Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Accomodating Cancer

Yesterday was my first day back at work and I was overjoyed to be there.  I feel incredibly priveledged that I am able to work with individuals that I whole heartily admire and respect. My co-workers have become in many ways a second family to me. They nurture me, challenge me, and support me.  I was excited to return to work not only to see them, but I was eager to have the break from Cancer.

My boss called me last Friday with excitement. He had hooked me up with a VIP pass to the signing of the Civil Union Bill with Governor Quinn.  This bill is something my agency has worked tirelessly for, it was something I was personally proud of, and it was a tremendous motivator for getting back to work on Monday.

Yesterday I went in for blood work and arrived at work at 8:30.  I was met by a welcoming committee of co-workers that were genuinely excited to see me back. It felt so good to walk through those doors, to unpack my bag, and to sit back at my desk for the first time. I showed off my new doo(s) - yes they saw me bald- and the day continued as normal.

I received an email from my nurse saying that my blood counts were very low and that I needed to be especially vigilant about large crowds and hand washing. My body was more susceptible to illness and it was up to me to set limitations and be responsible.

Why did I have to be responsible today? Why did my body decide to lower its immunity today???????

I sat with the news and was unsure of what to do with it. I knew it was ok to be at work, but I sent an email to the staff explaining that I was immuno-suppressed and that anyone with a cold, or developing a cold should steer clear.

I decided to write my nurse to ask specifically about the event with the Governor. The media was reporting that they anticipated a few thousand people in attendance and that the lines would start a few hours ahead of time. Could I be in this large of a crowd? If so, was I comfortable rocking a mask in front of all the cameras? If I chose not to go would this be me surrendering to Cancer?

I stared intensely at the computer screen hoping that my nurse would give me the green light. She wrote back- if you go- you have to be quick.
Could I be quick?

2:00 rolled around and I was agonizing over this. If I chose not to go- then Cancer for sure won. What a bitch. If I chose to go, then I win, and Cancer loses. Yay. If I go and get sick, then Cancer wins- crap.

Teary eyed, I wrote my boss, thanked him profusely for the invitation, but declined. I wanted to go more than anything to witness history being made in the state of Illinois. I wanted to see the faces of gay and lesbian couples who had fought for these basic rights for 20 plus years. 

Yesterday I accommodated Cancer- or maybe I chose to give her the finger.  By not going to the event yesterday, I may have bought more time to work, to play, to spend doing the things that I love to do. Getting sick the first day back at work seemed rash, seemed irresponsible, seemed downright stupid.  I kept visualizing attending as walking into a war zone. My body unsure of its surroundings and fighting hard against others bacteria.

It wasnt worth the risk. I accepted it. I am actually proud of the decision- albeit not an easy one.

Learning to live with Cancer is proving to be a daily challenge. I can't simply agree to the events that I used to, but I refuse to be held hostage by my disease.

I am learning slowly how Cancer is apart of my new identity, but also has to at times take a back seat.

Marc and I have a new rule, that we don't talk Cancer after 8. ( This rule of course changes if we dont see each other till 8- but you get the idea). When I go out to dinner with friends, I realize they want to hear about Cancer, but frankly I don't remember sending her an invitation. There needs to be a balance between talking about Cancer, and letting her dominate the conversation.  I still need to hear about what is going on in my family and friends lives. It can't be all about Cancer all the time. I agree she is an attention whore- but she is going to have to learn how to take a back seat.

I am slowly learning how Cancer can be apart of who I am- but not the most important part.
I am still me under here- perhaps the most naked version of me you have ever seen.


  1. Sorry you had to miss the event. That sucks. My brother has a rule of not talking about death when it's dark outside. Seriously. I think he started the rule when he was like 12 and it still stands. Glad you made the preventative choice. No one at that rally would want to get you sick.

  2. I am so proud to know you Jenna! You are an amazing woman! BUT, the cancer is NOT a part of you, it is a very very unwelcome alien invader that you will kick out! Da and I are hugging you in heart. ooxx

  3. Hi lady,

    What a wreck! So sorry you had to miss the event - sounds like you
    accomplished so much. Alas, you made the right choice. You, amazing,
    talented, smart and sassy you, need to beat this bitch so you can keep
    accomplishing amazing things.

    But you're not accommodating cancer: you're accommodating your cure.
    Cancer didn't keep you from the event, the chemotherapy did. She's a
    nasty friend. The one who gives a backhanded compliment. Or takes the
    last piece of cake on your birthday. But she's also the friend who is
    diving in front of a bus for you. And those are the friends *I* want:
    complicated, layered, sometimes nasty friends. They're way more
    rewarding in the long term. If she was nice all time, you'd think she
    was booooooring.

    Hope you are weathering that monster of a storm okay. Lots of love and
    sunshine to you, my friend.