Jenna Morasca: Fighting Cancer’s Selfishness

by | October 23, 2009 at 2:59 PM | Jenna Morasca

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

I walked past the mirror the other day and I immediately got into the defense stance ready to knock someone’s block off. I saw a stranger in the mirror and I was ready to attack. Then looking again closely I noticed I was looking at MYSELF!

What was going on?

I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. What’s happened to me? I looked weathered, like I lost my spark. I couldn’t believe it. I got angry with myself. When did it come to this? Before the illness hit I was a active, vibrant girl in her twenties, living la vida loca. Now, as far as I was concerned, I resembled something out of the ‘Resident Evil’ video game (which is great by the way).

Why is it that tragedy can have such a physical effect on you?

Or should I ask why do we allow an illness to take such a physical toll on us?

As I looked at myself, I thought, I want my youth back, my spunk, and my spirit. That scary person in the mirror was the final straw for me.

“Damnit,” I said. “I refuse to let this illness take any more of my fun, Ethan and my fun, our spirit, and a little selfishly, my looks.”

“This is over right now,” I added.

Just because we are caretakers does not mean we need to look like Kathy Bates in ‘Misery’. As of this moment, I am decreeing for me and everyone else in similar positions that it OK and legal and even necessary to be a caretaker and (gasp) look good and feel good. I know it’s a hard task and I can’t remember the last time I went to sleep and slept really well. And by really good I mean with no bad or weird dreams, or waking up 50 times during the night because my mind just will not calm the eff down

I had a dream a few weeks ago I still remember vividely. In it, I was stuck in some type of old farm house on the top floor. I was looking out the window to people being captured, people I knew (but now cannot remember who they were) and I was unable to help or even yell for help. Though the settings change, I’ve had this same dream over and over.

It’s always a dream where someone else is being harmed and I look on with concern but unable to help in any way. I don’t need Freud to figure out that I’m trying to deal with my feelings of helplessness in the situation with Ethan

To me, a good night’s sleep is like “chasing the dragon.” I’m constantly chasing sleep, a good, restful night’s sleep.

The last one I remember was when I went to the Bahamas for surprise birthday party for Heidi Hamels, my best friend and partner in crime from ‘Survivor’. Her husband (the Phillies’ MVP pitcher Cole Hamels) arranged an awesome surprise party for her in the Bahamas with her closest friends and family. I went down by myself because Ethan had a prior commitment. The rooms were so great and smelled like beach and saltwater. It was heaven.

The first night we got there we all had an early dinner and I was in bed at 10 pm. I laid down, turned the TV on and I was out! Next thing I know I woke up to my phone ringing over and over again. I noticed it was 12:15 and I thought crap, I only slept two hours, this is not good. On a second look, though, I noticed it was 12:15 PM! I had slept from 10 pm to 12 pm – almost 14 hours.

I didn’t even know I was capable of such super hero-like sleep. Mind you I slept this long without the help of any pills, no Ambien, and I had absolutely NO dreams. It was heaven and I never felt more refreshed. These days I continue to chase that sleep, hoping my mind will quiet a few hours so I can rest. No good, that never happens.

As you can see I am chasing all these things. I am chasing restful and peaceful sleep, chasing that youthful face I saw in the mirror, chasing laughter and fun, chasing days that can be care and cancer-free.

They are the things that weigh me down until I think why should I be chasing all these things? These things are me. They are my life. As such, I decide when they come and go. As of today, I am not letting cancer rob me of my age and make me look old. I won’t let it rob me of my sleep. I am taking myself and my life back. Enough of this charade.

I realize the more power we give cancer, the more it will take. It’s the most selfish and heartless person we have ever known. Take, take, take – that’s all it knows. So all of us as caretakers, I say today is the day we take our lives back from cancer, take back your youth, your goodnight sleeps, your eating habits, your laughter, and your fun. When we shift the power back to us we become stronger to help in the fight. And we won’t be trying to fight ourselves when we pass the mirror anymore.