Back Seat Driver

July 12, 2010 at 11:28 AM (Faith, Hair, Treatment) (, , , , , , , , )

A friend and I were talking this weekend about her upcoming vacation. She and her family are flying to Wyoming and renting an RV for a week of sightseeing – mom, dad, six- and eight-year-old sons. She was joking about her outrageous organizing tendencies, and her pre-vacation lists of what to pack, what to do, what to buy. We both decided, though, that the way to go about a traveling trip like this was not to adhere stringently to an agenda (“Come on, kids, eat quickly! We’ve gotta get going if we’re going to make the World’s Largest Ball of Tinfoil before 3 PM!) but to follow the planned route easily, staying relaxed and making allowances for spontaneity and unforeseen events (like ice cream stands). There are far fewer temper tantrums, from children or parents, if everyone’s going with the flow.

I thought about how this is the best way to parent, too. We all have preconceived notions about what parenting will be like (toddlers cheerfully playing house; our elementary school kids racing off the bus to give us a hug and tell us about their day; family dinners with animated conversations, in-jokes, and clean plates), and one of the hardest parts of growing up into our roles is realizing how far reality diverts from those notions (toddlers throwing poop; elementary school kids sulking into the house without a word; family dinners where everyone refuses to eat, speaks only potty talk, and is sent from the table in tears straight to bed).

Cancer has been like that. As I digested my diagnosis, back in May of 2006, I put together my idea of what treatment would be like: lose hair, spend summer in bed, fight like hell, receive clean CT scan, move on with my life. But as I struggled through treatments, trying to maintain some semblance of my former self, feeling horrible, I realized cancer had other ideas.

Boy, does it ever. My vision of a complete remission was marred by not one recurrence but two, the second of which refuses to let go of my innards. My vision of flowing locks has been replaced by persistent brown Nancy-Reagan-head and the cruel fact that no one checks me out any more, because I look like their mom. My early forceful, driving thought that I’d kick ovarian cancer to the curb and live a long, grateful, loving life has taken a back seat to the slow but steady drip of the odds stacked against me.

I’m not throwing in the towel. Not by a long shot. I’m still in it to win it, whatever road I have to drive down to get there. If this trial doesn’t work (I’ll know more by this afternoon) I’ll start another one. I might bitch about side effects, but I’m damn glad to still be here to experience them. I’m learning that the more I roll with the punches, accommodate changes in schedule, drugs, doctors, scan results, pull back my long-view to three months instead of three years, the fewer temper tantrums I need to throw. My expectations of life as a cancer babe might be growing up.

My hair looks a disturbingly lot like this.

photo courtesy

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  1. Ruthann said,

    Sarah-Nancy Reagan is a babe, and so are you!!! No doubt about it.

  2. amba said,

    uhmm…there is no way you look remotely like Nancy Reagan. You’ve got way more style besides her mantra of Just say no would never work for you.

  3. Eileen said,

    Having just read your status update on FB, I read this and smile a big, huge, knowing smile. I am happy that you are learning to roll with it. I still struggle with that. I still want my way to be the way it goes, and I get my panties twisted when it doesn’t.

    Thanks for the reminders and YAY on the good news.

  4. KLarson said,

    Sarah – I’m jealous of the Nancy Reagan look. Post chemo with my hair regrowth, I started out looking like Caillou and now I look like the 90s diet guru Susan Powder. Remember, the “stop the insanity” lady?! Love the connection between our roles as parents and our roles as cancer patients. On my last chemo I should have worn a fancy dress and made a five minute Oscar speech thanking the academy of doctors at the cancer factory. Thanks for the insight.

  5. WhiteStone said,

    Well, I confess that my online photo actually looks a whole lot better than I do in person. But wait a few months and I’ll be back on course with the hair do. I’m opting for a good pixie look.

  6. Ann said,

    I’m a Susan Powter lookalike too, only without the energy or muscles.

    What was your news? I will have to find you on FB.

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