and see the boobs I have now and compare them to what they used to be.  To wonder if anyone could ever really want to deal with that.  It's easy for someone to say 'yes, I want you anyway', but it can be hard to believe, which is completely unfair, but it's the evil things my brain says.  If anything, the things my brain tells me now are ten times worse than they used to be.  "No one could ever really want you." "You'll never be good enough again."  "You look like shit."  The list goes on and on.  It's hard to make those voices stop.  It's easy to think that because some people don't know how to deal with what you're going through that you've somehow done something wrong or are unwanted in some way.  Those feelings suck and they certainly don't do me any good.  Breaking out of that brain space can be difficult and I tend to over analyze almost every social encounter now.

I also re-experience the grief cycle over and over again. Some days I wake up having completely forgotten that all this has happened until it hits me and I have a moment of freak out.  There have been many moments of "holy shit, that stuff happened! surgery, chemo, more surgery. whoa."  Those days suck.  Some days I'm angry, sad, and hurt.  Some days I feel amazing.  It takes time to process all this crap and that's totally normal.  It's just not any fun.

I'm sure I make it look easy in some ways, but accepting who I am now is an almost daily struggle.  I know it will get easier thanks to therapy, but damn.  Some days are just fucking hard.


  1. We need to invent a wristwatch that you can keep sticky notes in. I never have sticky notes handy.

    At any rate, you are so positive publicly. I can't imagine the hell that is cancer, but your grace and quirks give me little jolts of happiness every day.

    1. i have a sticky note app on my droid. :-) ahh, to think i used to live without a smart phone...

  2. i so appreciate you. i am proud of you and the gift that you give to the world through your willingness to take your journey with cancer so publicly. it really sucks and i'm so sorry that you are in this, but i am very grateful for you.

  3. It really does suck that you got dealt such a crappy hand. I just looked at your picture again. I thought you were a very pretty woman with hair. You can really see your beautiful features with NO hair. My sister had cancer. Thymoma, not BC, and she had chemo about 4 different times, so she was bald a lot. She was gorgeous. Bald, or not. And she was tough too. She was my hero and my best friend. You? Are a rock star!

  4. Melanie,

    I love you and we are here if you need us. A trip to Augusta may be just the pickup you need :)

    And by the way Tainted Fibers is right - your baldness really brings out your great eyes and cheekbones...I wish I was 10% as gorgeous as you are.

    Love you!

  5. I said it on Rav and I'll say it again: the reason sucks but you ROCK the bald look.
    You've got the rocks to 'wear it like you mean it' even if you didn't choose it, and that forces people to deal with it, and go "Hey shit, she's gorgeous." Not just for your beautiful face but for the force of personality and confidence you serve up with it in that photo.
    Crossing my fingers for you and ALL the Mojo.