Britney Spears famously sang “I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.” And while you’d not be completely out of bounds if you thought I was talking about Miss J in my house, you’d also be wrong. So partial points to you for that guess. (Can you tell I’m knee-deep in Fantasy Football Hoopla?) I’m actually talking about myself and in an attempt to search my brain for the proper pop-culture reference to describe the “in between” place I feel these days, Britney fit the bill. I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile, and I’ve been slowly writing it in my head the last few weeks. So here goes.

The thing is: I don’t have breast cancer anymore. Ta Da! Can I get a HOLLAH? (or is it Mandy Patinkin Challah? Remember? Claire Danes at the Emmys a few years ago?) I feel somewhat hesitant to deeply connect myself with the cancer community. But I’m also not 100% better or who I was pre-BC. No matter how far the original diagnosis, subsequent tests, waiting, waiting, waiting, getting second and third opinions, determining and deciding on treatment is in my rear view mirror, it still all happened. To me. But there’s a part of me that feels, I don’t know, maybe a teeny weeny bit guilty. That I had it much easier than others. That I didn’t have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. That my tumor was classified as stage 1, when it could have stage 2 or 3 or 4.

I’m reminded of another quote – this time from Woody Allen that likely rates much higher on the pop-culture richter scale: “I’d never join a club that would allow a person like me to become a member.” He says this in the opening monologue in Annie Hall (one of my all-time faves!) and while he’s really speaking to his own insecurity and low self esteem issues, he’s also talking about the concept of BELONGING.  Where do I belong exactly? I’m kind of at a loss. Do I belong in the community of cancer survivors who bravely and boldly share their CJ’s like war veterans who “won the battle”? Do I join support groups to discuss the “aftermath” of the CJ and the non-physical scars that still remain? Or do I start fresh, put this terrible year behind me, and resume my old life? Who will have me as a member? And more importantly, and pressingly: where do I feel most comfortable being a member?

Before my CJ, I was more carefree, less anxious about my future, less conscientious with the cleaning products or personal products (cosmetics, etc) that my family uses, and less timid. But I also lived a life plagued with so-called first-world problems navigating such pressing issues as: the heartbreak of not finding the brand of organic milk we buy at the market, arriving at Comforts to pick up Chinese Chicken Salads three minutes after they closed, or having a really shitty tennis game. (uh, hello, where did my backhand go?) If you think I’m trivializing my life to make a point – yes guilty as charged.

[For a irreverent look at FWP, click here]

Nowadays, what’s changed? While I don’t sweat the small stuff as much as before, I’ve also learned a great deal about patience and flexibility. I’m trying to live a more deliberate life.  This may mean stopping and smelling the roses. (How many bad idioms can I use here?) Or it may mean saying “no” more often, or being more honest with myself.

The point is I feel different. Not different-bad; and not different-good. But I’m at the intersection between “cancer girl” club and “non cancer girl” club – and it’s the underlining question I deal with every day. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. So bear with me.





2 Responses

  1. Jennifer, as Always I am impressed by your literary skills, or more than that, how you pin the “nipple on the titty”! Having gone through another terrible cancer and so far so good,
    I , many times , feel guilty, like you said, about the ones who have had a much worse time. I have two friends who have gone through so much for so long, and I know I am lucky to be alive, but I feel so badly for them. I am praying for their recoveries.
    Not that mine was any quickie recovery, and I had more than one bout, but here I am, everyday, still worried and panicky that it could happen again, although, RIGHT NOW, I am doing great. “LIve for the day” is easy to say.” But, truly, we must believe this.
    I tip my newly grown hair to you, thanking you for your incredible diary, and wishing you well for many, many wonderful years.

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