Sunday, September 13, 2015

Things left out

In my first blog post, Sort of cancer, I briefly touched on why I decided to share my story: to connect with others and to heal. There's a bit more to it than that. To say the way we connect with others has changed over the past ten years would be a gross understatement. Communication has been completely transformed in ways most of us couldn't imagine prior to the widespread use of the Internet. The social media network of Facebook, at least in my corner of the world, has brought all of us closer together in some ways. Friends and family are not lost to physical distance and lack of time to connect. New friends across the globe are made. It's quite incredible, really. However, sitting behind a computer screen to communicate allows us to edit our lives, to put our best faces forward. We've all done it; we are quick to share successes and hesitate to share the less "Facebook worthy" moments of our lives. These are the things left out.  

We all share our lives to different degrees, but because we are behind a screen, we can pause, edit, filter, and omit. I believe there are things we leave out for a few different reasons. First, there are things we probably should leave out, like the mundane details of our lives. Next, we leave things out that we perceive other people either shouldn't know or don't want to know. Finally, we leave things out because we want to paint the best picture of ourselves, simply because we can. Why I left out so much of my illness is a combination of all three of these reasons. 

I remember very distinctly when I started not feeling well. I had heartburn. Admittedly, it was pretty bad heartburn, but this, as a mundane detail of my life, was not shared on social media. Plus, who really wants to know that I was popping Tums like candy, much like I don't care to share when I have a common cold. All of us experience minor illness and discomfort, so to share is almost unnecessary and honestly, a bit boring. One could argue we share the mundane to commiserate and connect, but that's just not me. At least I don't think that's me. Finally, when I did choose to share my illness, I painted the best picture I could for my Facebook friends:

I put my brave face on for Facebook in effort to not appear sorry for myself and not to burden others. A small part of my optimism was also for myself. If I could convince others that I was going to be okay, perhaps I could convince myself of the same. To lend some perspective to how I was actually feeling, I should mention that I started feeling sick about three months prior to this Facebook post, back in early October 2014. I finally went for a CT scan December 16, 2014. So in addition to not feeling very good for three months (downright crappy at times), there was an entire month of me knowing there was something wrong with my pancreas, but not knowing exactly what was wrong with my pancreas. An entire month of not knowing if this "growth" was going to ultimately kill me. There, I said it. I knew that I was "probably" going to be okay (I'll get to that later), but when dealing with a yet unknown diagnosis, your mind goes to dark places. Even with the prognosis of "probably okay," I didn't know what that would look like. I'd probably need surgery, fine. I might need chemotherapy and/or radiation, okay, I will deal with that. There's a small chance I just need a course of steroids and some monitoring (please, please, please let this be the case). I kept waiting for someone to tell me the CT scan belonged to someone else (this never happened, obviously). And this just scratches the surface of what I was going through. To be fair, what my family and friends were going through, too, but this was my body and my tumor. So, there were a lot of things I left out.

I wrote my first blog entry before I chose a title. A conversation with an old friend gave me the idea after she read my entry and said she liked it because I was sharing the things we leave out of our social media outlets. So my writing can deviate from my "sort of cancer" and recovery to other avenues of my life. There's a tongue-in-cheek meaning to "Things left out" as well; there were things left out by my surgeon before he put me back together again (some of my organs!). 

I'm terrible at wrapping things up. Writing conclusions is a weakness I've had since I began writing five-paragraph essays in grade school. So, there you have it. Things left out. 

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