I think that there is a chance that the real me has been somewhat lost due to this whole cancer thing. I often feel a sense of the surreal when I consider my diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Who I am now and who I once was…total strangers. Well, maybe not really “strangers” but “distant cousins” or “co-workers in the same building that don’t really know each other but agree that the boss is a jerk”.
I was raised to be a strong, opinionated, independent woman. I grew up thinking that I could do almost anything. I am usually pretty good at figuring things out and I think I sometimes come across as being successful–probably because I don’t put myself in situations where I would look weak. Calculus? Fixing my own car? Poker? Asking for directions? I don’t know how to do these things. And I’m not going to try. They are probably stupid anyway.
The other day, I was really struck with how soft I’ve become since my dear husband has been serving as the caregiver above all caregivers. During the first few days after my surgery, he set his alarm for every four hours through the night to wake me for pain meds. He has been there for every appointment and recently has offered to wait in the car for hours while I attend special events. All of this is so wonderful…but it seems I’ve become accustomed to this preferential treatment. This week he has been out of town for work and I have been entrusted to drive myself to radiation every day. Seems simple, right? I was driving myself places before CANCER, surely I can do it now!
Well the other day nothing went right. My daily plan is to say that I leave work at 3:15 (which is really the window between 3:15 and 3:25). I left work at about 3:28. For some reason, I decided to take a different route to the doctor’s office. It should be noted that I have never driven this route myself and anytime I’ve been in the car for this route I have been playing Words With Friends or checking Facebook. But the drive was going well: radio blaring, me singing along like I was auditioning for American Idol, pretty scenery. Suddenly, and without warning, the gas icon decides to light up on the dash. Great! Now I have to find a gas station in a strange very-near-to-nowhere town in ruralish Texas! But this is what my trusty iPhone is for…no, not for a phone call to a friend, but for checking the Around Me app for gas stations. I was in luck, as there were seven or eight gas stations if I just turned left up ahead. What the app didn’t tell me was that the street with seven or eight gas stations was undergoing massive construction, thus causing all of the gas stations to be closed except for the one that was clearly a place where the clientele would be described as “oddly odored” or “inmate #346”. But I needed gas right then, so I pulled in and started pumping. An interesting gentleman came up and proceeded to start his gas pump too. I know I exaggerate sometimes, but this is for real: he was wearing overalls that didn’t quite button on the side (belly size), no shirt, and I’m not making this up, an actual piece of hay sticking out of his mouth. Remarkably, there was still room in his mouth for chewing tobacco–I know this because he spit a considerable stream of brownish goo very close to my feet. I thought about taking a picture to share here, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so without being detected.
I got back on the road and found the signs for the highway…but which way was right? I thought I was going to go West, but my choices were North or South. I started to panic…neither way seemed correct! I tried to get the directions to load on my phone, but the signal is awful in this town! Mercifully, the directions load, and I click start. “Turn Southeast,” it said. Southeast? I DIDIN’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH, HOW THE (bleep) WOULD I KNOW “SOUTHEAST”? I learned to drive in Southern California, where you don’t have to know trivial things like compass stuff. If there are mountains ahead and you are gaining elevation, you are going North. If you begin to smell salt water and you see the ocean, you are going South. West and East? Who cares? The mountains and the beaches are good enough!
Finally, I ended up driving in the right direction. I kept my speed at a respectable 65 MPH until I got behind the world’s slowest person. Then there was lots of traffic. Then I missed the exit. Then there was a school bus with red lights flashing. Then there was a fire truck. Then there was a red light at EVERY intersection. Then there was an accident in front of the hospital. Then I arrived. 15 minutes late. I’m pretty sure that if it could go wrong, it did.
Okay, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t really a big deal. But in my previous life, I would have no trouble getting to the doctor. I wouldn’t be dumb enough to try a new route when I’m running late, and I certainly wouldn’t leave without noticing that I was going to run out of gas. It’s like I have completely forgotten how to take care of myself. I feel like who I was is temporarily lost. One might argue that it’s good for me to allow my husband to care for me in this time of great need, but that person is probably just taking sides. Some would tell me to accept my “new normal”, but I get annoyed by that kind of talk. (I also cringe at “breast cancer journey”. In my book, a journey is choice, and there’s no way anybody would choose a journey where the destination is cancer.)
But fear not, dear reader, this woman will continue her “journey” to seek her former self. Surely the events of this day do not constitute a sign of things to come, but rather serve as a blip on the radar of real life.
Now let’s go get a drink.
(Wait, where’s my husband? I don’t make my own drinks. Wait, what was I saying about being independent?)