Not Really Me

Last night, my Ultimate Bengal Fan introduced me to a great move; 1000 to 1: The Cory Weissman Story. Based on a true story, Cory is known as Mr. 1000 since he scored 1000 points in his high school basketball career, then received a scholarship to Gettysburg College. While prepping for his freshman season, he suffered a massive stroke that nearly killed him. It took him 2+ years of rehab to be able to suit up for a game. In the final game of his senior year, he scored a single point. His team was up by 20+ points with less than a minute to play. His coach allowed him onto the court (he was still suffering seizures so this was a liability for the school). The other team fouled him, so he could make 2 foul shots. He made the last one. It was a great story about determination, heart and the desire to live life. The Bengal Fan even said the liked it better than most sports movies because it didn’t have a miraculous comeback. It just showed him becoming “normal” again.

During one point in the movie, Cory is speaking with a psychotherapist. He breaks down screaming that he just wants his life back. The one before the stroke. That one scene continues to resonate with me today and I think it will for the days and weeks to come. I completely understand what Cory’s saying. I understand that primal need to get back what you had before.

People who have faced or continue to face a life threatening or chronic disease know that there’s two phases to your life; the one before the disease and the one after. Try as you might, even with medical advances and technologies, your life is never the same. You can do all the same things, be with the same people and wear the same clothes, but you’re never, EVER the same.

My sons continually point out to me that I’ve changed since cancer, but I’m never sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. As I’ve said before, they love to mess with my ever present chemo brain. They also talk about my penguin strut, although with PT that’s pretty much gone unless my feet are really numb. The gray hair jokes are starting to lose their appeal and I’m pretty sure the B-man is getting tired of telling the kids on the street, “No that’s NOT my grandma! My mom just looks old because she had cancer. Duh!” He then proceeds to explain that when you lose your hair to chemo, it comes back soft and gray. Nothing like a trash talking 9 year old explaining the pros and cons of chemo hair. I believe I can count these conversations as a health credit for homeschooling purposes.

I talk with my husband about this quite a bit. I miss what we had before cancer. Not that our life was one of romance and roses. It wasn’t. It was an average life, doing average things. But sometimes I can’t manage average.

We love to go to Home Depot. It’s a date for us. We walk around the store and talk about all the things we’d love to do in the house. I look at countertops and cabinets. He looks at Pergo and light fixtures and we dream about what our house could look like if we’d just win that $5,000 gift card for filling out the survey (somebody has to win, right?). We even have a list of future projects.

Then I’ll look at the budget. Now I did this before cancer, but not quite as closely. BC (Before Cancer), I just checked to be sure the money was there. In my PC (Post Cancer) life, I not only check to be sure the money is there, but I’m also checking the reserves in case we spend the money and the Beast decides to roar back into our lives. While I hate my carpet, I hate cancer more. We spend a lot of time wishing rather than doing, and that makes me sad.

Our financial advisor recommended that I get more life insurance. While cancer patients have a tough time getting insured, ovarian cancer patients just can’t get insured. My AAA membership allows me to apply for insurance “that approves nearly everyone.” Guess who didn’t get approved? I actually called the number on the letter that said I was declined. They politely said, “We don’t insure people who’ve had ovarian cancer.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you run a greater risk of dying.”

“Doesn’t everyone run a risk of dying?”

“Not like you.”

“Do you know something I don’t?”

“I’m sure you’re familiar with the survival rates. They just aren’t very good.”

“Yet here I am. How about a letter from my oncologist?”

“No. You’re not worth the risk.” OUCH! Now that’s customer service!

What I really wanted to say is “Let’s face it, life is fatal,” but that fact was lost on the Customer Service Representative I spoke with.

Fortunately, John’s employer offers spousal life insurance. Unfortunately, I could only get a fraction of what I need on a guaranteed issue basis. I was finally able to get Critical Illness Coverage as well. It will cover our deductible if and when the Beast returns. I hate feeling that I’m a drain on our financial future. We have to look at everything in the context of “what if.” We never did that BC. Being PC stinks.

There are parts of me that continually seek out my old life, while some parts embrace the new. Writing has become important to me once again and my faith is stronger than it’s ever been. I just hate not being able to do what I did before. I recently tried to do a 2 mile walk. After a mile I was about ready to fall over. I did finish it, but it was a sloppy finish. It’s a lot like how I clean my house. I start off strong, but in the end I just end up with a neater mess than I started with.

