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What if feels like… (Day 7)

Before I dig in I just wanted to throw out a big thank you to anyone reading this blog. I never could have guessed how important this little corner of the Internet would become to me. There is a whole heck of a lot going on in my head right now but I have started organizing my thoughts into blogs which has been extremely helpful. Many of them I write in my head days or hours before I get in front of a screen (I’ve got some doozies planned for you guys!). Other times I am at the height of emotional confusion and coming here helps me sort it all out. Having an audience helps to keep me grounded. If I was just writing in a diary no one ever saw I think I might just bitch and moan until the cows came home. But speaking to all of you reminds me that I am not alone, that you all have seen others go through this (or a few of you have been through it yourselves), that I live in a big world filled to the brim with injustices and that my journey here is filled with unspeakable privilege and I cannot allow myself to forget the silver linings and hidden blessings. So thank you for reading and thank you especially for all of those who have told me to keep writing and sharing and dumping it all out for the world to see.

Back to the topic for today: what my breast cancer diagnosis is feeling like on Day 7. In the last few days another emotion has slowly crept into all the open spaces of my life (and aggressively forced its way into spaces already occupied) and that is sadness. I don’t think it’s a depressed sadness, although I certainly expect to get to that place eventually. I think it’s more of a grief. I have all of a sudden become aware of all the things that will be lost, all the things that cancer will take away from me. For example, yesterday I was getting ready for my friend’s wedding and I was doing my hair. I spent most of the summer letting my hair do its natural wavy thing but for fancy occasions I like to blow-dry and curl it for something a little special (I’ve never been good at up-dos so the dry and curl is the best I can get). I looked in the mirror when it was done and started crying. My hair looked good. I knew how to make my hair look good. I have spent years and years growing it out to a length I love and I have spent about 20 years figuring out the products, instruments and care I need to use. But my hair is sure to be one of the first things that cancer snatches away. I probably have about 2 weeks to a month left with my hair.  I need to grieve its loss. A part of me feels vain to be so upset about hair but I know it’s really a fundamental part of our identity and says a lot to the world about who we are. I am scared about living in the world without any hair on my head. I strangely feel a little empowered by the opportunity to rock some sweet head scarves (and to literally spend NO time doing my hair every morning). But before I fully embrace that empowerment I know I will definitely have to allow myself to grieve.

So the grief about my hair is one example, but there are many more. The sadness seems to creep in, most clearly, wherever there is joy. Back to the wedding, again, last night, when I was dancing my heart out there was this sadness in the back of my mind that in a few months I might not have the energy to do that kind of thing anymore. Clearly that means that no one is allowed to get married in the next 6-10 months, but it also means that I will need to grieve the loss of my health. For those who know me you know that I got very sick for much of June this summer when I was diagnosed with Graves Disease (an autoimmune disease that causes hyperthyroidism). I became extremely weak and would get exhausted by doing simple things like getting a dish out of the cupboard. It was crazy and crazy frustrating. I worked very hard to build back my muscles and remember the day I could do a real push up again as feeling like a huge victory. I am going to work hard to make sure that cancer doesn’t send me back to square one but there is no doubt I am going to feel shitty. When I feel good today it is also a reminder that I will not be feeling this good again for a very long time.

Obviously the silver lining here (because there always has to be one dammit!) is that I am not taking anything for granted. In many ways, even though I know I am absolutely 100% going to beat this thing, I have even felt myself not taking my life for granted anymore. I appreciate my hair, my health, my friends, my family, my job, my wealth, my health insurance, my appetite, my skin, my boobs, my body, and my life more than I probably ever have before. There is still a lot of grieving to do and I expect that the sadness will remain for a very long time. I have not even begun to think about what it might mean if my boobs have to go (which is an option I am totally open to if it means never having to go through this again) but I will cross that grief bridge when it comes to it. And at the end of the day all the grief for things temporarily or permanently lost is obviously worth the chance to keep living this crazy, beautiful life with all of you wonderful people.

All my love,

Katie