I was with my girlfriend last night and we were remembering when I first found out that I had cancer and how surreal it feels now.

Although I certainly carry many scars with me, both physical and emotional, it is amazing how the human spirit bounces back.

When I think about how terrified I was, how I was suddenly so uncertain about everything I had always known to be true, it’s almost like it was a dream.

I cannot believe, even now, that I had cancer.. It is just something that is so painful, so distressing to my psyche that my mind tries to protect me by making my memories seem dream like.

I have heard that some people who suffer systemic abuse, mainly in their childhoods, sometimes break off into different personalities. They do this because what they are going through is so horrific that their mind protects them by escaping into these other “people”. I am sure that I did not get the science right but, that’s the gist of it.

In any case, I sometimes feel like my life is somewhat similar to this. What happened is so painful that I have become very adept at pushing some painful memories out of my mind.  I know that there is some debate on whether or not this is healthy. It does work for me a lot of the time but, certainly not all of the time.

This weekend I got a huge reminder of how all I have been through really does continue to affect me. I got home at around seven o’clock Saturday night after being out all day. When I checked the mail, there was a “certified letter” card inside. Since we missed the mail man, we would have to pick up the item at the post office Monday morning. I groaned. Monday seemed a year away.

Well, from Saturday night until Monday morning I was beside myself. There was not ten minutes that could pass without me obsessing about it. Here is a sampling of some of my insanity and my discussions with myself:

Maybe I’m being audited by the IRS? No, the item was addressed to Mrs. Levy and I file my taxes as Abate-Levy.  Same for the business, can’t be anything related to that because I use “Abate” there. Maybe someone was suing us? No, I know that you can’t be served in the mail. Were they taking my mortgage away? WHAT? I haven’t missed a mortgage payment in my life. Was there some bill floating out there from some treatment or hospital visit that I didn’t know about? That was so much money I would be unable to pay it? Would they put a lien on my house? You get the idea.

I didn’t stop there. I reread the card at least fifty times. Oh, look, it doesn’t say “letter” it says “oversized envelope or catalogue”. What in the world could that be? I spent hours trying to figure it out. I even went online to the Post Office website to try to determine who sent it to us by the receipt number (you can’t).

My husband was wonderful. He gets me. He tried so hard to be patient but, I’m sure I drove him nuts. I also talked to no less than three friends about it, looking for some kind of reassurance that this little orange card glaring at me from the counter was not going to be the end of life as I knew it.

So, this is the thing. I do have a personality that is different from before I had cancer (as you know, I call this B.C.). Rather than being a separate personality entirely, the B.C. personality has merged with the A.C. personality and now, I am a new person, who I like to think of as the “constant worrier”.

My husband must have been frustrated. He reminded me that just last week I got a clean bill of health from the oncologist.  Also, even if it had been any of the things I alluded to above, we hadn’t done anything wrong; we pay our taxes, we have insurance, we pay our bills on time.  What was the worst that could happen?

The B.C. me, of course, knew that he was right. I was being irrational. The A.C.  me, though, is very hard to handle. She can be stubborn and a little unyielding.

Why couldn’t I have thought that maybe it was good news? Maybe we had been left money, won some contest?

This is very frustrating for me. As a survivor, you want to focus on the good stuff and try not to sweat the small stuff but, it is a tightrope walk, believe me.

So, I did what I do. I watched a movie with Al, I played with the dog, I took care of the kids and attended a baby shower. Even when I am going through these things, I always try to “chin up” and live my life. I don’t let the A.C. chick completely control me but, she definitely does have a negative impact.

And, so, here is what I am going to do. I am going to work really hard to become a self that is “Better than Before Cancer”. I will strive to keep all of the beautiful lessons I have learned by having cancer and rid myself of the negative crap that keeps surfacing, like this weekend.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it!

PS – The letter (not a large envelope or a catalogue) turned out to be a completely innocuous document that will have absolutely no bearing on my life.

Thank God for that – I have wasted enough time on it already.