As some of you already know from my recent “15 facts about me” post, I don’t own a smart phone. By choice. I still have a dumb phone. There’s a story connected with that.
In 2011, while I was waiting for that first test result to see if my breast lump was B9, one day I received a follow up call from my doctor. When I anxiously fumbled for my old flip phone to answer it, I dropped it and it broke. I had to rush out and buy a new phone. Under the circumstances, I didn’t bother to upgrade and I bought a similar basic model.
My dumb phone is sort of a reminder of all the nightmares I went through in 2011, the year I was diagnosed, but I’ve made the decision to keep it anyway. However, I haven’t turned on the audible ringer on this 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. That time I’ll never forget. Just recently my fiancé and I heard it on someone else’s phone, riding on the train, and we both froze. I’ve avoided hearing that melody since my diagnosis. The good news is I can still enjoy Bob Marley songs.
But now there is a new issue. Something odd.
During the last couple of years, when I receive texts through my cell phone and I click to view the message, a random text that I’d saved from 2011 sometimes shows up instead. Those old cancer-diagnosis era texts have been randomly showing up when I try viewing current texts. For instance, just recently I tried viewing a text from one of my friends, but instead, I saw a text from someone I no longer hear from, which read, “oh, ok. I have faith that is the only incident. Think positive.” Again, a text someone sent to me in 2011.
The issue is I can’t seem to bring myself to erase all the cancer-related texts I received back in 2011. I want to keep them all.
There were times before my diagnosis when I was able to look the other way and ignore anything cancer-related for the most part. Now, I can no longer look the other way. In this case, it is ultimately my choice whether or not I want to continue being reminded of those dark days. The truth is I can’t pretend. I am still in this cancer mess and I have not been able to pull myself out of it because…well…we are never done with cancer once diagnosed. I can’t ignore what has happened to me. And I don’t want to.
Every time I see those texts from 2011 pop up on my dumb phone, I feel anxious but I still read them. I want to remember. The reason I don’t want to delete these cancer-related texts from my phone, the reason I keep exposing myself to the dark world that is cancer, is because I want to be aware. I want to know what the fuck is going on. At all times. I want to force myself to accept and live with what has happened to me. It kind of feels like riding down a very tall rollercoaster, with something to prove to myself. Although I feel fearful of the fall, I keep my eyes wide open.
Maybe I’ll try listening to that Verizon “Kingdom Dream” reggae melody again.
that is very brave. I would have deleted all the messages and try to look ahead instead (i.e. pretend that it did not happen). Applauding you for this – you seem to be dealing with the past and the cancer diagnosis well. Long live the dumb phone! 🙂
The original title for this post was supposed to be “my phone is dumb but maybe I am dumber”, then I realized nothing we do is dumb when it comes to dealing with a life-threatening disease. We cope the way we think is best for us. I am not sure I would call my behavior being brave, though, but rather choosing to be realistic. In a way, I also want to try to make this cancer life more “casual” so I can deal with survivorship better. I am not sure this is possible. Accepting one’s mortality is always hard. But I am going to continue to ride my roller-coaster with my eyes wide open. I hope you never face cancer my friend. xx
that is so cool… re; being realistic about it… I too do not wish to have this disease (neither me nor anyone else), yet the statistics say that we all have 50% chance of getting it in our life-times. Very scary disease, very scary statistics. Anyways… keep writing – always make me think 🙂
I get that you want to keep those messages. I think that it is still hard to believe that this all really happened to you and those messages are proof. I sometimes have days where I wake up and wonder if it was all real. It doesn’t seem like real life. I think it keeps you aware but also reminds you that you are not going crazy. It really did all happen.
What do you think would happen if you did delete those messages? Would it cause anxiety? Would it free you? Not a recommendation just a question I wanted to put out there.
