Pass the Ice Cream: Dealing With Bad Days as a Cancer Survivor


Like the song goes: "Some days are diamonds, some days are stones."

I was a quiet and sometimes moody little kid.

I grew up next door to a small park, but preferred the quiet of the local library. I taught myself how to do macramé and origami. I became a bread baker and writer of really awful, angsty teenage poetry. I preferred a really good book to shooting hoops next door. I was a cranky 51-year-old in the body of a 12-year-old.

It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me when I began feeling like that again after I was diagnosed — the moodiness is a part of how I’m wired. After all, I’d just been knocked for the biggest loop of my life and my brain was trying to wrap itself around the fact that everything I knew as normal was going to change forever. I wasn’t sure what I was going to look like or how I was going to sound. All I knew was that I was going to be different and I didn’t want to change.

Well, change did come and much to my surprise, it wasn’t all that bad. The hair that thinned out from the chemo is growing back nicely and it’s not coming back grey, so there’s that to be happy about. I’m still working on the lingering lymphedema with daily self-massage therapy and my voice is good and strong.

The mood swings, however, decided to stick around and make my new life miserable. As good as I felt physically, I’d wake up on the wrong side of the bed and feel like doing absolutely nothing except throwing on a pair of sweats and collapsing into my corner of the couch. I know there’s a time when you should start to become concerned about how long the blues stick around for, but I figured as long as there were more good days than bad ones (as well as a pint of chocolate ice cream in the freezer), I was going to be just fine.

It made more sense to me not to fight them and just accept the bad days as they came along. Unlike some patients, I didn’t feel depressed or hopeless; I just had a good case of the blues. I also figured that considering everything I’d been through, that was perfectly OK. I had cancer and I’d had surgery. I’d just completed two months of treatment and I was more than allowed to have a bad day here and there. If I woke up in the morning didn’t feel like doing anything except curling up with my knitting, it was OK. And if you didn’t like my attitude, well, you are more than welcome to go and stuff it.

I’m much better than I was, but every once in a while, I wake up and realize it’s going to be one of those days. So I put on the sweats, grab the knitting and the ice cream and head for the couch. I put some music on and get comfy.

With that, I know tomorrow will not be a no-good, awful day.

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