An honest answer to the question, “How are you?”

“Please remember, it is what you are that heals, not what you know.” -Carl Jung

Most days I’m wearing my brave face. I’ll banter and laugh, listen to your stories, go to work, and when someone asks me how I am I’ll respond with “hanging in there.” And for the most part I am keeping it together because what else is there for me to do? Life goes on for me and everyone else around me. It’s difficult most days to walk around in the world knowing that something as terrible as cancer is inside me. In small pockets, I forget and it’s a jolt when I remember- “oh yeah, I have cancer!”

I’m sick but I’m not sick. I was just going about my usual life, getting my annual pap smear, when wham! the doctor found cancer. I didn’t and don’t feel sick. I had and haven’t had any symptoms attributed to cervical cancer. It’s terrifying to realize you can be walking around thinking you’re all healthy with your paleo diet, your yoga and dancing, your vitamins, and your therapy. . . and you’re not. I’m struggling with not letting this little bit of cancer change my view of myself in a negative way. I’m having a very difficult time not giving into hopelessness and fear. If I didn’t even know I had cancer before and now I do, how can I know that there isn’t more cancer? How can I not wonder if every pang or sensation is cancer spreading through my body?

I know. I know. That kind of blown-out-of-proportion type of thinking will only get me panic attacks, acne, and bags under my eyes. For all my brave facing, there are nights when it all crumbles and I lose myself to despair and fear and sorrow. I cry and get mad. I want to just be a bride! Not a bride worried about stupid cancer! It’s not fair, I wail. This sucks, I bemoan. I wish this wasn’t happening, I cry. I’m forced to be vulnerable and cracked open and raw. I don’t like it but I’m getting more accustomed to it even if I find it utterly exhausting.

This is not the worst thing that could happen to a person. Worse things are happening to wonderful people all over the world right this minute. It’s just that this is my worst thing. It’s the scariest, shittiest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life. It rivals my father’s death when I was 19 which, twenty years later, I’m just finding some peace with.

When things like this happen to you, you don’t come out unscathed or unchanged. The world does not look the same to me already and I’m only at the start of the journey. There is a blessing in all of this, I know. Many blessings. But as much as I like to be positive, I’m also a realist. And this shit sucks you guys. That’s it in a poignant nutshell.

23 thoughts on “An honest answer to the question, “How are you?”

  1. I understand what you mean, “Hangin’ in there.” was my standard response after Heather passed. I dealt with that pain similarly to what you are doing. It will get better I’m sure. Most likely once you begin to ‘do’ something about it, you will begin to feel differently. For me, dating Stephanie, having someone to take care of (and not be the one being taken care of all the time by others) was liberating. She told me that it was her goal to see to it that my standard response becomes “Freekin’ awesome”. So it is with you, I do hope that soon you will be able to have the same freekin’ awesome attitude once again. XO Keep up the good fight toots.

  2. Well, it is unfair. It seems to me that you are quite young to have any type of cancer, and the timing is terrible. This is a time when you should be freaking out about little things, like the color of the frosting on the wedding cake, not a big scary thing like this.

    That being said, I think you are getting lots of positive messages from the medical team about your prognosis, which is wonderful. But I think all of us reading understand that this is your worst thing and I hope as your readers we can offer you a bubble of support.

  3. I have found myself grateful for the phrase “hanging in there” if only because of exactly what you said– what other response is there? What you really want to say is awful and shitty and scared, but that takes a lot of energy. And you are right, this is your worst thing right now, and it really sucks.
    I admire your candor and that you can even put it into words for a minute. Sending you so much love. xo

  4. It is that sense of not being able to fully trust your own body, in combination with the idea you didn’t even know what was happening inside your own self that seems to be the toughest to shake off even after prognoses start sunnying up. Or so I’ve observed.

    The term “sense of well being” takes on volumes more context, does it not?

    Clear margins X a zillion. Waves of love X more.

  5. I think you need to honor experiencing it all Sizzle. You don’t seem to be shutting things out and I know it is overwhelming, but maybe you should honor that. Hopefully this struggle right now will be exactly what you needed when the clear margins are found and you are on the other side of all of this! I recently had a health scare and I had myself on the operating table before my first Dr appointment.

  6. I need your address! Mail makes everything ( a little) better. You have every right to be upset, because this situation DOES SUCK BIG TIME. Life gets so hard the older we get (or is it just me?) with all the sh*t people go through. Is it too much to ask to just be happy?

  7. I sure can’t say it better than Abby! You are awesome, Sizzle…. and we are here for you as you go through this crap you were dealt… and we will see you victorious once again!

