Yesterday, I turned a year older. And, it has officially been 4 years, 3 months, and 25 days since I was diagnosed. I have had three brain surgeries. I have tried almost every brain tumor diet on the planet. I have gobbled hundreds of thousands of pills. I have researched. I have exercised. I have meditated. I've dodged seizures; I have endured them. They've injected shot after shot to boost my immune system, and to fight my tumor. I've done the high dose IV drips. I drop venom in my nose, and I swish it in my mouth. I've traveled the country, and around the world, to meet with doctors for second opinions, for surgeries, and treatments. All that, and so much more, and yet I feel like an imposter, like this isn't my life.
I got the email yesterday, a great birthday surprise, that I am included with five other bloggers to be posted on the National Brain Tumor Society website. As I read the other posts I felt like a voyeur, like I didn't belong. It's confusing because I relate to so many of the things that they wrote, yet, with others I have no experience: radiation, chemo. It's as if they were long lost family members; we had never met, but somehow I recognized myself in their faces. I loved the variation of stories, of perspectives, of journeys. The voices, although different, carried similar threads of hope, fear, frustration, gratitude, and determination. Everyone had gone through a lot, whether it had been surgery, or treatments, or a combination. But some of these fighters truly astound me with what they are conquering, what they're capable of enduring. I read the blogs yesterday but I keep coming back to reread them, trying to soak it all in. When I was first diagnosed I tried support groups and they were horribly depressing. In contrast, I'm finding that those who chose to blog about their experience aren't just wanting to connect, they want to help. They want to reach others, far and wide, in the hope that their experience will save another some trouble; to help connect the dots faster.
I am now 34 and it feels old. It feels solid, grounded in my situation, in my brain tumor reality. Kind of stuck. And in my life of contradictions, I feel removed, and floating. I was emailing, the other day, with my cancer buddy Lo, and we were recognizing how you get diagnosed, then everything stops. You keep swirling through scans, and treatments, and scans, and treatments, and year after year you get older but your world stays the same. You try not to, but from time to time, you can vividly imagine where your life would have gone, the road that was washed out before you.
This year, to distract myself from my inevitable hamster wheel of treatments, at the recommendation of my buddy who did the same for her 34th year, I have decided to do as many things as possible (within reason) that make me uncomfortable, that scare me, that push my limits. I envision lots of nervous laughter, and triumphs. Probably a good deal of sweat, and awkwardness. Living with cancer/brain tumors makes it impossible not to live in some state of fear. More so than most. I challenge myself to open my arms this year to fear, to look it in the face, cock my head, and give him a wink, then jump.
So cheers to another year! This time, instead of cancer pushing my limits, always cancer driving my fear, or cancer making my life uncomfortable, I will take control and steal away some of cancer's power. I'm ready for a different type of fear, and a better adrenalin rush.
Here's a few photos from my birthday celebration, checking out Crystal Mountain, with Dan (including my attempt at a photo bomb). The year is already off to an exciting start...