Carrie, perhaps I am still trying to convince myself that it happened, like I still have moments of denial and I don’t want to allow myself to think everything is OK. Sadly, I am afraid to get too comfortable. I am still living my life but I feel like I am always watching for something to come up — can’t help it. Maybe if I keep these texts, if i have to face cancer again, it would be a continuation of what has happened to me already rather than starting all over. It’s a little complicated to explain but I think you get it. xx
Oh I SO totally get this. I have SOOOOOOO many associations…. Exactly like you, I had to change my ringtone off of the one I had used for years & years, because it started making my blood run cold…I kept it on through my chemo, but then had to change it, cause it felt like every time my phone rang, I was about to hear bad news. And I can no longer eat the “Nutz Over Chocolate” Luna Bars. Cause I ate one at every chemo & Herceptin. I hang on to everything too. My “cancer tote” full of stuff they gave me at the cancer center & the binder I put together to organize the treatment plan, nausea drugs, schedule…old calendars…OMG I could go on & on. Here’s to knowing what the fuck is going on… Thanks for sharing this. xx
OMG, the binders! I have them and they’re getting heavier. I think I am up to 3 now. Sigh. I keep all this stuff organized and sometimes I go back and read the reports, on purpose. There are other associations I can’t stand, like when passing near an ATM (my mutated gene is called ATM). And of course, taking that little white pill (Tamox) is a constant reminder that I am not safe. Like you, I’ve made some changes about things I don’t want to remember, like the graham crackers I ate during chemo, yuk. We’re too aware now and there’s no turning back. xx
I have many associations/reminders too. Geez… hadn’t really thought about it until right now. I have my tan baseball cap I wore all during chemo that I can’t toss, my cancer medical appointment papers still in a file, my hair loss stuff – wigs, scarves, beanies. Do I think I might need them again? Then there’s our furniture, the blue leather sofa which I wrote about in my memoir. And even our car… lately we’ve been contemplating getting a newer vehicle and my first thought was, wait, that’s my cancer car. Weird. I could go on and on too. Thank you for writing about this. Interesting topic.
Hi Nancy, I remember about your sofa. I find it interesting how some patients want to get rid off their cancer associations and others don’t — different mindsets, I guess. Patients use different strategies, too. You and I are realists. Some of us feel comfortable just knowing. It also says a lot about wanting to be in control. I don’t like mystery. We can keep all the associations but I hope we never have to face this again. xx
My clothes. I bought shirts that were supposed to be easier to take on and off–button ups, whereas I’ve always been more of a pullover knit person. I’ve kept the shirts because it’s not in me to get rid of piece of clothing that isn’t falling apart or ill-fitting–but I don’t wear them either. I recoil when I see those shirts.
But on the other hand I had some yoga pants I had before getting cancer, that I always wore to get Herceptin, and I still love those pants. But yeah, they do jog the bad memories. Ugh.
I’m reading the other comments here now, Yep still have my cancer tote with the cancer binders that I only drag out when I see the oncologist.
Also, I wrote last year about the kitchen table where I got my news.
I lost 30 pounds during chemo and my clothes stopped fitting me properly so I often ended up wearing the same things to treatments — my chemo uniforms I called them. Because I was dx during winter, I remember this white coat. It got so dirty and disgusting. I did not care. But I hated it so much because I wore it all the time. I got rid off it. I love yoga pants. I still own my favorite one for 15 years now. Yup, it takes a lot for me to get rid off of clothes too. And I remember your post about the kitchen table. Sigh. So many associations. xx
I do have a smart phone (finally) but all my saved voicemail messages migrate from phone to phone, including one from my breast surgeon from 8 years ago!! I don’t even remember what her message was (and I can’t face listening to it) but I don’t want to erase it either. I think these things are like landmarks for us, for an experience that was certainly life-changing for all of us. Maybe that’s why we keep them. xoxo, Kathi
Kathi, coincidentally, my dumb phone stopped working today lol. Who would have thought? I am still able to see those texts though. While looking at other phone options, I had a difficult time deciding on what to get. I went for another dumb phone. And you’re right, as much as I hate to admit it, cancer was an important event in our lives. I don’t have saved v-mails but I am not sure I’ll be able to listen to those either. xx
Rebecca, I get it. And I agree with you. Something so huge and life changing is important to remember.
Feels good not to be the only one. Makes me feel more sane. xx
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Amazing post, Rebecca. I think each of us handles cancer reminders in differently nuanced ways. I’ve thrown away some reminders, like a tote bag I got from a fatigue workshop when I was undergoing chemo. Then I hold onto others, like a stupid pink-ribbon pen I won at the said fatigue workshop. Maybe the pen is less of a reminder because it’s smaller?
I found it interesting about the texts from 2011 coming up. I totally get why you are keeping the messages. Each person has the right to handle this kind of thing his/her own way.
Hi Beth — The one reminder I wish I can avoid is my ATM gene. It was not traumatic to me to find out I had it since the damage was already done — I was already diagnosed. But it is so annoying when I am walking outside and suddenly see a sign for an “ATM Inside”. The other day I raised my middle finger to it. It’s interesting how we mind some reminders and not others. We all have different ways to train ourselves on how to accept painful situations. xx
I get the same kind of feeling when Facebook gives me memories of the past. I see things that are three years old, before cancer, and I cannot believe it was only three years ago. It feels like a life time ago. And then I see pictures of myself without hair – they used to startle me – I used to hate the reminders – but now I look back upon myself and see awe … I see the strength and grace that was me during “active” cancer treatment …
I know what you mean, Rebecca. When I see those reminders, sometimes I get into this twilight zone where it feels like it’s someone else’s life. I also appreciate the way I handled the difficulties that came from this cancer experience, which as we know, haven’t ended yet. xx