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Counting the After-Effects of Cancer

How has cancer changed my life? Let me count they ways.
PUBLISHED April 11, 2018
As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.
After I had cancer and came out alive, I told myself that from there on out, I'd take things a little more easily. I wouldn't "sweat the small stuff," and everything that happened would be "the icing on the cake."

Well, that attitude adjustment lasted about six months. In short, I was easy-going and carefree for a time, but soon, my old habits returned. After a brief (too brief) reprieve, I took things very seriously, and worried about everything just like before.

Funny how a near-death experience didn't really change my fundamental nature. According to my mother, every day for me is a new crisis. She's known me for 55 years, so I guess she's right.

Yes, I'm a worrier. I wish I could be happy-go-lucky, but I'm not.

Not even cancer changed that. I'm a survivor, but I'm still the same Laura Yeager.

So, what has changed? Little life details.

There are some after-effects of cancer that are tangible for me. Below is a list of ten of them:

After I had chemotherapy in 2012, I lost my hair. I wore a wig, which people said looked better than my real hair. The wig was flattering. I guess my hair wasn't. Then, my hair grew back in, but it came in very curly. This is common, I've read. Chemo makes for curly hair. My stylist told me yesterday that people pay good money for hair like mine. It does look as though it was freshly permed.

Curly hair is after-effect one.

After-effect two has to do with my son. During my second bout of breast cancer, they had to remove the implant from my first cancer and then remove all the breast tissue. Consequently, I became a one-breasted woman. This made a big impact on my 11-year-old son. He began drawing one-breasted women. Tommy was processing my misfortune through his artwork. I found pictures of one-breasted women all over the place. Thank God he had his art. It helped him deal with my physical changes due to cancer.

After-effect three is my legacy. A while back, my family was talking about switching lives with someone else. You know how you play that game, "If you could change lives with someone, who would it be?" No one wanted my life. They said it had been too hard. I'm offended. No one wants my life.

Number four is not being able to acquire long-term health insurance. No insurance company will touch me. Screw them.

Scars. Number five is scars.

After-effect six. Dreams of breasts with nipples. Since I don't have nipples anymore, I dream about them. The dream consists of me looking in the mirror at my bare chest and seeing two, perfectly round, pink, erect nipples. Strange. Most definitely a wish dream.

Seven. Tamoxifen. Now every night, I have to ingest 20 mg. of this anti-cancer med. The medication agrees with me, thank God. At least, I don't have after-effects of it.

Number eight is cancer paperwork. I have cancer paperwork everywhere. The hospitals documented every stage of my disease, and I haven't thrown any of the documentation away. God knows, since I'm a writer, it might come in handy someday.

Nine. Radiation tattoos. These are quite noticeable purple dots and go along with my scars.

And after-effect ten is fatigue. Say no more.

In conclusion, I wish I would have had a major character change after my cancers, but that just wasn't my fate. I'm still uptight, and I take everything seriously – too seriously.

I need to give myself a good talking to –

"Lighten up, Lor."

"Why can't you learn to take it easy?"
 

 
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