Two years since I found out my subtle knee "pain" was actually cancer. Two years since I lost my normal.
That means that March 15 is the last day the last two years where I did not think about cancer at all. It will forever be the last day I had of my previous "normal".
I found my old backpack and planner a few weeks ago. It got tossed in the basement in the chaos of everything and I hadn't seen it in two years. I didn't realize the planner was still in it. I flipped through it and it made me sad. I had all the dates for the fall semester that year and all the dates for the spring semester that I never finished. Most haunting of all though, was where I had written "doctors appointment 8:15". Never in a million years would I have ever thought that appointment would hold as much weight as it does now.
I wasn't as anxious about the approaching date this year. Am I thrilled to see that date on the calendar? Not really, but compared to last year at this time, I am in a much better place. I know it is important to mark the day somehow, but part of me kind of just wants to ignore it this year.
I think it is because I have settled in a bit to this "new" normal. While it is not where I expected to be, I am happy. I like my school and my job. I have a routine and my days are busy. I honestly have less time to focus on the date this year.
I know I kind of let on to it, but last year was an extremely hard year for me. Coming off of treatment and just feeling in "transition" for a year was not easy. I struggled a lot with a lot of things. It wasn't until my scans last October (my doctor called those my 1 year scans) that I really felt some of my "old" normal return. For some reason, it does a lot for me mentally to be able to put this experience in years rather than months. I almost did not realize how hard last year was until this year started.
I am so thankful to be where I am two years post diagnosis. I am on no medications, my scans from February were clean and if my August scans are clean I will get to go to 6 month increments, my hair finally feels like hair again (although I am waiting for the day I can put it ALL in a ponytail), I am back to basically full leg function, I could keep going but you get it. Back when this first started my mom said that everyday that gets further from D-Day will get better. I am so thankful I have found that to be true.
With my last set of scans, I wasn't as anxious as I was annoyed to get back into that mode. I do not live in cancer mode anymore so having to go back there is annoying. I have to figure out how to schedule scans in between my already insane schedule. It is just very inconvenient now, and I am jealous that not everyone has to deal with this.
All that said, I want to emphasize that cancer is not gone from my life.
I may not be thinking about it as much as I once did, but it does cross my mind everyday. It literally altered the course of my life. I know for a fact if it had not happened, I would still be at USC and I would be graduating in May. I am where I am because of cancer. I am slowly coming to accept that (not easily).
I still have pain in my leg. If I sit with it bent too long, it hurts to straighten it. It "clicks" when I bend it back and forth or walk up the stairs. I do not say this to sound ungrateful, but it is not a "normal" leg. I am so thankful to be able to function regularly and that it wasn't worse, but sometimes it is still annoying. I am not sure if these things will continue to get better or if it is what it is at this point. The skin to the left of my scar is numb (so my lower thigh). Not a big deal, but it is still a mark cancer left.
I have not talked much about this (I did post it on my FB page a few weeks ago with scan results), but I have noticed some things about my hearing this past year. At first I didn't think much of it, but once I got back to school and work I noticed it more consistently. It wasn't affecting my daily life or regular conversations, but it was still something I picked up on. I noticed that I could sometimes hear people, but couldn't understand what they were saying. I get really frustrated when the TV is on and people are talking. Phone conversations can be difficult and sometimes things just don't sound as clear to me as they once did.
I brought up these concerns to my oncologist at our last appointment and he referred me to an audiologist. He said he didn't think I received enough to have major damage, but it was still worth checking out.
I went to the audiologist this afternoon and had a hearing test, and while the results are far from awful, cancer left its mark there too.
I have high frequency hearing loss. She said this is very common with patients who received Cisplatin (a kind of chemo I got). She said this is why I was experiencing all those things I mentioned above. I am far from needing hear aids and I am normal in every other range, but there is quite a drop in my high frequency. She said she has seen worse so I shouldn't worry, but I will have annual appointments for the next couple of years.
I am glad I wasn't going crazy and there is a justified reason for it, but it was still kind of sad to hear. I know that this is hardly a major problem and I am so thankful it is not worse, but it still kind of sucks. I mentioned that I work with kids a lot and sometimes I have to ask them to repeat themselves and she said that makes sense as kids can fall into that high frequency range where I struggle. I spend a ton of time with kids and am going to be a teacher so that kind of sucked to hear, if I am being honest.
So totally not the end of the world, and in the scheme of life it is nothing, but it is just another thing that cancer caused. Cancer doesn't just end when treatment does...I will be dealing with these side effects for the rest of my life.
Not to end on an unhappy note, I will just say thank you so much for the all the love and support these last two years. Part of me cannot believe it has been two years and another part of me cannot believe it happened at all! I am so thankful tomorrow will be March 16, 2017. I am hoping for a good day! Throw a little kindness into the world tomorrow...you never know who might need it.
I want to share two things I wrote for Teen Cancer America that they shared. The first one was back in November/December and the second one was the beginning of February. I hope you will read, share, and support TCA however you can! They are truly doing awesome things.
https://www.teencanceramerica.org/the-lost-year/ (this is one of my favorite things I ever wrote)