“How are you?”

“Hey! How are you?”

Do they just mean in general or, like, cancer-wise? How deep are they looking to go? How long has it been since I’ve seen or talked to this person? Have they heard the latest update that I’m fine? Am I fine? I think I’m fine…

“Fine! How are you?”

This often leaves someone looking a little bewildered that I hadn’t answered them fully.

Crap. They wanted to know more…ok where are we at here….

“Yup, scans have been good so I can’t complain!”

“But how are you feeling?”

Now this is the question that really gets me. How am I feeling? I realize people ask because they care just like that’s why I ask them the same question. I just quite never know how deep to go.

Technically, I’m ok! I’m still here and comparatively, way better than I was a few years ago. But I’ve got some issues.

I get asked about the things that still affect me pretty often so I’ll try to give a full answer here. It’s not complaining or trying to garner sympathy, I think it’s just interesting to see where cancer is still affecting day to day life. These are all things I can adjust to, it’s just that this is life now.

Although cancer is not an immediate looming threat on my life at this moment, that’s not to say I can really ever get away from it. All throughout the day every single day I’m reminded, one way or another, that my life and my body are just different than they were 5 years ago.

So here’s the breakdown:

Brain. My brain just does not work the way it used to. Surely part of it is aging and part of it is having kids (….because they age you…), but most of it is due to my brain tumor, the radiation I had to my tumor, the radiation I had on the right side of my head that hit the lower side of my brain, and part of it is residual effects of oxygen loss during grand mal seizures. These side effects are mostly memory loss, difficulty thinking of the right words for things (very common things, like “cup”), and in general a slower processing time.

Sinuses. I never had sinus issues before all of this, but my oncologist seems to think my chemo amped up my immune system in my sinuses so that any bug I get ends up turning into a sinus infection. I don’t quite understand how that all works but I’ll believe him because I’ve seen the PET scans that always always show my sinuses lit up like a Christmas tree but it’s not cancer. Strange things are afoot…

Hearing. Radiation is not over once it’s over. It continues to degrade the area that was radiated more and more over time. Since I had radiation on the right side of my face and neck, this has affected my hearing on the right side to the point where I have lost probably 80% of the hearing on that side so far (the expectation is complete loss on that side eventually).

Hearing loss has actually affected me way more than I thought it would. It’s extremely disorienting and I cannot make out where sounds are coming from. If I’m in a crowded area, I cannot hold a conversation because I can’t make anything out. It just sounds like a swarm of bees or something. Beyond the hearing, my right ear is always uncomfortable and feels “full”. All the time. I can’t get water in it or I’ll get an ear infection and those aren’t all that fun.

My face. Ohhhh, my face. I know it’s a vast improvement from where it was, but it’s still hard for me to look in the mirror for any longer than absolutely necessary. I despise doing my hair or makeup because I have to look at myself for longer and the huge scar and transplant site in my face are just not what I want to see. So I usually just don’t. I may give off a “low maintenance” vibe, and that’s not completely inaccurate, but it’s really just because I can’t stand to look at myself. It is what it is.

Thyroid. Since radiation went down into my neck, I’ve began to lose thyroid function. This comes with a whole list of not awesome side effects. Weight gain and fatigue mostly. Fuunnnn….

Voice. I love singing, I always have. I used to be able to rock a Mariah song but because of, you guessed it, radiation, I’ve lost my high range.

Port. I still have my port in my chest and as I’ve tried in recent months to get back into great shape, this thing is a pain in the butt. It doesn’t hurt it just is sorta weird feeling and can be uncomfortable especially during physical exercise.

Thigh. In case you didn’t know, I had a large transplant of muscle placed into my face and neck and that muscle came from my left thigh. I have a huge scar down the front of it and it has a huge indent down the middle from where the muscle was taken. This has become really uncomfortable since I’ve started running again and trying to get stronger physically. It really aches as I’m building muscle there and the muscles are trying to figure out how to work properly. There are still some leg exercises that my leg just won’t do.

Emotional. This one is definitely the most sneaky but the hardest to deal with. I struggle now with anxiety which I never had before. It’s unmedicated and undiagnosed but ohhh, it’s there. It’s mostly separation anxiety with the kids and it’s a real struggle most days.

I don’t like to give off the impression that life is back to complete normal after cancer. I can’t imagine that to be true for anyone who has had to deal with it. We just have a new normal and we adjust the sails and move forward regardless.

So, seriously, I’m fine! 🤗

14 thoughts on ““How are you?”

  1. Still saying prayers for you and your family. I’ve had some of the same issues, but my cancer went down through my ear and no PET scans after treatment. Everything seems different and few, including myself just don’t get it. Still trying to compensate just for aging. Oh! And stress. Again, sending prayers.

  2. Thanks for sharing. Great news that your scan are still good! You’re still beautiful inside and out! God bless, Linda

  3. Thanks for sharing, and the Lord is using you in so many ways. You have a good spirit and a beautiful family, enjoy them and keep that spirit alive in Christ.
    You just made me want to cook something and rush it over again!

  4. Thank you for continuing to share and encourage through your story. My husband and I continue to pray for you.

  5. Your compositions and composure never cease to amaze! Love and prayers continue {{{HUGS}}} ❤

  6. I always so appreciate your honesty and speaking the truth. While I wasn’t the one that physically had the cancer, I still have flashbacks. And I feel the same when people ask me–how are you? Same situation–do I just say “fine” of do they really want to know how I am. And what answer are they expecting? This very moment I might be fine, but the waves of grief are still unexpected. Like cancer, the grief changes life in ways that will never be the same again.
    As I was reading your post, Paul’s pleas to God to remove the thorn in his flesh kept going through my mind. God has said to both you and me, just like to Paul, my grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.
    So we praise Him and say, “I’m fine!”
    Hugs and blessings. 💜

  7. I understand completely. I admire your strength. It’s hard to do what we do at times because of our treatments. I am Terri Andrews Aunt Fran. Stage IV lung. Jan 29 3015 is when I got my DX. I’ve had chemo now for 40 months. I am doing great but so understand the brain fogs and the sinus problems. But I am alive and enjoy life and attending every spirts events of my grandchildren. Life is good. By the way? You are beautiful and an inspiration to me and I’m sure many. Francine Kulp

  8. We love you Kim! You are amazing Kim! And an amazing writer..and an honest one! Man are we blessed to have your inspiration! Thank you once again for your transparency! 💕

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