A funny thing happens when your cancer brings you bad news. You share the news, and suddenly EVERYONE in your life wants to help. EVERYONE. People you haven’t seen or heard from in months, people you see all the time, people you’re very close to, people you only sort-of know. It’s wonderful to know how kind the people in your world are when the chips are down. The problem is, it can be really overwhelming trying to juggle all that love. (That sounds dirty, doesn’t it?)
I don’t mean to sound like an ungrateful asshole, because although I am sometimes an asshole, I’m certainly grateful for all the support we receive from friends and family. Tonight my sister-in-law is bringing us dinner, the first of many that our loved ones will be bringing us during this new phase of treatment. Friends are signing up to take me to chemo sessions and watch The Kids on days I’m in treatment and daycare or school is closed. Our family simply couldn’t function without all this help, period. And we can’t say thank you enough.
And yet, here comes the but. But. I also find that when bad news comes, people don’t just want to help. They also want to spend time with you. It’s like suddenly everyone realized I wasn’t kidding about this whole “metastatic breast cancer is terminal” thing. As though they were all living with their hope that I’d somehow be the miracle, the outlier, the one who lives 20 years and then dies of something unrelated. And now they realize their hope was a delusion, and that I wasn’t just being a pessimist reminding them over and over that the average lifespan after a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is 2-3 years, and I’m 1 year in already.
So now, everybody wants a piece of my time. They want to get together, they want to go out drinking, they want to make me laugh. They love me and they’re grieving, and they want to hold onto me, and spend time with me.
But the one thing I don’t have right now is time. Not just in the “I’m dying” sense, but also in the very immediate sense. I’m in treatment. That means that every Wednesday for the forseeable future, I’ll be at my oncologist’s office getting chemo. That’s a whole day a week that’s totally shot. On top of that, there’s the effects of chemo, which include, of course, fatigue. Fatigue is an asshole. It had me spend most of Mother’s Day weekend laying around watching The Love Boat, because that’s all I was up for. Fatigue doesn’t allow for nights out drinking with the girls, or playdates at a park. It eats up a lot of time that I’d rather be spending doing something, anything, ANYFUCKINGTHING other than what fatigue allows: laying around, waiting to feel OK again.
And here’s where I feel so incredibly frustrated that cancer is doing this to me, because I’m doing a lot of canceling of plans and saying “I’d love to see you, but I can’t.” So far, everyone’s been great about it, because they’re all lovely people, but it’s still just incredibly overwhelming, all this having to say no. I’m an extrovert, and I get my energy from spending time with people. Spending time alone sucks.
I’m trying to cope by funneling my fun into lazy activities. Like, having people over, so I can lounge in my recliner and just hang out and chat. And I’m also carefully planning my energy expenditures, budgeting my strength for a handful of big nights, like MamaCon this weekend. Living with mets is half a life in many ways, but it’s still a life. And I’m living it the best I can right now, even if it’s not the way I want to live it.