I've had myself convinced for the past few months that it was due to family matters that had to be addressed, which is true. I've told myself it was because I'm not in chemo, so there is nothing else to share. I've used the excuse of a new job, busy life, new hobbies, etc.
But, early this morning, as I wrapped up a binge on the Showtime series "The Big C," which came out almost a year earlier to the day that I had my double mastectomy, I had an epiphany. Well, I had a few epiphanies.
Epiphany #1: I needed a C-Cation.
Subconsciously, I think I "took the year off" of cancer, particularly after Mary was rediagnosed with Stage 4 and then when she passed away. By no means do I blame her, but I think I had to take a break from all things cancer-related, aside from my mandatory surgeries and appointments. But why?
Epiphany #2: Fear
Yes, I'm a "survivor." Yes, I acknowledged guilt over surviving when friends like Mary, Ryan and others ran out of time and died. But I either never wanted to or never realized just how (pardon my French) just how fucking scared I am of cancer. I'd numbed myself to the anxiety of going back to Dr. Tepler's office time and time again. It creeps out every time I second guess Dr. Tepler's report that my counts and blood work are fine. Every time Dr. Tepler tells me that my requests for an MRI and scansare unnecessary because all signs are positive that I'm cancer free.
Epiphany #3: Hypocrisy
Throughout this blog, and my cancer journey, I have stated and restated that you have to trust your gut. But have I trusted my gut? Lately?
Here's the reality. I don't know that I can trust my gut right now. I can't decipher between Fear and My Gut anymore. Why do I say this? My Gut keeps telling me to tell Dr. Tepler to wake up and give me a godammned body scan because I "know" the cancer is back. But at the same time, isn't that a natural Fear for cancer survivors? That terror-inducing nickname, "Mets." Not the second-best New York baseball team (Yankees rule), but metastases. See, if you get Mets, you're automatically Stage 4. Plus, my chances of survival plummet from the 80% or better to numbers that aren't even worth putting out there.
I've been in complete denial of this. Of the fear. Of my gut.
All of this has resulted in my LIVESTRONG apathy this year. Guilt of hypocrisy and not living up to the STRONG in LIVESTRONG. I was afraid. I felt weak. I felt like I betrayed the message of LIVESTRONG.
But worse, I have been terrified of the cancer returning.
Blogging, for me, was a means of expressing what I was feeling and sharing how I was feeling. But I had made myself numb to how I was feeling. I had to be. Right now, I don't want to leave my bed. I'm paranoid about my cats' affections - is Samson just maturing from kitten to cat and less restless, more affectionate, and that's why he is sleeping with, next to and sometimes on me? Or is his instinct kicking in like "Death-enny" in "The Big C?" Why has Schmooie, who has been like Sean - living outdoors for weeks, even months at a time, despite having a home, decided to stay, not only indoors, but within inches of my head - either behind my pillow or dwelling on my nightstand at eye level, with little interest of going outside, where she loves? She's 15 years old - and now she decides to be an indoor cat? Or is it the same instinct Thomas had?
How could I write my blog when I couldn't even acknowledge what I was feeling? If I wrote it, it was real. If it was real, I'd have to deal.
So, I blame "The Big C." How dare you expose us like that? To the world? To ourselves? Did you have cameras set up in my home? My head? Is Adam modeled on Zach, who may not have acted out sexually as Adam did, but in other ways? How dare you make your character the same age as my son? Why couldn't Cathy have been single? I'm now furious I had to be my own Cancerierge - I had to be my own Paul, with a splash of my Dad and My Rock in the mix.
And worse, how dare you film in my backyard? Sometimes within yards of me while I was going through chemo? Filmed on backroads that I know like the back of my hand? And did you base some of Dr. Sherman on Dr. Tepler? Seriously?
Sometimes, we project a lot of ourselves on shows and things we are watching on TV and on screen. But this... how could I not? Particularly when so much of the footage was filmed where I would go for treatment, for recreation, etc? When Cathy experienced chemobrain at the Stamford Mall, I felt sick to my stomach. The minute that the elevator went up in the background - the elevator I had been riding since I was 8 and the Mall first opened - my stomach fell. When they shot the vertigo shot on Cathy's way up to the 7th floor, I got lightheaded. As she was speeding down Long Ridge Road near the old GE headquarters, my first instinct was to blurt out, "If you're going to hospice, you're facing the wrong direction - the fastest route is in the opposite direction - you missed your turn."
But this show, even though Cathy had a very different cancer, a very different treatment, this was too close to home - literally and figuratively. I'm very confused, outraged, appreciative and terrified now.
Clearly, I'm going to be calling Dr. Tepler tomorrow and fighting to have a full body scan, if possible. I'm going to call a dermatologist. I'm questioning every mark on my body, every ailment, every ache, every pain, every dream, every thought... is any of it an indication that the cancer is back?
I know so many people who I know have remarked that I'm so strong, that I've inspired them, etc, but when I said months ago that I'm just me, I wasn't kidding. I'm terrified. How can I inspire others to be strong when I feel so weak right now? And I'm not even in active treatment?
So, thank you, Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, Gabriel Basso, Phyllis Somerville and Darlene Hunt, for fucking me up. Thank you for holding up a mirror that I feared as much as death. Thank you for last night's night sweats, fear and anxiety induced dreams, and forcing me to second guess every, "You're cancer free," report I've gotten from Dr. Tepler.
And thank you for making me blog again.