The identity of illness.

As I was leaving work last night, I ran into somebody who took care of me after surgery and whom I'd not seen since. She squealed and we hugged, and she said what everybody--even my surgeon--says: "You look so *good*!"

Everybody says I look good. The people I've known longest, since before I grew my hair out for Beloved Sister's wedding, look at my buzzcut with satisfaction and say that I'm the Jo they knew "before".

I am the Jo they knew Before. I'm also the Jo that's here After: after diagnosis, after surgery, after PET and MRI scans and Dilaudid PCAs and the long-to-me-but-actually-short recovery.

I look good, if good is still the forty-pounds-overweight, silly, rubber-faced me that you've all grown used to. I feel good--better than I did before surgery, that's for sure. I take more care in what I eat and what my habits are and how hard I work out, and I have a lasting (I hope) gratitude for things like sunny days and unexpected afternoons off. All in all, things haven't changed that much.

(That is, by the way and parenthetically, the weird thing about a diagnosis like CANSUH. You expect that your life or your *self* will change in some way, but it really doesn't. Not in any way that you can put your finger on, anyhow. Which is kind of disappointing, and kind of reassuring. The human animal is immensely adaptable.)

But now, added to all of the stuff that Jo was before, is Jo the Cancer Survivor. That's an identity I'm not completely comfortable with for two reasons:

First, mine was a baby cancer. Compared to people who had to have radiation and chemo or who lose their hair for real or who fucking DIE, mine was the sort of cancer that slumps along and doesn't do much. I don't feel like I can really claim a Survivor Badge, because what I went through? Really wasn't all that bad.

And second, and this is the hard part, the five-year mark means nothing with PLGA. It's most likely to recur in years seven through twenty...which means that it's most likely to recur just when the plans I'm making are finally coming to fruition, or after I think it's gone for good. I try not to be pessimistic, but I wonder: am I celebrating too early? Should I be making plans for the day when the rest of my mouth is gone?

Cancer is gonna be a part of me from here on out. Even if everybody I work with changes jobs, even if I move, even if I shut the blog down and delete six years' worth of posts, I'll still have it in my head that I've had cancer. I'll have it in my head that it could come back.

I'm not sure how to integrate this illness into my identity.