Separating my mind from my cancer

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This week I have been hit with some less than stellar news – the cancer in my bone is progressing and my tumor markers are elevated, which may mean that my treatment is no longer working. And only after about 7 months.

Aside from the obvious fear all of this brings about, I find myself facing yet another challenge. And that is mentally separating the cancer in me from that which IS me.

In some ways, this hits my core belief that everything happens for a reason and if you do what you’re meant to do, everything will be ok. There are people out there who think cancer is a spiritual disease, or who feel this was brought on by the person hosting it. I always believed that too on some level. And I have been working really hard with my diet, my spiritual practice, my exercise, my supplemental health modalities…everything someone can do to tell the Universe this is no longer needed.

And the tests are still moving in a non-optimal direction…

So where does this leave me?  I am at a point where I think I have to let go of this personalization of a disease that may actually be unfair and random.

But here is where it gets tricky for me…I started this journey with my eyes open, conscious of not falling too far down the victim rabbit hole. In fact, with this diagnosis, I have been brought into my body, a body I tried to escape as a younger woman, because of an abuse history and low self esteem. I have allowed myself to feel alive in a different way, to embrace life and achieve a self connection I avoided for a long time. I’m not going to say this is the “gift of cancer” because I’m not sure I believe that. But it is the gift of my reaction to this unfortunate bump in the road. And cancer is an obstacle I was given perhaps so I could gain perspective.

So on some level I feel inextricably linked to these stupid cells (as my therapist calls them). It’s as if together we are doing a life purpose/karmic dance together. Our paths are intertwined.

But as I go through the ups and downs of results, this seems faulty. It seems like I should be able to look at the cancer cells and realize they are just cells. They are in me but they are not me. As someone who has worked so hard to find her way into her body, it’s a scary exercise to try to separate any part of me from myself. I worked so hard to integrate and now it almost feels like I have to go backwards and stay integrated in self while realizing that there is something in me that I don’t need to connect to, that doesn’t help me self identify. This also means that I have to admit I am not in complete control of this situation and I do not like the thought of that.

So what can I control as I sort out this new challenge?

As a dear Twitter friend said the other day when I was taking my new developments personally and wondering why my brilliant outlook wasn’t affecting my health: “positive attitude has to do with how we live our days, not what scan results say.” And so I get to continue to control where I put my focus. On my days, not on my scan results. Of course, I need to move forward prudently based on what the results say. But I get to identify my days and life experience with my positive attitude, the friends I have, the love I give and feel and the creativity I express. I am hoping to get some resolve as far as the why of this whole thing goes, but I would be equally happy finding a resolution in no longer needing to understand it.

Not enough…

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It seems like every time I’m about to make a giant leap forward in my life, I undergo a health setback. Things were fine and dandy over the summer and I got busy planning. But this stage IV diagnosis made short work of any goals I’d set.

I try to remain positive about this journey. It’s the only way to really fight this thing. But today, I am sick in bed with a fever, staring at the guest room walls, wondering if I will ever leave this room.

Almost certainly I will. At least, this time…

Today, I had been taking more steps towards creating a life I am proud of when this fever cropped up. My white blood count is low (1.9), my throat is on fire and I am back on antibiotics. Thank god for those! But physically I feel like crap…

Emotionally I don’t feel well either. This pattern of moving forward and then getting pushed back is like the Universe’s telling me I am not enough. That my dreams are not worth following or I am not trustworthy enough to make my own decisions.

That sense of not being enough is an echo from childhood. I briefly talked about physical abuse here. And that is only part of what recorded the “not enough” tape. Never mind the details, but what it did was make me someone who tried so hard to please others at a great cost to myself.

So it seems unfair that the moment I feel the fire to push towards something for me, I get shut down. Or at least, that’s how it feels. This diagnosis made me realize I need to please myself and when it becomes difficult to do that, I lose steam and a bit of hope.

Writing this, I wonder if maybe there are other ways to meet myself and my desires outside of those plans I’ve been trying to make. This blog has helped. It puts labels on things otherwise vague and terrifying. And that’s for me…It’s for you too, whoever reads this, because isn’t it nice to know, even though we navigate this existence alone, we are all one in this thing called the human condition?

Molested by cancer

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Many people who have had childhood sexual-based trauma, know the conflicting set of emotions that go along with being molested: Shame and a sense that you are special. Obviously this is something I’ve dealt with and I often wonder if some of my cancer roots lie in that past history. I touched on my walling off my breasts from the rest of me here, which could very well have been a result of sexual abuse as a kid.

There may be links between sexual abuse and breast cancer but that’s not the reason for this post. What has been rolling through my head though is that those very specific pair of emotions have cropped up again. I have a sense of shame over getting sick early on in life. As if somehow it indicates a terrible weakness, physically, spiritually. There is also that sense that I am special. That I am going through something few people go through. I am special because this genetic predator chose me. And then feeling special makes me feel ashamed all over again.

Cancer feels like a terrible violation. The body you trust to house you for this lifetime all of a sudden is doing things against your wellbeing. Of course cancer is dissimilar to the sexual predator in that it does not feel good. There is no confusion as far as that goes and no part of me that enjoys the bone aches or nausea or host of other symptoms.

I wonder if other people have these feelings or if these emotions are just in storage because of my past history. Easy feelings to pull off the shelf when something big and scary comes along. What I do know is that it makes me a victim all over again. And I don’t want to navigate this as a victim. Sure, cancer is unfair. Nobody deserves it. But being a victim and concentrating on that role seems to separate me from the life force I am meant to experience. Being a victim thwarts any attempt at creation. So today I choose to create and am willing to step out of my role as a victim and take responsibility for whatever life I have left.