Having cancer is expensive. I've talked about it before - had to ask for help, had to fundraise for my care and treatment. I was surrounded by love and support, generosity beyond what I feel like I deserve.

That's not what this article is about.

It's about how my feelings about money have changed, and the impact of that on my ability to save towards long term goals. I know that's a big, intense, somewhat convoluted statement, so let me see if I can say it more plainly. 

I almost died.
During that time I spent an inordinate amount of time scared about how I was going to cover my lifesaving treatments. 
When things normalized - health insurance, co-pay support, a husband with a good job- I felt as if I'd been wearing a corset too tightly around my ribs for years. The release, of not having to work so hard or worry so much, was indescribable. Suddenly I could be normal again. I could buy clothes, makeup, go on trips, set up a gorgeous home. 

What I couldn't seem to do was start saving again. When money came in, I spent it. I sucked the joy from the marrow of life, giving myself a break from constant worry. We were comfortable. I was so happy. It was so fun. 

So almost five years from my initial diagnosis, when it seems like I am in such a good place, it makes perfect sense that now would be when I fall apart. 

We've all seen the movies. The loveable lead character gets a medical death sentence, decides to do (and buy) all the things they've always wanted. To live life as if it might end at any second. Cross off the bucket list. Go on an adventure. Live as if life has no consequences. 

But what about the story where the people don't die? They get better, or they strap into a new, somewhat challenging reality in which they live. I can't be the only one thinking about this, because I just saw a preview recent for a new show coming to CW, starring Lucy Hale, wherein the plot is exactly that. After living for years thinking she's dying from cancer, she finds out she's cured. Cue the chaos. It's called Life Sentence.  Har, har. 

I've been waiting a long time now to figure out what my own response would be to my new lease on life. Would I suddenly want to travel around the world? Would I start partying my face off? It might shock you to know that I've seen no fewer than three cancer survivors take up smoking cigarettes. Kind of an "eff you" to cancer. 

Honestly, I wish mine were so blatant and easily diagnosed, but it's taken me until now to finally realize what my big, post brush with death rebellion is. 

I spend money.

I want the thing, I buy the thing. I took out credit, assuming I could continue to work and be able to pay it back. I didn't last at my job for more than 6 months before nausea, neuropathy, body pain and fatigue increased so dramatically my doctor asked me to quit.

I tried to curb my spending, succeeded sometimes, failed others.

But my big epiphany came this weekend during an intense conversation with my husband. 

I was picking the instant gratification - the shoes, the microcurrent device - over things like a retirement fund, a down payment on a house, the exorbitant cost of a surrogate. The problem was not that those were what I was choosing. The problem was why. The latter, house + kids + retirement,  were things that I desperately wanted... but I couldn't bring myself to believe that I could have them. 

It's really hard saving for the future when I feel like I don't have one.

There it is. The big scary thing. How could I not be afraid? I have Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer. Of course, I am scared. I don't want to die. I don't feel like I have any real control over whether or not that happens. So why not buy the thing I can enjoy right now, future be damned. 

I spend all my time and energy on staying positive, on appreciating what I do have instead of what I don't. The rational brain says there is absolutely no reason why I shouldn't have a future. 

I want to believe it's true. I pray for it to be true. But then there is the part of me that whispers "of course you got cancer, you're life is never going to be easy, it's always always always going to be hard." That part says "buy the shoes." 

How do I postpone instant gratification for a future that I'm still not sure I will get??? How can I talk to anyone about this when I am so ashamed to feel this way. I don't want people to know I have a shopping problem. An ungrateful little cancer survivor, can't stop buying shoes. But then another part of me says "Isn't planning on that future just jinxing me so that something horrible happens to me again? Why do I deserve to be happy? I'm worthless! I contribute nothing and only spend spend spend."

How am I worthless, you might be asking? I don't make money, I just spend it. Steve is so generous to support me. He works so hard so that I don't have to because every time I've tried to go back to work I just get sicker and sicker. He provides everything for me.**

While we are in this shame spiral, it's 100% my fault we even need an expensive surrogate to have a baby instead of doing it the fun way. It's my disease-riddled body that is chemically polluted to the point of being barren. 

It's not rationalbut shoving it deep down is not getting me anywhere but into fights with my husband. 

It's the dark dena, the one I swear exist but nobody believes me because it's so much easier to wear my happy, grateful, perky, mask until it's better, dena. 

I need to stop spending like I'm dying.   

I don't know how. 

I freaking love things. I love them.There is a deeply-seated safety I feel in the ownership of tangible things you can touch and hold. There is such a profound uncertainty in my life in terms of what gets taken out of and out into my body. But here's what I can control; what gets taken out of and put into my closet and bathroom shelves. Those are mine and nobody can take them away from me. 
There is no way having things will protect me from getting really sick again. Or from getting sicker. Or from dying. 
We have a plan. My brilliant husband is working with me on a budget. I'm going to stop writing all the time about cool new things (unless they get sent to me or they fit in my new budget.) 
I am going to subtly shift the focus of this blog on how when you find things that work amazingly well you should stay true to them. I call it "Beauty Loyalty."

I'm sure my skin will be grateful for it. I'm sure I can find plenty of things to write about this blog with the well-stocked cabinets I already have. I'm going to trust my friends and family to help me keep to my budget. 

And I am going to focus on actually believing that I deserve a long and healthy life.

Here's how you can help (if you want to) 

1. Shop my links if you find something you love so I can continue to feel like I am contributing in a tangible way to my family. (I get a percentage of everything that gets purchased through a link on my blog, and while it's not always the easiest way it helps me out so much.)

2. Ask me questions that I can answer in the form of blog posts about stuff I already have, about how to do things on a budget (like the one I am starting), about whatever. 

love you so much