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Living With Stage IV Cancer: The Woman Behind the Mask

Updated on January 17, 2019
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I was originally diagnosed with stage IV cancer in 2003—and five more times since. This time (#6), it is terminal.

Strength is removing the mask.

Dealing with cancer is hard. Not just on the person who has it but on family and friends. That is why many patients develop masks.

The unfortunate part of that is the fact that then we are expected to always be that mask by many.

2011, second dance with cancer.  I looked so much younger then.
2011, second dance with cancer. I looked so much younger then.

Funny, I never used to think about wrinkles. But when I look at that picture, then look at my face in the mirror today I see how much I have aged.

I remember the first time I had cancer in 2003, my ex told me that treatment aged me. He was right.

Worry and grief

Today has been an interesting day so far. Rather emotional to be honest. Normally, I don't really get bothered by the cancer or terminal issue. Today is one of those exceptions. Well, at least a few hours of the day are an exception.

This morning is my morning that I allowed worry to flow and make my mind race. Actually, it was started by a post of a friend, why he wasn’t going to have anymore pets after his current one’s pass. I totally get it. And that opened hours of worry, well that and yesterday’s spending a great few hours with folks I used to work with. Oh yeah, add to that Monday is chemo and it starts the emotions rolling.

Worry and grieving. Not just about the dogs, but finances, getting things done in the house, lack of being social (although I have been trying a bit more on that front). Grieving because things aren’t normal.

We are all stories in the end - just make it a good one.

— The Doctor (Doctor Who, Matt Smith's Doctor)

To Have a "Normal" Life

God to have a “normal” life without cancer or terminal hanging over my head. To go to work and deal with trouble tickets, work orders, people who can’t remember their voicemail passwords. For me that was normal. Remember I worked in BaseTel for eight years before the cancer came back the sixth time – yeah it had days that were frustrating, and some days I really hated it, but I didn’t have “terminal” hanging over my head. Yeah, I miss it.

A normal, cancer free life, with a job and health insurance. Insurance I wouldn’t have to worry about if it covers treatment or surgeries for cancer. Normal bills, normal issues. Not worrying about final expenses, or hospital or medical bills for treatments that aren’t covered. Not having to argue with the insurance company that last month you paid for my medication or treatment, why aren’t you covering this one, then trying to get whoever made the mistake in coding or reading the coding to fix their mistake.

Trying to complete the bucket list

Live life, don't wait till you are dying
Live life, don't wait till you are dying

It is OK to remove the Mask

Right now, I am tired. I am tired of feeling like life is passing me by and I should be doing something but I have no clue what I should be doing. I am tired of feeling like I have to be strong for everyone.

I am tired of trying to penny pinch and save so I can have an adventure (if it weren’t for Epic Experience, Dream Foundation, my friends, daughter, son and DIL I wouldn’t have had the adventures I have had).

I am tired about worrying about my next treatment, or being sure I can keep on qualifying for Medicaid. I am tired of feeling like I better do this or that because I may not be around. I am tired of hating winter and fall because I feel cold. Hell, I am so tired of feeling cold all the time. (Side effect of the chemo).

I am tired of worrying about being around people after chemo because I don’t want to end up in the hospital. I am tired of worrying that if I get sicker, who will take care of the girls while I recover (my two dogs)? I am so tired of this whole fucking cancer trip I didn’t ask for. I am tired of feeling like I need to reassure people that I am ok. That I can handle anything.

In reality, I can. Just right now at this moment in time, I worry and I am tired. I am tired of looking at things in the house and trying to figure out what to do. I don’t want to leave my son, DIL, and daughter with things to deal with.

You know all those stupid little things that need done, that even on a good day I never get finished, probably because at this point, I need to have someone to help me put things into order and perspective.

I don’t like this feeling. I don’t want to leave problems or issues behind. Hell, I even worry about when I die, how can I be sure it is somewhere where the body will be ok for medical donation. They have specific things like it has to be in cold storage within four hours. Yeah, I am doing that. May as well try to continue to educate.

If it were the TARDIS

Anchor Pub, NOLA.  Yes, they have a TARDIS
Anchor Pub, NOLA. Yes, they have a TARDIS

Strength is knowing when to lean on others

I want to leave my children with lots of laughter and memories that are good. I want people to smile and laugh when they think of me. I don’t want to die. Seriously, I know we all face it in life. But I am not ready. I honestly think no one is ready.

The good thing about this venting, is now I can be who I am again. Yes, the things I worry about won’t go away (to make some of them go away I need to win the lottery, not millions but a few thousand – just enough to take care of a few things and maybe a first-class flight somewhere.)

I am a strong person, cancer taught me that. But my children taught me strength is also admitting you have days where you lean on others. Today I am leaning on all of you. Thank you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Jean Lee


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