Wednesday, March 9, 2011

abort, abort!

Things are going well in my life. I have a job and I love it. I'm taking a class, and I love it. I got 100 on my test (I did miss 10 extra credit points though) and I have a perfect score on all 9 quizzes so far. I'm interviewing for a 2nd job, one that will actually pay my bills. I love my job but it is barely more than minimum wage so I'm hoping to get the 2nd job which is only part-time and cut back on the 1st job hours. And do that til I gain enough cna experience to land a hospital job. Working as a cna in a hospital instead of assisted living will pay my bills. I look forward to the excitement of the hospital and being more involved medically. I will miss my elderly residents and the relationship I have with them. It is a true partnership we caregivers have with them. Sometimes we are the cranky ones and sometimes they are. Sometimes I teach them things, but often they are the ones teaching. And oh yeah, for those of you that have had cancer and worry about if it will come back and how long you might live because of it: so many of my residents bear scars on their chests. Some have lumpectomy scars and some have mastectomy and bilateral mastectomy scars. They are in their 90s and have had a full life! I don't know how young they were when they got cancer but I do have an aunt that had bilateral cancer well over 30 years ago and still alive. It does happen.

I feel calm as I ready myself for my bilateral mastectomies. I've had over a year and a half to wrap my head around the idea. Not that it doesn't make me sad, but I know that I'll be ok and probably glad to just be done with this whole trip. Bonus points for decent insurance because I don't think I will be spending much out-of-pocket for anything. That helps a lot. I've talked to god and asked him to send me a sign to let me know what I should do. He said "What the fuck, Janine! How many signs do you need? I've given you two autoimmune diseases, tried to give you colon cancer, gave you a mutation, and baby cancer in both breasts. I know I let you slide by without ovarian cancer but do you need me to rent a billboard that says ABORT THE BREASTS! ABORT THE BREASTS!?" Oh, I guess you're right, god. Let's do it.

So I've read numerous "lists" of how to treat a cancer patient over the last couple of years and decided it was time to make one of my own. Some of it is personal to me, but many can be applied to most of us.

How to treat a cancer freak:
Don't ask me how I feel: I'm not on radiation or chemo. I'm not sick. I probably feel just like you: not enough sleep, not enough time and not enough money. 

Tell me I look great: I will need to hear those words over and over after surgery as my self-image is going to be in the dumps. So lie if you have to.

The "C" word: Acknowledge the cancer if you want to. If you don't want to acknowledge it, I don't care. I know it's a scary word and uncomfortable topic. Just don't avoid me because of it. I don't bite.

A year later: I had a friend recently get in touch with me and was apologetic for not talking sooner during my 1st go round with cancer. It's ok. I understand. I've done the same thing. My friends are my friends for life. Call me tomorrow or call me in ten years. I'll still pick up the phone.

Be direct: Don't ask me to call you if I need help after surgery because I won't. I'm too shy and too independent (stubborn) to ask for help. Instead, ask me if I need a ride, or dinner brought over or if you can stop by to visit.

Simple is great: If you want to say something, but don't know what to say, simple works just fine. I have a friend that sends me texts after I share my bad news. A simple "hi, just thinking of you" feels like a big hug.

No flowers necessary: Many of you sent me flowers or goodies last time. That was very sweet and appreciated but not necessary. A card is fine, or email or text or phone call. If you do feel like blowing money on me, donate to one of my causes. My wondertwin is doing the avon walk for breast cancer this june and needs to raise another $1,300. Me and dw are biking 100 miles in may for diabetes and need to raise $500 between us.

My other half: Please do ask my dear wife how she is doing. She bears the brunt of my anger and sadness as well as carrying her own. And if you are around and have time to spare, please do hang out with her during my surgery. Those hours in the waiting room can't be easy and I don't want her to be alone.

The door is open: Don't be afraid to "bother" us by calling or asking us to do things. Our lives are not on hold because I need surgery. If anything, we'd like to stay busy.

The same: Don't be afraid to treat me as you always have. I am the same person I was before this all happened.

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