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.
As a cancer survivor, I am always on my toes.
If you have children, you probably have LEGOs®. This creative toy is loved by all. But what is not appreciated is accidentally stepping on a piece of LEGO® in your bare feet. It's infuriating and excruciating to put all of your weight down on a tiny, plastic block. You feel the pain all throughout your body.
When I was in the basement today, doing laundry, I stepped on a piece of LEGO®. At that moment, I made a mental connection. I sensed that stepping on a LEGO® is like experiencing a cancer false alarm.
Both situations are unpredictable, painful, temporary and harmless. Let's look at this analogy a little closer. Unpredictability is key to both experiences. I never know when I'll stumble onto a stray LEGO®; likewise, I never know when I'll have a cancer false alarm.
What is a cancer false alarm? It's when a pesky blotch, spot or bump appears on my breast, and I have to go running to the oncologist to have it checked out. I could go to the doctor one day and a week later, notice something else and have to repeat the process. There's no rhyme or reason to cancer false alarms. And there's no rhyme or reason to stepping on little blocks.
Pain is also a huge part of the two situations. Cancer false alarms cause me great mental anguish. "Is this the bump that will ultimately kill me?" I wonder. And again, those little blocks cause you to cry out loud.
The two experiences are — thank goodness – temporary. My cancer false alarms lately have come and gone in a matter of a few days. Luckily, they have been just that – false alarms – not the real thing. And stepping on LEGO®, although excruciating, is bothersome only for a few seconds.
Finally, both situations are ultimately harmless. A cancer false alarm is not a bout of cancer; it is simply a scare. And stepping on LEGO® does not draw blood (usually). Both are things most people can shrug off and live with rather easily after the initial shock.
Is there any way to avoid those pesky little blocks? I guess I could scour the house for them and rid my floors of all pieces of colorful plastic.
But there is no way to rid myself of cancer false alarms. Because I had cancer twice, a pattern has been set up. The cancer came back once. It could come back again.
For now, I will have to be vigilant in checking my body and watching for signs. I am seven years out from my first cancer, but only three years out from my second. This is just the way it is.
Ultimately, cancer false alarms and stepping on LEGO® blocks are annoying, but they aren't going to kill me. That's the bottom line.
I guess it is a little strange that stepping on a LEGO® reminds me of cancer false alarms. This just goes to show that if you've had cancer, it's never far from your mind and heart. If you're not thinking of cancer consciously, it rises up from your unconscious at the strangest moments.
It becomes a relative you hate but have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. Becoming mentally playful is a good way to handle the fear of returning cancer. Hey, if analogies help you deal with “the Big C,” I say conjure them.
It works for me.
Slippers wouldn't hurt either.