I believe in climate change. No, wait. Let me rephrase that: I know that climate change is real. (If you don’t, you probably don’t have the temerity to read my blog posts in the first place.) Climate change is important in many ways: rising sea levels, droughts, less fresh water, glaciers melting, temperature fluctuations, bad summers, worse winters, and less maple syrup.
Yes, less maple syrup. This is the worst casualty to our abuse of the planet that I can imagine. I have pure maple syrup in my cabinet–$30 worth of premium stuff. As far as sap goes, this stuff is pure gold. Beautiful trees produce delectable syrup. Mother nature is generous, but the times they are a-changin’ and I never want to be without maple syrup.
This is the only sap I can stand. So imagine my distress when I started to look for information on the interwebs about living with Stage IV breast cancer. If it wasn’t some horrible “you’re gonna die” treatise, it was some awful post urging you to embrace small blessings and smell the roses. Give someone a kiss. Send someone a card. Tell people you love them. Live each day to the fullest. Every day is a good day.
So far I have no side effects to Tamoxifen, so I guarantee that feeling of nausea I had was coming from these sappy aphorisms. I’ve already written about this a little bit in my post Affirmations. But I honestly can’t begin to describe the chutzpah these people have. So many assume that what you’re looking for is a reason to live. No, maybe I kinda already have many reasons to live of my own and I’m just looking for some information about how people manage the disease so they can live.
By far the best blog post ever was something I could really sink my teeth into: “7 Things I’ve Learned Living with Stage IV Breast Cancer,” by Nancy Davis. In this post Davis speaks to real concrete things that will help you. For example, there are cleaning services that provide free cleaning services for up to four months. If you drive you could get a handicap card/license plate (and hopefully people only use it when they’re very tired and must go out and not all of the time–that would bother me if people just used it for a close spot, but I digress). If you survive for two years you’re entitled to Medicare (well, if the Democrats stay in office anyway). And there were links to spas (if that’s your thing) and links to support groups too (which could become a thing). Practicality! Function!
This was something you could truly use, not some “Eat, Pray, Love” crap that–quite frankly–only depresses me. Then I found another article among all of the awful ones that had all the superficial trappings of another sap-filled downer. That I even bothered to read it was a surprise to me for it was written for O Magazine by a now deceased woman who managed her disease for 25 years. Despite the title, “Turning a Death Sentence into a Passport for Life,” I found it a very matter-of-fact and upbeat philosophy about life in general. She remarked on how she and her surgeon, after awhile, just made up each day as they went along, “something you learn to do if you stick around long enough. And here’s something else you find: you may not have known it, but, really, that’s all you’ve been doing the whole time. Along with everyone else.” Practical. No nonsense.
And that’s why these sappy “smell the roses” articles drive me crazy. Those kinds of articles, which mean well, often end up with the implication that if someone isn’t smelling the roses they’re missing out; they’ve done something wrong somehow. You don’t have to have a Bucket List to live a full life, you know. All you need to do is just live it.
It wasn’t easy hearing this diagnosis. It still isn’t easy to process. I crossed the street this morning after speaking with my oncologist and I got a little filled up. More tests and more biopsies, I’m tired of being invaded already. But I have to suck it up and do what I can to make sure I can manage this thing for decades. I’m an overachiever by nature, so I will strive to be a gadfly for as long as I can possibly be one. And I’m going to live my life like, well, like I live my life.
And that means reading the words of my favorite dead philosopher king, spending a day indoors on a beautiful day just because I like spending time in the company of my feline friends, yelling at politicians on the television, cleaning, scrubbing the tub, cleaning the cat box, teaching, knitting, griping, sleeping, eating bacon, visiting gardens, and anything else I’ve been doing for the past 52 years.
As funny as it sounds, this diagnosis is not a death sentence. I’ve not heard my surgeon or my oncologist tell me that I’m going to die from breast cancer, for after all, I could get hit by a bus. Although it is terminal and there are no guarantees, but no one is carving my tombstone either. I’m going to manage this thing and go on and live my life. To do anything else would be ridiculous. And to not live my life would be, as my man Marcus says, counter to Universal law. The universe is change, our life is what our thoughts make it.
And that includes absolutely no tolerance for any sap other than my beloved pure maple syrup.