No Good Headline.

How do you come up with a pithy title for a post about a shitty anniversary?

A year ago today was my first chemo treatment. My therapist says eventually I’ll be able to look back and see the important dates as some sort of affirmation. This is not the year. I’m having a day, so this post is disjointed and probably incoherent and likely not well written.

Honestly, much of the last couple of months has been a series of icky anniversaries and reminders, each one giving me a day or two of some variation of anxiety, flashback, or depression. Today’s a doozy, as it turns out. I’ve caught myself counting down more than once, and it’s looking like this afternoon will be one of those “get through the next five minutes” times.

This year I vividly remembered how it felt to get the call, how it felt to climb onto the ice cold operating table, how it felt to hear on Thanksgiving that I’d need chemo after all. How it felt sitting in my lovely and kind hairdresser’s chair, a year ago last weekend, and chop off all my hair in anticipation of losing it (little did I know, my hair a year later would be exactly the same length as that day’s results, only weirdly frosted). How it felt to take the last trip to Duluth to see 5FDP, knowing I wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while (5FDP had to cancel that concert at the last minute and obviously with Covid I haven’t really been anywhere for MUCH longer than anticipated).

How it felt the first time oncology poked that weird 90 degree angled needle through the skin covering my port, the first time the nurses walked me though what would happen, step by step, and gave me the medication schedule sheet that would keep me ahead of the nausea if I was careful enough.

Covid has, at the very least, helped me put back on some of the 40 pounds I lost during chemo. Gee. Thanks Covid (and my amazing stubborn ability to ignore the treadmill, yoga mat, and free weights in my house while my martial arts place is closed).

Last weekend I answered a series of questions from my boyfriend’s daughter resulting in a choice between deflecting or disclosing. I don’t lie, and he and I had already talked about what he’d prefer I do when it eventually came up. Watching an 11 year old’s eyes when she processes that I had cancer is…an interesting thing. So is the series of questions that come along immediately after. She felt the port scar just under my collarbone and thought it was neat that there’s a weird hollow there where the port used to be. I presume the other kids know now, too, or will soonish, so I anticipate more questions are coming. Oddly enough, that whole incident didn’t make me flashback-y or emotional at all. It was a relief in some ways, because kids will ask whatever the hell pops into their heads, so there’s less need for me dance around it.

The awkward silences come along with fear of mortality, I think, and kids don’t usually carry that fear. Turns out the last year has made me much less willing to manage others’ feelings out of politeness or some desire to be liked/included and take up less space. The difference between my attitudes BC and AC are vast enough in some ways that it’s not inaccurate to say the old Jess is gone. It’s probably a good thing I’m in quarantine this week and next: I’m not good company. Particularly today.

I just need to make it through the next 5 minutes, until the day is over and the memories subside.

My head knows that I turned out to be a bigger bitch than cancer.

My lizard brain and heart don’t.


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