By Jody Mason
For some strange reason, whenever I decide to type one of these blogs, life throws me another curve ball and derails the whole situation. Some of you may know that the colon cancer that has been sticking with me over the past five years metastasized to my cerebellum, and I had surgery last week to remove the tumour; all went as well as could be expected. So when writing this blog for YACC about the experiences of summer for someone who lives with cancer, it will mean a few different things for me this time around.
Expectation vs. reality
Summer is a special time of year, of course, for any young adult. I get to hang out more with friends, barbecue frequently, partake in quite a few social beverages, and live it up for the couple of short months of summer that we get here on the Rock.
This time last year, I was undergoing chemotherapy every two weeks, which put a damper on many plans. I was only able to plan two weeks in advance every week, and if there were any setbacks, the schedule got mixed up completely. Imagine spending all kinds of time planning a special weekend with multiple people, which is often difficult to do given everyone’s busy summer schedules, only to have some loophole with blood work or the like to mess it all up. There it goes. No do overs, do not pass go, do not collect $200, etc. All plans busted, but that’s what we have to deal with, sadly.
Being a 30-something metastatic cancer survivor is one thing, but trying to even everything out so that the partner who I share everything with does not have to go through all the “penalties” that I have to endure with the illness is another thing. For example, along with this past “new diagnosis,” so to speak, is the inability to drive for maybe a couple of months; the radiation appointments I have to look forward to; and all kinds of MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, blood work and the like. This schedule can strain a relationship that has had its fair share of ups and downs — albeit all medical related, but nonetheless a pain.
Now by all means, we are a stronger couple for having to go through all the hardships that we have experienced, but there are definitely many other things that we would rather be doing than having to schedule between and around all of the medical appointments and procedures.
Summers in an alternate dimension
The Everyday Joe does not realize how complicated life after — or during — a diagnosis can be. There are side effects from various chemotherapies to worry about, reactions such as sun allergies from antibiotics one has to take to combat chemo, and — heaven forbid — gambling with actually partaking in a social event and catching some virus that puts one in the hospital, all while “regular” people are living it up in the sun-drenched heat.
Life always seems to get in the way, no matter what state of life you are living in. There are all kinds of mitigating factors that one has to navigate in order to seem somewhat “normal” in the eyes of others. Sure, we all look fine on the outside (mostly), but it’s the nature of the beast that’s inside us that’s the real burden. Many people have some trouble distinguishing this, but mean quite well.
Grab summer by the Popsicles
Summers can be challenging in the simplest of circumstances for anyone living with cancer or not, but what matters is how we want to live it at the time. It’s like the way that I take the whole cancer experience: you make a choice to either take it crying and lying down, or face it, do what you have to do, and enjoy what time you can while living with all the punches it throws along the way.
There may be a few extra punches thrown from time to time, but, hey, we’re built for it.