Friday, January 19, 2007

Flashback time...

Some people have asked why I took some time off from my blog. To be perfectly honest, I struggled a bit as I was finishing treatment. I had a ton of side effects, was going through menopause, and wasn't quite sure what to do. Everyone expected me to be happy I was done - I was "cured". In reality, they don't use the word cure when it comes to breast cancer. The fears were still there. And to be perfectly honest, I felt like I had lost something. So I took some time off as I dealt with my issues. And in a series of flashbacks, much like an episode of Cold Case (imagine some summer of 2006 song blaring as you read), I will try to let you all in on what finishing treatment for breast cancer is like. I had a bunch of half written entries, so here's the first one: (clearly written on 9/11)

"Where were you on 9/11?"

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard this in the past couple of days... okay, well, maybe I'd have like... a dollar. It's everywhere- TV, Radio, the Internet- pretty hard to ignore. Don't worry, this isn't a post attention whoring over September 11. I didn't know anyone who died, who saved someone. The closest I got is relatives and friends who are New Yorkers. Where was I? Well, I was working on a cruise ship. I had DJ'ed the night before. (Yep, you could say I was a professional DJ- one of the many funny hats I've worn. Ahh, the era of the "Thong Song" and Shaggy.)

Anyway, I was sleeping in. All of the sudden, my cruise director was banging on my door, telling me I had the keys to the DJ booth. He needed them. As I sleepily handed over the keys, he said, "Oh, and turn on the TV- some crazy shit is happening. Planes flew into the World Trade Center." I woke up and stared at CNN. I then went downstairs for payday, where I proceeded to wake up my friend Dave (not the first of last time I would wake a musician up before noon.). Dave is Canadian. He was appalled but not as affected. After collecting the twelve cents we had earned for a week's work, Dave and I sat in silence in his dark room watching TV.

We were scenic cruising through Glacier Bay, Alaska. My job was to be social and fun on the decks of the ship. I felt neither social nor fun. Neither did anyone else. Our crew was probably 80% Indonesian (home to the largest Muslim population in the world) and there were rumblings of some celebrations and/or smart ass comments. "Why don't you take off your Nike's and stop collecting your American dollars?" I thought to myself.

What I remember most? Alan. We had just started "dating" if you could call it that. For those of you who don't know, we were on a ship together for 6 weeks when we met. Then apart for 4 months. We were about 2 weeks away from finally seeing each other. I called Alan- willing to spare the dollar a minute it cost to call him. Funny how I spent 9/11 closer to "foreigners". Anyway, Alan and I were talking- I noticed it had been much longer than the 20 minutes my phone card would allow. We realized our call was free. In all the craziness, apparently, the satellite phone company was giving free calls so people could contact family, etc. Alan and I spent about 5 hours on the phone that day. Much of it was quiet, as we watched TV. I spent the day blowing off work and watching CNN.

This year, 9/11 is a different anniversary. I finished treatment today. And while I should be happy and excited, all I can feel is... lost. When I walked out of my final radiation treatment, I got in my car and started to cry. And when I say cry, I mean, sobbing, wailing, shaking uncontrollably. I really have no idea why. I should feel great - I'm done, for fuck's sake. This is the day I've waited months and months for. So why did I feel so alone? Why do I feel like I lost my best friend? What do I do now? And I still feel like shit so how's it any different?

After a good few minutes of emotional outburst, I put the keys into my ignition and drove off. I went home. I took a nap. It was like any other day. Except it wasn't. I turned on the TV and 9/11 stuff was everywhere. Great, I will always have a reminder. Every 9/11 I will think to myself, "This was the day I finished treatment." It's like my parents remembering their anniversary because of the Manson Murders.

And every 9/11 I will be reminded of the day when I sobbed in my car. The day that, instead of getting easier, things got more complicated. The day I went from cancer patient to survivor.


Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about finishing rads--it was anticlimatic. Kind of like you should walk out with a big medal: "I AM DONE WITH CANCER" and people should be having parties but really you're just burnt and tired. . . I was working and so glad to have a job even with that crazy family. . . but then in the end of mine, I still had cancer so that was not fun. UGH. XO Jenn

David J. Hahn said...

Courtney, I feel you. I felt like the bottom dropped out when I finished chemo. I actually missed chemo. I missed my nurses. I missed the drugs. It was some kind of fucked up Stockholm Syndrome.

I felt awful during treatment, but at least I felt safe. I had a support system set up for me. After it was over I cried like a little girl.

Somehow I guess I felt that when it was all over, a fairy would fly down from heaven, wave her wand, and my life would chance back into the life I had before cancer. That I'd just pick up where I left off.

But, instead, I was fat, I had chemo brain, a big rash on my face, and the prospect of getting diagnosed again at any time without notice.

I was so angry.

I had my last treatment on January 9th. I didn't celebrate on that particular January 9th, but I did this year. I got really drunk at a bar in Canada and kept screaming "L'Chaim, bitches!"

L'Chaim, bitches!