The Time I Almost Got Cancer

Disclaimer: this story has a happy ending, so don’t worry. It’ll be okay.

Once upon a time (actually the time was a few days before Thanksgiving break), I was chatting with a friend in my room. For some unfathomable reason, I decided to touch my back. “Huh, this feels like blood.”  Sure enough, it is blood. My mole is bleeding. So I get a paper towel and stop the bleeding and continue chatting. But I decide to google bleeding mole, because you always want to find out if you’re dying even when one tiny thing is wrong with you. And the google homepage is covered in “melanoma.” Okay. That puts a damper on things. It’s not like, “Oh you have a headache, and that could just be a headache or twenty million other things, including some rare disease that no one’s heard of.” We’ve all fallen prey to WebMD scare. But this was different. It seemed like this cancer could actually be real.

So I get home for break and call the dermatologist to get my mole looked at. Because I’m only home from college for a week, I don’t have time to see her that break. My appointment is scheduled for the 20th of December. That day rolls around, and I get a call that the dermatologist has a personal emergency or something, so I have to reschedule to the 13th of January. The day before I take a train ride back to Williamsburg. That day rolls around, and they see me, and the mole is just slightly concerning, so they take a biopsy (luckily I could get it that day). And then I go back to school, knowing that I don’t definitely know that I don’t have cancer (sorry for those of you who hate double negatives; this was just the most accurate way to say this) and that I should hear back in a week.

A week rolls around, and I call them. They haven’t gotten my results. I’m anxious and distracted, so I try to distract myself as much as possible, and that sort of works.

And then the snow comes. And in Northern Virginia, there was a ton of snow. So naturally, their office is closed that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Now it’s Tuesday, and I call them. They have my results, but they need to be processed. Tuesday was my worst day. Tuesday was the day that I realized that I didn’t really know how to deal with this, that I needed to actually tell people that “cancer” could become a familiar word on my lips. I hadn’t told people because I didn’t want to make it a problem, but by doing so, I made it even more of a problem. Tuesday was rough.

And then it’s Wednesday, and I call and leave a message. I’ve memorized my story by this point. It’s also officially been two weeks since I had my biopsy, and I’m more annoyed than anxious (though I’m still anxious) at this point. I just want to know.

Thursday rolls around, and I call them. They have my results, but apparently the person I’m talking to can’t view them, so I should get a call by the end of the day or first thing the next day.

It’s Friday. I do not get a call first thing in the morning. I call around 10:30. Again, the person I’m talking to can’t read my results. But she puts me on hold and gets them. It’s a normal mole. Everything is fine. I hang up, and the tears come. I wasn’t expecting to cry at finding out I don’t have cancer, but that’s what happened.

Yay! Happy endings! Yay for finally knowing what’s happening with my body after two months of having a question mark hanging over my head! It was a wild, anxiety-ridden ride. And as awful as it was, I did get some good things out of it.

Well, mostly just one good thing. This experience was a twisted mirror that really showed me how I don’t handle painful things well, how not telling people things hurts me. And even the people I did tell I didn’t allow to see me when I was actually anxious, either because talking to people made me think of it less or because I was repressing emotions that much. So I need to work on the sharing department. And I feel like a hypocrite because I’ve definitely written about being vulnerable with people, but I’m so bad at it. I think I’ve gotten better at being vulnerable, both with my friends and on this blog. I really learned that I need to be okay with showing people that I’m weak and allowing myself to actually feel things instead of pretending my own feelings don’t exist.

So let me tell you (while I tell myself this): it’s okay to feel things. They may feel ugly, but

385618_247057122057015_397241221_n

I’m done with walking on eggshells. Photo credit: Tara Meeks.

your feelings are valid, regardless of what you’re going through. You may say, “But hey, I’m just stressed about my grades. I don’t have a life-changing disease. I shouldn’t feel this bad!” And you know, it is important to have perspective, especially if you’re just putting yourself in a bad mood and throwing yourself a constant pity party. Sometimes you do just need to get over yourself (trust me, I’ve been there). But it’s okay to feel sad or angry or hopeless or confused, even when you know other people have it worse. Your experience, your feelings are legitimate. And it really is good to be vulnerable with people. Every time I am, I’m so glad I did, even though I fight against it tremendously. Vulnerability breaks down the barriers we put between us and other people. It leads the way to let us be our genuine selves.

I’ve been thinking about what I’m trying to accomplish with this blog. And maybe the only thing I can do on this blog is bring up difficult subjects so that we can all talk about them more, or maybe it’ll just be talking to the air. But I will be that person. So this is the story of when I was afraid I had cancer.

Epylle Spydre

Advertisements

Justifying the Ugly Pain of Loss and Longing

262349_107955655967163_356655_n
Do you know what I just noticed about my posts? I really don’t talk much about romantic relationships. Other than mentioning my frustrations with the idea of love at first sight in some of my Disney posts and a recent post inspired by the cardinals in my neighborhood, I couldn’t find any. And that’s not super strange because I try to write about things that I know, things that have meaning to me and I feel can have meaning to you. I talk A LOT about the kind of love we have for friends and family. But it’s weird that I would neglect this totally legitimate, really deep longing for the intimacy that comes with romantic relationships. So today I am going to do just that!

