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.
What to do when cancer isn't ruining your summer...
For the last two summers, I spent my days recuperating from major surgeries. The first surgery was in 2016; it was an operation to remove an angiosarcoma from my right breast. The second surgery was in 2017. That summer I had a total hysterectomy and had to spend three weeks afterwards with a catheter and a urine bag attached to my body. They were rough summers.
This summer, the summer of 2018, I find myself healthy. I am a little surprised that there is no need for a surgery of any kind. I am finding myself letting down from the horrific strain of the last two summers. I am relaxing. Since I don't have any major health concerns at this time, I'm also reflecting on how lucky I am to be alive.
What else am I doing? On vacation from teaching at a local college during the school year, I'm a little bored not being caught up in the demands of being sick.
Because of my boredom, I've decided to do a little temporary work. Tonight, I'm going to be a food server at a wedding. I've never done anything like this. I'm nervous. What if I spill water on someone? What if I drop a plate full of salad?
I'm clad in all black — black pants, shirt, socks, shoes. No dangly earrings and no perfume. I look the part. They told me to be well-groomed. My make-up is meticulously applied, and my hair is as smooth as I can get it. (After chemo, my hair got curly.)
It's now 2:30. I have to leave the house in about two hours. I'm hoping this isn't a mistake. At least I won’t be bored.
Well, I did it. Last night I was a food server at a banquet hall for the very first time. And I learned something: I don't have a future in food service.
It's too grueling, and I'm too clumsy. Two years ago, when they operated on my right breast, they did a latissimus dorsi flap procedure, where they took the muscle from my back and moved it to my chest to close the wound. Consequently, my back is very weak. Carrying trays of dirty plates was too strenuous. When I got home, I had to take some Advil for the pain.
But I did get to do a fun activity other than bus tables: I got to serve chicken breasts too over 200 people. I placed the meat on their plates with silver tongs. I asked them if they wanted a large piece or a small one. I said, "you're welcome" when they said "thank you." It was an overall marvelous social interaction. Feeding the masses.
So, the evening had its low points and its high points.
One thing I can say about it is that the experience was completely new. I've never done anything like waitressing or serving. And this new experience knocked the summer malaise, the boredom right out of me.
I am now realigned mentally and emotionally, ready to face next week with gusto and energy, not doom and gloom.
One thing’s for sure: I'd take serving chicken breasts to a crowd of people over cancer any day.
The summer of 2018 will be a relaxing one. It's a time away from cancer. It's a time to recharge and take stock of all that I have. I'm alive. I'm well, and I haven't lost my sense of adventure.
If you're finding yourself out of the cancer woods, do yourself a favor. Do something totally new and different.
It will give you confidence, zeal and will refresh you.
It's just what the doctor ordered.