    I want to hear you say you “are freakin’ awesome” really soon.

    Hang in there. HUGSSSS!

  8. It does suck, and it isn’t fair, and it shouldn’t be happening.
    Isn’t it funny that when people ask how you are and you’re really awful, you would never say that because you’re so concerned about how that would make THEM feel?
    Next time someone asks, maybe you should say, “BALLS, man. Fucking BAlls.” You know, just to switch things up a bit…
    Keep hangin in there, girl. It’s the best that any of us can do. And don’t forget, you’ve got a whole passel (how do you spell passel?) of people hangin with you. XOXO

  9. YES: “It’s just that this is my worst thing. It’s the scariest, shittiest thing that’s ever happened to me in my life.”
    Not to mention it would be the shittiest thing that happens to nearly anyone. It’s OK. You don’t have to justify. You can totally feel that way as long as you want. And unfortunately, you are a member of the cancer club–it does change you. Even the people around you who are experiencing with you. But I know you will find your way in time. Don’t feel like you have to rush for anyone.

  10. Yes, worse things happen, but all the same, I was immediately outraged when I first read that such a thing was happening to you. After all, you’re YOU … with so much light and love and beauty to shine on the world. Don’t let anyone (not even some small nasty voice in your head) tell you how you SHOULD feel about this. Feel how you feel and then kick its ass.

  11. Good and bad are relative. And so your “worst thing” feels rightfully awful. So what if bad things are happening all over the world? Those bad things haven’t happened to you, and you only know what you know. Right now, you know fear and uncertainty in a way that is urgent and new and terribly worrisome. When I feel this way, I remind myself of the Buddhist principle of impermanence. Just as joy is impermanent, so is fear. So is pain. All feelings ebb and flow and I try to endure through the ebb of the uncomfortable ones and release myself into the next flow. I sense you’re doing that, too. So don’t beat yourself up that the experience is frightening.
    PS: Imagine how stupid I feel complaining about the mountain. Still, it’s my worst thing and so all I can do is talk about it and work my way through it.

  12. I know bad things happen to everyone at some point or another during their lives, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I regularly think of my fathers’ diagnosis of Leukemia and the seemingly improbable way he found out (at a local health fair that just happened to run a blood test.) I will never forget those following 6 weeks that could have meant life or death for him. Somehow, all of that stress and unknown made us stronger, despite the outcome. But I know what you are saying — this waiting period is the beginning of what becomes a life-long struggle of waiting and wondering. I still worry about him today – 10+ years in remission. The irony is, worry (in all of it’s errant forms) is always there. I imagine that you are going to run the gamut of emotions on any given day or moment, but you must find a way to tap into that inner warrior, the one that will keep on fighting through it all. The one that has gotten you this far. Feel what you need and fight for what you want. Honestly, I think this is sort of what life is about on all levels. Love to you, Sizz! x

  13. Lady, I know this is stupid, but when I heard about your cancer I thought, “but she is getting MARRIED!” Everything you talked about seems so normal and right and sad and smart and centered. You will get through this, you WILL. But you have the right to be angry, crazed, sad and everything in between. I am ALWAYS here for you.

  14. Aside from laying down and calling it quits for good, I would expect you to just be your normal cheery self. Look at the alternative woman! Life life to the fullest. Scream. Shout. Run in circles. This is your time now to LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST with no regrets.

  15. It’s pretty crazy, the whole not feeling sick but knowing somewhere inside is evil sickness of cancer. It’s how mine is, too. Some people just want to hear you say you are fine..give them that. Others really want to know and will ask you, “ok, now tell me how you REALLY are”. It’s a freaking roller coaster. Some days I want to yell “Why don’t you people see that I have cancer?! Feel sorry for me, love me, FIX me!!”
    Other days, I feel like “Screw you cancer, you can’t stop me from living my life”.
    Freaking roller coaster.
    I hate roller coasters. 🙂
    All in all, when people comment on my positive attitude, I remind them as much as myself – it is what it is. What choice do I have? Wallowing won’t make it go away. xoxox

  16. Any emotion or response someone has to having cancer is ok because it’s different for everyone. I hope you stay as strong and positive as possible because I believe our thoughts impact our physical health. Otherwise, you do whatever you need to do (obv).

  17. We all go through struggles and we are all allowed to be scared about what our struggles mean to our livelihood, regardless of whether someone else is going through something worse. Cancer is cancer. Scary shit, for sure. I choose to see the bright side, be thankful they caught yours early, trust there are procedures to strip you of the disease and believe you will come out a stronger person in the end.

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