Butterfly Cotillion

(The following was originally posted on my Carepages blog for family and friends during my treatment.)

The first thing you think when you hear the word "cancer" is: "I'm going to die." The second thing you think is: "How am I going to live through this?" (Meaning, from my favorite Josh Gates quote: "This is horrible, this is officially horrible.”) But it really hasn’t been. Thank God for Kris who called me and said, “This could be easier than you imagine. . .” I’m holding on to that, Kris!

Week one (first treatment) and week two (first recovery), done and done. Week one equaled lots of sleep. (Taking a shower then requires a nap.) Week two. . . making soup can be done, but then a period of rest (not necessarily a nap) must take place directly after. (This is a good time to binge on HGTV.) Week one, food tastes like sand. Week two, steroids make all food taste good, even gluten-free sand-like cookies. I also want things like bacon, mac and cheese, and potatoes. (Lots and lots of potatoes.)

Side effects: I seem to run into things. I mix up words. Some things look dingy. Or maybe it’s just that I seem to see dirt everywhere all the sudden. I keep misplacing things. I’m a bit of an air-head. (Okay, a lot of one.) I need Tim to coordinate times, places, locations. . . But these are all temporary?

Tuesday I go back into the cave for treatment number two. I may disappear for a couple of days. Sleep, however, is a sweet refuge. Week one I got a lot of sleep. I could go to sleep for two hours just by sitting down. Week two, sleep was a little elusive. I figure I will catch up on week three.

I’ve been sharing with my family and close friends some of the shifts in my thinking. Tim and I have laughed about how in the 80s I stopped using certain deodorants because they caused cancer. I cut all the underwires out of my bras in the 90s. I talked to my ta-tas and told them I loved them. I ate good food. I tried to be perfect. What I learned was being perfect doesn’t make cancer stay away. I also learned that being perfect doesn’t necessarily make you happy. So now I am going for happy. In a method called Access, there is a saying “If I ___ will you bring me joy?” (If I buy you? If I put you on? If I eat you? etc.) I was thinking I might want to tattoo that around my wrist. Then I thought, why not just write “joy.” (Which then turned into a butterfly on my shoulder… because butterflies bring me joy.) I want more joy in my life.

Tim says I’m not allowed to have any tattoos until I am done with treatment. (Boo!) I decided I need to start an AFTER list. It’s kind of like a bucket list except it has to wait until after “BC.” I’d like to have my teeth aligned. I’d like to go to Myrtle Beach. I’d like to get a tattoo. (I already have a long AFTER list.)

BC. I’ve started writing “breast cancer” as “BC.” This seems to be the code among others who have been there. It occurred to me that I am now a “BC survivor.” I’m not sure if you are officially a survivor until after treatment? But I’m not a “BC victim,” so I must be on the survivor side. The thing is, there is something in my brain that hasn’t accepted that I even have BC. I hear people say it. I know they are treating me for it. But it is not registering. The cool thing about saying “BC” is it could mean anything (Before Christ, British Columbia, Bowling Countdown. . . ) so my brain doesn’t seem to care if I call it that. It could even mean Butterfly Cotillion.

Crash ButterflyCotillion

Here’s one thing I do know. When you are being treated for cancer, there are two very different words they can put on your treatment form. One says “manage.” They are managing the cancer to keep you comfortable. The other says, “curative.” They are kicking cancer's ass. My treatment form says “curative.” (Some how my brain sees this as a butterfly cotillion where all the butterflies wear cowboy boots and hats and do one of those stomp-and-kick type dances.) Take that BC!

[Update: after posting this to family and friends, artist Krash made this drawing for me of the Butterfly Cotillion]

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