I’m Ok. Really, I am…but that’s also to say, I’m JUST Ok. I’m not good. I’m not great. I’m just Ok.
And that’s all I can muster as an answer when friends and strangers alike ask me, “How are you?”. As the saying goes, Honesty is the best policy, and so I’m trying to stay honest. Granted, sometimes I could say, “I feel good…even great!”, but at other times I could say with equal fervor, “Shitty. I’m absolutely shitty.” So I split the difference and call it like it is….”I’m ok.”
I’m ok because I have great days. Absolutely great days, where the effects of chemotherapy are minimal, I can breathe freely, and I’ve gotten out and ridden 30 – 40+ miles. Those days are awesome and it’s funny to think I even have Cancer in the midst of all that.
But I’m also ok because I have shitty days. Really shitty days, where getting full breaths takes effort, the discomfort in my abdomen and bowels is incredibly disrupting and I’m emotionally worn down from cancer. From having it. From treating it. From thinking about it.
Put great and shitty together and you get….just ok. And that’s what I’m sticking with, because no matter the day I’m having, cancer is ALWAYS THERE.
And it’s quite tiring.
I truly get emotionally worn out from just being AWARE of cancer. I can’t escape it. Granted, I do bring a great deal of this on myself…talking about it, blogging about it, joking about it, facebooking about it, etc., because it helps me understand, cope and process…but still, it gets old. I really struggle trying to find the mental space, the physical relief and the times to escape the fact I have cancer.
When I wake up I have cancer. I know this because I wake up without much purpose, but to actually get up. I know this because I usually feel a great discomfort in my bowels that is difficult to relieve until later in the morning.
When I go through the day I have cancer, because I can’t escape it. It affects the way I walk. It affects the way I eat. It affects how much physical activity I can do. It is there on vacation, my skin too easily burnt from the effects of chemotherapy, my chemo port sticking out from my chest and adding to my self-consciousness. It is there in my parenting, as I protect my abdomen from errant head butts from an overzealous and physically excitable six year old who doesn’t know any better. It is there when I go to sleep and can’t find a comfortable position to lie in due to a crowded abdomen or post-surgery discomfort. It is there when I eat too much and it is there when I eat too little, both bringing spasms of pain through my stomach.
Like I said, I’m only ok, because I can’t escape it.
And then, it’s also in my head….understandably. I mean, I’m currently in the thick of what could be a life and death limbo. How can I be “good” or “great”, when I’m about to enter my 3rd dose of chemotherapy, get a CT scan and then find out if the tumors are actually shrinking or not, which essentially determines the next course of action and gives an idea of whether we’re actually “beating cancer” or not. Sorry to be blunt, but in a way, that CT scan feels like the determination of if I live or die. That realization is not lost on me, so despite planning a century ride in September and a weekend backpacking trip in August and riding my bike as much as possible and becoming absorbed in parenting my son this month and generally “living against cancer” and “thriving not surviving”, the reality of my mortality tempers my enthusiasm and keeps me grounded with a solid, “I’m ok”.
But with that said, I am ok…which is a lot more than other cancer patients with worse diagnoses and physical conditions can say. Hell, it’s more than a lot of non-cancerous, “healthy” people can say. I’m ok because I refuse to sit and wait, to let myself become absorbed by the weight of my circumstance, because I still get out and live against cancer every opportunity I can create, because I can still make jokes about getting cancer from reading too much non-fiction and not doing Zumba (seriously, I think I’m on to something here). I’m ok because despite how everything can royally SUCK, how flooring chemotherapy can be, how difficult it is to escape all this…I’m overcoming, climbing cancer mountain (Upness!), and finding drive and purpose in the everyday.
So trust me, if you ask how I’m doing, I’ll respond, “I’m ok”, not because it’s the trite, simplistic, default polite response, but because it’s the truth. Because when you weigh the bad…which is indescribably bad…against the good, that I’m maximizing to it’s fullest potential, you end up with an accomplished middle ground, a simple “Ok.”
And right now, I’m Ok with that.