Coming to terms with myself PC is not easy. While I laugh at my PC quirks on the outside, there is a piece of the old me railing on the inside. That “new normal” everyone talks about stinks. But it beats the alternative.

Normally, I think being PC is overrated, but it has it’s benefits.

Fog as Thick as Peanut Butter

I’ve always loved Yukon Cornelius of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fame. He was so blissfully ensconced in his search for silver and gold that he tended to be oblivious to what was going on around him. He came up with one of my favorite similes – “This fog’s as thick as peanut butter.” When Hermie (another great character) corrects him by saying, “You mean pea soup,” Yukon proudly tells him that he prefers his fog to be like peanut butter.

Today, my fog is as thick as peanut butter – chunky with low sugar (my personal favorite). Actually it’s been thick for a few weeks now, but today it’s beyond what I’ve experienced since chemo. I could write it off to stress. After all, my mom and the B-man both had surgery within a week of each other. While both are, thankfully, fine, stress wreaks havoc on my chemo addled brain. My stress tripled this morning when my hubby left for a conference in Las Vegas and a much deserved break from the madness at home.

I didn’t realize how much having my hubby gone would throw me until the boys and I headed out for church this morning. Since getting my smart phone two months ago, I’ve been able to feed my addiction to Dunkin’ Donuts coffee every Sunday on my way to church. I have their app on my phone and can just tap and pay. I have no idea how I lived without this. But I digress. When we go to church, we have our route that swings us past Dunkin’ Donuts then up to church. Today, I tried to turn down the wrong road not once, but twice. What makes this even more frustrating is that it’s the same route I travel to go to our co-op. Fortunately, I did get my coffee and made it to church with 10 minutes to spare. God is good.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to stay focused on anything else today. I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to write this today. It’s not because I can’t find the words, although they are elusive today. It’s because I can’t stay focused long enough to actually explain it. My brain is like a pin ball and my skull is the table. Thoughts are banging against the walls racking up points, then missing the final flipper. Fortunately, some are being caught and are being flipped back into play. God help me if my brain decides to “TILT.”

This is the first time I’ve been “on my own” since ovarian cancer struck. Actually, the year I met the Beast was the last time Hubby went to this conference. I’ve asked him to not be so generous this time and leave the Beast in Las Vegas this time. I’m not in a big hurry to meet up with ovarian cancer again. Honey, if you read this while you’re there. I don’t need anything. REALLY! I’m good. No guilt. I’d much rather have more mulch for the landscaping. Honest!

I think not having the safety net of my hubby has thrown me. Granted The Ultimate Bengal Fan is now 12 and the B-man is 9. They do a great job of reminding me to do things. Actually, I think they enjoy it. They only remind me of the fun things. The Fan needed a haircut, but didn’t really want to waste his time getting one. He didn’t remind me. He did finally get one, when I was driving past Great Clips and saw their $5.99 special. It actually worked out better than I thought since it saved me $9.00. B never reminds me to make vegetables for dinner. Let’s not even talk about bedtime. They do remind me about promises to go out to lunch and pizza night. I guess it’s about priorities – theirs not mine.

Just when I was feeling like I was going to be smothered in peanut butter, I read a study that had been published in Great Britain. Apparently chemo brain is real (GASP – Really?). Chemo affects the brain’s ability to focus for more than just a brief period of time. You can no longer order your thoughts (as in putting them in order, not telling them what to do. Apparently I can no longer to either) and your mind drifts even when you think you’re on task. How crazy is that? I’m surprised I can type coherent sentences after reading that.

While the study does confirm what I knew to be true, it does seem to provide me with a sense of relief. I’m actually not crazy. I have a legitimate reason to forget things. I can play the cancer card without feeling like I’m duping people. While I hate to play the card, sometimes a girl’s gotta’ do what a girl’s gotta’ do. I rarely play it though. I tend to forget where I put it.

In the future, I will be using the GPS on that phone. I have a new purse with a special pocket just for it. Hopefully, it can find the closest Dunkin’ Donuts. Until then, hand me a spoon. I need to get through this fog.