For a while there, my blog was dying a slow death. Blogging frequently is a habit that has to be developed, for sure, and my habit has gone in waves over the 15 years I’ve been writing—there are times I have so much to share that I can’t hit the “publish” button soon or often enough, and other times when most of what’s happening in my life is not write-about-able.
In the past several months I’ve opted to considerably filter my writing, which I’ve never been all that careful to do. I started journaling on paper again because putting my thoughts into words is so therapeutic for me—I realized I needed to get them down, whether anyone else could read them or not. And now, as I look back at the things I felt I couldn’t/shouldn’t share on my blog, I see that some weren’t really that big a deal anyway; I plan to write about those in coming weeks. Others were a big deal and still are, and those will stay in my journal for now.
It is not my intention to be all mysterioso and vague, so I’ll give you an idea of some of these things—though I think most of you already know.
- Now that I’m nearly four years post-treatment, I try to keep the cancer talk to a minimum here. When a person is told their cancer is in remission, it’s easy for an outsider to think of celebrating and being done with it—y’know, move on, next chapter. But it’s not that simple, because cancer doesn’t just end. Follow-up tests go on and on. Side effects linger. Fear and frustration are enemies that like to hang out on the fringe of everything I do. While I have welcomed the return to many of my pre-cancer ways of life, there are some things that have been forever changed by my experience, and I deal with them regularly. Some of it really sucks and because I don’t want it to suck, I try to fold those things in with the rest of life—because I am alive and I do know how fortunate I am for that and I am moving forward—but there are always challenges. You would tire of hearing about them as often as they come up—trust me on this. That’s why I don’t write about it often. But to the people who might think GEEZ, SHE’S STILL TALKING ABOUT CANCER???, I have a middle finger I’d like to show you. Maybe two. And I know other people who’d love to show you theirs too.
- A few years ago my relationship with a person who had always been—and I thought always would be—in my life came to an abrupt end. She made accusations, I tried to explain myself, and she said she refused to get in a pissing contest. I took that to mean there was no sense in me arguing (that is what that means, right?), so I backed off. She then decided I did this because I was angry, and now blames my anger as the reason we don’t speak. I find a tiny bit of comfort knowing that I am not the only person she’s done this to. But ugh—it’s like dealing with my grandma all over again: nothing is ever her fault. So, if this is such a big deal, why don’t I write more about it publicly? One, because it would annoy the hell out of whatever audience I have here. And two, because I feel an unreasonable duty to protect this person. I know it makes absolutely no sense, but there you have it.
- I’ve occasionally mentioned that I deal with depression and anxiety. It’s surprising how many people still think these are not diseases but “moods” (oh, they are soooo not moods), and that they’re a choice, that it’s just a matter of deciding to be happy and deciding not to worry. Some of the people who think depression/anxiety = psychopath are people I love, and when they’re vocal about it, I take it personally. These illnesses are complex and un-fun to deal with, and it’s not exaggerating to say they affect EVERY part of one’s life. I am able to keep my head above water and am generally living a normal human existence, thanks to things and more things.
- Partly related to the above item, I have been trying to avoid blogging about whatever is inciting my latest rage or concern (though I will make exceptions for topics like, oh, OUR HEINOUS HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATION). These triggers push me up on a soapbox that can get me in trouble or make me seem highly unlikable. That ain’t good. Worse, my triggers can send me into a funk from which I find great difficulty to recover. For instance, I’m not writing about Robin Williams, even though he’s been on my mind so much this week. I have thoughts, I do. They could be spread across several posts and I’d still have more. But for purposes of self-protection, I just can’t let myself dwell. (I do want to share, though, this beautifully composed sentence I read on a fashion site, of all places, immediately after the cause of Robin Williams’ death became public; I think it is such a realistic way to describe the tragedy of suicide: “There’s such agony in the fact that a person’s delivery of joy to everyone else can be so inversely proportionate to what they find in themselves.”) Sooo… rants? Only sometimes.
Looking back to 1999, when I first started my blog, I remember thinking it would be a great way to keep family and friends up to date with our lives. It certainly has served that purpose well over the years, and I suppose that’s the biggest reason I can’t just chuck the whole thing. (Pssst: If you read Stuff Jen Says from 1999-now, really fast, it’s like a flip-book in which you can clearly see the route I took to bonkersville. Yaaaaaay.)
I also remember what a powerful tool my blog became while I was fighting cancer. I often wonder how else I would’ve felt such a strong sense of support and love—it really was an amazing thing to behold. That’s why, when I was diagnosed with cancer again in January, this was the first place I came to share the news. Many of you sent positive and uplifting messages, and I felt ready to face the fight with a big ol’ army behind me. And THEN. Then I was incredibly embarrassed to pull it all back when, in March, my doctors decided that I didn’t have cancer after all. Happy news, yes, but humiliating to share. If it seems ridiculous that I would be embarrassed by such a thing, please just put yourself in my shoes; I felt like people would think I announced a recurrence just to get attention. (People do shit like that, y’know—I know someone who calls herself a “cancer survivor” because she once had a suspicious mole tested. It was benign, but BOY, does she like to act as though she knows what it’s like to have fought cancer.)
When it was time for getting re-tested for all the cancer stuff this summer, I shared with just a few people what was happening. Three weeks in June and July were spent in pretty much non-stop appointments and phone calls related to this testing. Now that they’re over, I feel okay to blog about the results, which are really quite simple in summary, and YES, SHE IS STILL TALKING ABOUT CANCER:
I had a PET scan mid-June and the same spots that lit up in January lit up again. It was scary and pissed us off. There were only slight changes in the size of the spots from the last PET, so that was good. They decided to do another needle biopsy (owie), which, just like the one in March, came back negative for cancer. Hooray! But don’t celebrate just yet… The radiologist wants to test again in six months because he thinks it’s very strange that these spots continue to act like cancer on scans. If they light up again, my oncologist says we’ll do an open biopsy, which is a surgical procedure. Pfffftt.
So we wait.
I hate the waiting. Waiting for these things is a trigger. My mind goes to dark places when there’s waiting. These places are deep and gloomy and it’s easy to get lost on the paths that lead to even more murkiness. Dark places are not fun or funny or light or silly or cheery or anything of the things I prefer in life. They’re dark. (And they’re places.)
I don’t think I should blog from the dark places. I really try not to.
Moving forward, my plan is to make blogging regularly a habit again. I would like my blog to do what it was originally created to do—keep our family and friends up-to-date with our lives. And yes, that means it won’t always be fun and happy, because life is not always fun and happy. But I have always tried my best to turn the dark stuff a teensy bit lighter. “We laugh to survive,” right?