Actually, that was a bit misleading. In all seriousness, I’m going to talk about not being in a romantic relationship. Wooh, singleness! Now, in my opinion, there are the happily single and the unhappily single. And if you’re happily single, good for you! And then for the unhappily single, it’s more difficult. Because you’ve heard at least once that you don’t need another person to make you happy, that loving yourself is more important than others loving you (and that, as long as it’s not narcissism, it will actually help others to love you). And those are all true, and you can probably intellectually see the truth in those statements.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept emotionally and enact. It may be easy to admit that we are whole without another person, but it still feels like we shouldn’t be alone. And that is completely valid. That’s the hardest piece to give up because it’s the piece most engraved in our minds. Loneliness, while not always remedied with romance, is a very real and very dark emotion. And there are only ever a handful of people at most that we can share our deepest selves with. That’s love, being so comfortable with someone that you can be your realest self with them.

This quest for intimacy is also explored in a beautiful project that you may or may not have heard about. It’s called “Lovers Shirts,” championed by Carla Richmond Coffing and Hanne Steen. They take pictures of people (mostly women, but there are a few men), wearing the shirts of their ex-lovers and talk about it. And it’s a very profound thing to see their vulnerability and read what they had to say about love and loss.

This project was by no means about heartbreak, but it does bring up comments about it. And I really can’t talk about heartbreak because I have fortunately never had to experience it. But what I will say is that it’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel the pain of loss. Yeah, it’s nice to heal. Everything feels lighter and easier when we’re not in the throes of loss. It’s better for our emotional health. But It doesn’t make you weak or overly emotional or anything. It may not be pretty. But it means you truly loved, and what is the shame in that?

Epylle Spydre

Be a Butterfly. Or a Cup, Whichever Makes You Happier…

ImageThis teacup reminds me of people. Yup. People. Because when I saw this cup, I said, “Oh goodness, that could break in a heartbeat.” It’s fragile and fleeting. Just like us. But instead of talking about how fragile life is the way I’ve done before, I want to talk about how fragile the heart is. 

Isn’t it crazy what we do? We entrust ourselves to other people, showing them the deepest secrets of our hearts. We give them a piece of our soul, trusting that they won’t dash it to pieces. And some get away with this maneuver without any scratches, but the vast, vast majority of people get chipped.

Even if that person doesn’t break your heart, they will still disappoint you. It’s a fact of life. We fail. All the time. So if you think of your heart as the little cup I have above, as you go through life, it accumulates scratches, little imperfections that affect who you are and who you become. 

So you could try to hide yourself in your closet and escape all the hurt that you know you will face if you venture into the world. You could promise yourself that you would never trust another human soul again. But I think that sounds really boring. And just plain sad. We are loving creatures. We were made to be in communion with other people, as painful as that can sometimes be. 

And besides all that, without pain, we can never experience the most beautiful joys either. It’s a risk that we have to take, but the fact that we risk something makes the reward all the more fulfilling. 

The other analogy I have here is that of a butterfly. How many of us have heard that we’re never supposed to touch a butterfly’s wings because if we hurt one of the scales, it will kill the butterfly? Now, I have no idea of the scientific accuracy of that statement, but the fact still remains that butterflies are fragile. But they are beautiful. Trusting people puts you in that vulnerable place. And yes, they could hurt you, and many do. But it’s still beautiful. 

Epylle Spydre

 

p.s. Photo credits to my sister, who has a blog too! http://thelifeofpictures.wordpress.com/

Your Inner Sheep

Sheep are, in the words of Rubeus Hagrid from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, “seriously misunderstood creatures”. Actually, Hagrid wasn’t talking about sheep, but I am. When people think of sheep, they think of little puff balls of adorableness (no idea if that’s a word, but I just made it one) that just munch on green grass and make sweet baa-ing noises. In reality, sheep are strong, stubborn creatures that aren’t the pure white color we always thought they were. Don’t get me wrong, they are still very adorable. But seriously, the best word to describe sheep isn’t adorable, but headstrong. Let me show you. It’s storytime, folks!

So, I go to this camp every summer and one of the things we do is worm the sheep. In actuality, worming sheep is a misnomer, because we’re really de-worming the sheep. But worming sounds cooler, so we say that. But anyways, worming sheep consists of giving them medicine (which looks sort of like baby formula) with a syringe-like thing. So, this is all great fun, but the sheep are so stubborn. You don’t realize how headstrong sheep are until you have to worm them. What’s really fun is when a ewe gets out before she’s gotten her medicine and one kid has to hold onto her and not let her go, scraping up his knee thorougly in the process. Ahhhh, the memories.

But what’s the point of that story?? Sheep are stubborn, but it’s the lambs who are really adorable. Lambs fit the cute stereotype more, but what I love about sheep is how they’re used as symbols. Sheep are kind of stupid, and they’ll follow the flock wherever they go. Sheep need a shepherd, and without that shepherd, they’re lost. And I love the image of a lamb on a shepherd’s shoulders being carried home.

People are a lot like sheep: we have the tendency to follow the pack and get lost in conformism. We often need someone or something to drop the ice cold bucket of reality over our heads. Some people choose their religion, someone they trust, or just their common sense to help them with that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. On a different spectrum, the image of the lamb on the shepherd’s shoulders identifies with our longing for comfort and closeness with other people. Admit it, you just want to be held. You want someone to pull you close and say, “It’s okay, I’ve got you. I love you, and you never have to worry about anything anymore.” Isn’t that our dream? Isn’t that why people have relationships and fall in love? Because they find someone who makes them feel loved and safe. As humans, we just want intimacy. Now intimacy as a word has been jaded and misconstrued over time, but what I’m trying to get to is the idea of closeness and comfort that goes beyond mere physical closeness. But if you want a picture of both human and sheep stubbornness, here it is:

Farewell until tomorrow, my sheep-like friends,

Epylle Spydre