Chicken Breast Cancer

It is interesting to note what can amuse us, generally speaking, as a society these days.  Humor is often found in everyday things that strike us as ironic, idiosyncratic, or absurd; think Jerry Seinfeld and his observations about “nothing.”

Recently, technology has become such an integral part of our lives, that it too has become a source of humor and entertainment.  Group texts, memes, humorous tweets; or, just some of the ridiculousness of technology itself.  There are entire websites devoted to listing amusing examples of auto-correct.

Now, I am not a millennial; I did not grow up clutching a smartphone. I have more of a love/hate relationship with technology.  However, I must admit, I have come to rely more and more on my phone for just about everything; email, text, pager (as all my pages are now forwarded to my cell as a text message), work projects, calendar, social media, to-do lists. Not to mention hundreds of photos from recent years.  Lately, to log into my email or the EMR known as Epic, I need my phone to sign in with “dual authentication” and I am almost paralyzed at work if I happen to forget it at home. My entire life is wrapped up in that darn phone!  Sometimes I yearn for the days when I did not truly need one.

But I digress.  The other day, I was entering a grocery list onto my phone because with my crazy life and schedule, I have to make lists for everything.  And actual lists, not “mental” lists. I can try and remind myself five times leaving the house that we are out of ketchup but if it doesn’t make it on the list, sadly, it won’t make it into the cart.  The keyboard on my phone has many helpful features, including Swype as a much more efficient way to compose text.  It also has a complex memory function; it will auto-complete words or phrases that I type very often, such as the names of my children.

As I entered this grocery list on a Saturday morning, typing away, I was adding the usual items: bread, milk, eggs.  I saw that chicken breasts were on sale in the weekly store flyer, and so I started to type, “chicken breasts” and what made it onto the list was:

 — Chicken breast cancer

I just had to laugh out loud.  Apparently, my phone remembers that I have a tendency to type the phrase breast cancer, over and over again, whether it’s on texts, emails, my blog, Facebook posts, or other media files.  In the summer of 2017, on a family road trip, I even edited sections of my first book on this very same phone; “Mirth is God’s Medicine” started as a Google doc.  

After showing the list to my family for amusement, I went back and changed the item to chicken breasts.  But for some reason, this stuck in my mind for the rest of the day.  Mulling it over, I came to this conclusion: breast cancer has become such an integral part of my everyday life and my very existence, that somehow it even found its way onto my grocery list.  An interesting thought.

Coming up this spring is my five year Cancerversary; on the one hand, I can hardly believe five years will have passed since surgery on April 26th, when I went through the operation that made me cancer free.  On the other hand, it seems as though I now can’t even remember life before breast cancer; it feels as though it’s always been a part of me, in the past, now and forever.  I am sure this must be true for patients with other health conditions, as well; for example, diabetes.  A new diagnosis often necessitates 3-5 new prescriptions right off the bat, as well as the need for a glucometer, test strips, how often to test blood sugar, what to do in the event of a high or a low reading–it’s a major commitment, a major change in lifestyle, and this must result in the same phenomenon I experienced.  Feeling as though it’s now an integral part of one’s very existence.

In the past, I discussed using the Five Steps of Breaking Bad News when I had to tell my children their mom had cancer.  There are also Five Stages of Grief, known as the Kubler-Ross Stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Although I am doing well, and I am truly grateful for good outcomes, processing the cancer diagnosis in retrospect was similar to these five steps. Denial and anger were present for a period of time, as well as bargaining; first with God, then later with my doctors, even physical therapists to some degree, regarding the treatment plan. I might have had mild depression symptoms from time to time as I adjusted to the new me, both physically and mentally.

And when I saw “chicken breast cancer” on my phone, and allowed myself to laugh, I viewed that as a sign that I am in the final stage–acceptance.  And acceptance seems to be a positive thing.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that breast cancer will always be a part of my life, not just my health history or follow up appointments or labs or scans, but truly a part of me–my worldview, everyday dialogue, emotions, interactions with other people, language, and thought process.

And even my grocery list, apparently. 

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