I’ve just returned from a vacation. I was really hoping to have both a mental and physical time off. Away from all of this stress I have in NYC. I didn’t want to think of cancer during my vacation. But as I was walking around California, I realized that I have some cancer associations that might follow me around for a while. Hopefully there will be a time when I can let these things go. I mean, it’s not like I get panic attacks when I make these connections, but they always make me think of cancer.
Here are some of my cancer associations:
1. My phone ringtone: I haven’t turned on the audible ringer on my phone since I got “the phone call” about my cancer diagnosis. Any sound my cell phone makes bothers me, but especially the Verizon “Kingdom Dream” reggae melody that played that time my phone rang. I’ve avoided hearing it since. The good news is I can still enjoy Bob Marley songs.
2. ATM: Now this is kind of messed up! It’s not like I can avoid automatic teller machines, unless I hide my money under my mattress. My mutated cancer gene is called “ATM,” but it didn’t come with any cash. Now, any time I see a sign for an ATM (they are everywhere), I think of my gene—especially the sign that says “ATM inside.” Really? Couldn’t my gene be called something like XQñ, which is less common? I don’t even know if those initials exist which def. would have allowed me to forget about my gene during my time off.
3. Veggies with “clear margins”: Ok, so you might think I am crazy. It took me a year to stop thinking of a bad spot on a veggie and not relating it to cancer. Whenever I would see a brown spot on an avocado or a pepper, I would remove it carefully so “to get it all” and I would run to my honey and say, “look, I got clear margins!!” There are still times when I think about it.
4. My mother’s bedroom: I spent most of my chemo days in one of my mother’s bedrooms. Whenever I visit her place, I avoid entering that room. And when I have slept there since, obviously I can’t help but think of those months.
5. Mini Argentinean sandwiches: Mini white bread triangle sandwiches with a thin slice of ham, cheese and a spread. Yuk! I can’t eat those anymore. The sad part is that I used to love them, but my mother fed them to me a lot during my chemo days because she was working and wanted to make sure I had some food I could tolerate. That tolerance didn’t last too long. Instead, I stuffed myself with pea soup every single day, almost. Luckily, I still love my pea soup.
6. Graham crackers: My hospital has these available in the waiting room, in little plastic wrappers. I simply hate them now. They remind me of not being able to eat during chemo. Even my honey, who accompanied me to my appointments, and ate a lot of those crackers, makes the association, saying that he never wants to have to see another wrapped graham cracker again.
7. My breasts: I kept both of my breasts because it was the right decision for me at the time. I was too overwhelmed with the information and the treatments I was already getting for my cancer. But, truth is, they remind me of cancer now. I sometimes try to play dumb, pretend they aren’t even there. But they are size D so it’s a bit of a challenge to fully ignore them, ya know? No guys, I was referring to the fact that they sometimes get in my way. And yes, this has affected my sex life, too.
8. Every test/scan: Obviously, every test I get now—blood work, sonograms, or self-exam, has me focused on cancer.
The funny thing is, even when we haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, doctors often recommend these tests to rule out malignancies. However, these cancer conversations never take place until the doctors have found something. Then you can’t deny talking about it and dealing with it.
9. Winter: I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I know some of you expect me to be transformed after cancer. To suddenly love all life has to offer, including winter. Or else. I have come to appreciate things more passionately, because now all my emotions seem to be more raw. It could be the hormones, Tamoxifen, getting older, “maturing,” life circumstances…whatever. Let’s not give that credit to cancer please.
But anyway, moving to the states from an island was difficult enough for me, but on top of that, it now seems that I receive all the bad news during the winter: my cancer diagnosis, my grandmother’s terminal diagnosis, my great aunt’s terminal diagnosis, my aunt Rossy’s leukemia diagnosis. Now I have a bad association with this season, which sadly includes the Holidays, too.
How about you? Do you have any unusual associations in your life that now remind you of cancer?
I already need another vacation.