Some of you may remember that I had breast cancer in 2016.
It’s 2020, which means that I have been beleaguering this story for approx 3.5 years. Thing is, even with a categorization of NED (no evidence of disease), cancer is a chronic disease. And even though I don’t have the solid visuals for you of being hooked up to a chemo drip, I am still in active treatment. I take the hideous/glorious Tamoxifen, which keeps my hormones whipping around like pinballs.
All that being said, I am pretty much back to being an average non-cancery person. The major exception is that, due to the fact that I made my disease so public, I have become what I am going to go ahead and call A CANCERY ICON.
I have told you all before that I am contacted multiple times a week, to connect with an acquaintance’s cousin/sister/etc. about their recent diagnosis. I have to admit, I am not dominating this role very well these days. There are just too many of us. I can’t keep people and their diagnoses/stories straight. Picture one of those air dancers in front of a car wash flailing around (I love these things so much that I actually own two)… That is me, trying to keep up with the now hundreds of cancery contacts I have made.
I have decided it is time to pivot a little and work on making more meaningful, face to face connections with my cancery folk. I am doing this in two major ways:
- I bought a domain name to start my own cancer doula business. Have I done a single thing with this website? No. No, I have not. My major hold up is figuring out how to professionalize helping people. My heart says, ‘just keeping doing it for free, girl!,’ but my head and wallet say, ‘sweetie, what you have to offer has value.’
- I am now an official volunteer at my hospital system’s cancer center! I crushed my interview and I’ll say I got a B on my health screen, cause, turns out my measles immunity had completely lapsed. But I got that booster lickety split and am now back to being immune AF.
I have my first (and only) day of training tomorrow and couldn’t be more excited. This is exactly what I want to do. I want to be able to walk into a chemo room and ask, ‘what can I do to make this any better for you?’ To walk into the phlebotomy room and make eye contact with someone getting their blood drawn for the billionth time and give them that giiiiirrrrllll, I know look and offer to commiserate. I want to hug loved ones who are there to give strength to their person hooked up to the bags.
I have so much to give, and I fear it might come flying out of me on my first real day. It is not outside the realm of possibility that I will hop into bed with someone getting treatment and give an unsolicited cuddle. Or start flashing my scars to prove my validity. I am going to have to have a serious convo with myself beforehand, reminding myself to SLOW MY ROLL.
I will have to remember that I have a lifetime (fingers crossed) to give back to this community. That sometimes the smallest gesture speaks the loudest. Often a smile is enough.
I hope to find a way to make this type of work a paying career (have you seen my kids’s monthly gymnastics bill?), but I promise to always be a volunteer, too. Listen, I am no martyr. I can shit talk and wait for things to come to me with the best of them, but I do have this cute little part of my heart that has expanded exponentially since diagnosis that is desperate to be selfless.
If you see me around the Kellogg Cancer Center in my dorky smock of a uniform (MAJOR question; should I make sequin pants a part of my schtick while volunteering? Is it cute or overkill?), know that I am not suffering. People keep asking, ‘won’t that be so hard for you? To be back there?’ The answer is- not one bit. I can’t wait to be there because I know what I am doing will matter. And call me selfish, but I crave mattering. I want more proof that this disease was absolutely worth it for me.
Otherwise, what was the point? I walked before most of my peers and it sucked super hard, but now I have a superpower.
Marvel, call me.