My mature reaction to my cancer diagnosis

In honour of the second anniversary of my cancer diagnosis this weekend, I was recalling my initial reaction to the news, after the utter shock and denial, that is. Once everything sunk in, I figured I was going to die, and probably soon, despite the amazing recent progress in CML chemotherapies. And so, at 48 years old, I regressed. My reasoning skills became those of a young child.

First, I stopped flossing. Behold my child-like logic: if I were going to die soon, why care if I had teeth? Hopefully they’d last until I expired, and if they didn’t, Jews’ caskets are closed anyway so no one will see.

Think about it. Nobody likes flossing, so why would I waste my now-precious time doing it? Needless to say, my next dental cleaning wasn’t pretty, and my mouth was a blood bath for days after. That’s thanks to the blood thinners and depleted platelets, rendering my gums more prone to bleeding, especially if I don’t floss. I got back on the flossing wagon after that, to my dental hygienist’s relief.

The other thing I decided, in my irrational-child phase, was to give up sunscreen. I had been quite diligent about slathering myself religiously before I had cancer, especially since one of my medications caused sun sensitivity. How did my child’s mind justify this? First, since I had cancer already, what was the chance I’d get another one? Second, I was ghostly pale and, as a makeup rejector, sun exposure was my only option. And finally, if I were going to die soon anyway, why worry about sun damage? That faulty logic lasted longer, but I recently decided it might be time to reconsider. Sadly, I’m pale again.

Despite my impaired problem solving, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I relinquished all aspects of my self care. I never stopped showering regularly and wearing clean clothes, exercising, and eating a (usually) healthy diet. I also continued to address my medical needs diligently by taking my numerous medications on schedule, showing up at doctors’  appointments, and completing all requested medical tests.

Which brings me to my recent mammogram, since I’m of that age. I’ve never much worried about my mammogram since I figure if I’m going to get another cancer, I have many other body parts more vulnerable than my boobs. (The irrational child rears her ugly head again.) I completed the procedure and received a letter from Alberta Cancer Screening telling me I was A-OK. Followed by a completely contradictory call-back letter the next day. In case you were wondering, a mammogram call back does not feel as good as an audition or interview call back.

My child-like, completely irrational reasoning failed me here, yet I only panicked briefly. After looking at one little spot for hours (I might be exaggerating a tiny bit), the ultrasound technician told me I was fine. And I reminded myself that usually everything is fine. And so, with this good news, the child in me went out to play.

small child playing on skateboard


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