I have a love/hate relationship with March. The B man’s birthday is March 14th and is, of course, prime party time at the Giess household. The fact that there are 3 other family birthdays in there just add to the festivities. My mother-in-law’s is the 1st, my oldest niece’s is the 9th and my brother-in-law’s is the 29th. It’s just one big party. It’s also the time we start planning for our next homeschool year by working on schedules. On the flip side, I begin to go into panic mode about what I may NOT get done in school.
I hate March because my oldest becomes OBSESSED with March madness. I don’t like basketball to begin with so bracket madness just drives me up the wall. Having a sports obsessed son is tough for a mom who believes the only sport worth spending any time on is football, although I love watching B to play soccer. I also hate March because John and I both lost our dads in March. It’s been 5 years for John and will be 8 for me at the end of the month. It’s a tough time for both of us and makes us think about our own mortality. We’ve both been mad at God, yet realize it was His love that took away their suffering. My biggest hate has to do with my last chemo treatment, which was March 15, 2013.
Now, you would think that would be a reason to celebrate. Woo-hoo – ditch the chemo and bring on the hair. To some extent, that’s true. However, it was my last chemo treatment that pushed my battered body over the edge. It was the last treatment that gave me permanent neuropathy and pushed the bones into osteopenia. It killed the last of the good brain cells. It exhausted me. And I’m still waiting for my body to decide to revert in some way, shape or form to its presurgical levels.
Tomorrow I have my one year CA-125 test, then I see the oncologist the next day. I am one year into my two year quarterly dance with the oncologist. For some reason, I feel a bit complacent this time. It could be that I’m exhausted after an extremely busy weekend or maybe I’m just getting used to the ups and downs of the stress of OVCA. Or maybe I’m just tired of waiting for the time bomb to go off. If it wants to, it will and my spending one extra iota of effort on it will get me nowhere.
Tuesday will be the first time John has not attended an oncologist’s visit with me, which may indicate a touch of madness on my part. I want to see if I can do this on my own. Since my CT was clear, I feel fairly confident that the CA-125 will be within normal ranges so I’ll just get the standard lecture about my weight and needing to exercise. On the other hand, John is only 10 minutes from the oncologist’s office so if things go to crap he’s fairly close. Methinks I may be growing up on this journey with cancer.
Last week our small group talked about going out of our comfort zone and what pushes you out of your comfort zone. I realized that my comfort zone has increased considerably. I’ve learned that going through cancer – or any life threatening illness – either makes you stronger or causes you to curl up in a ball. Actually you tend to do both. You may be strong, but have days when the ball looks really good. Talking in front of a crowd? Piece of cake. Going on TV to talk about international adoption? No problem (seriously, I did this, but that’s for another blog post). Join another co-op and teach writing? Bring it on!
What has shifted is what makes up my comfort zone. While I used to jump at every chance to write, now I’m more selective. I am currently working on the new brochure for the Ovarian Cancer Alliance of Greater Cincinnati (aka Cincy Teal). That’s a daunting task. This brochure will touch many potential cancer patients or family members. It’s tough to take the cold facts and make them not seem so daunting, even though they are. How do I write about something so devastating without making it sound so hopeless? I am also creating a second brochure for newly diagnosed patients called “Follow the Teal Brick Road” (without the Munchkins). It’s designed to be a piece to give newly diagnosed women an idea of what the teal road is like. When I think about that, that’s madness! Who am I to tell another woman what her journey will be like? There are some women, like those in Cincy Teal, who’ve hit OVCA head on, showed it to the door and now raise awareness. I know there are others who just want to get as far away from it as they can and never want to hear another word.
When you find out you have any kind of cancer, your world is rocked. OVCA just rocks it in a different way. There aren’t many people (statistically speaking anyway) who face it every year so you tend to hear only the bad. When you’re trying to put together a piece to bring some hope, that’s an incredible burden. There’s so little support out there that you feel like the end is near so why bother. Am I mad to think that I can bring a bit of understanding to someone who’s been told they have a potentially incurable disease? The line about “If I can help just one person…” is terribly cliché, but maybe it works here. Even if the woman who receives thinks “I’m not alone,” then I think, perhaps, the endeavor isn’t mad.
March madness takes a lot of forms, from basketball brackets to mourning lost fathers to facing up to a lifetime of cancer on my shoulder. I am still mad that I got cancer and livid over how it affected my sons and family. Yet, somehow, I have a peace that transcends the madness. Yes, God is present through it all, but it goes beyond that. For the time being I faced the Beast eye to eye and toe to toe and I won. The win might be short lived, it might not, but it IS a win. And with that in mind, I forge through the madness and work on facing what God and life have for me.