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?

Cancer is crazy…I’m not?

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My emotions since re-diagnosis have been all over the place. I’ve hit every stage of grief, had moments of hope, been excited about turning my life into something I’m happy with, gone back to grieving, hope, excitement….and it goes on. A virtual carousel of crazy.

As someone who has dealt with depression for most of my life, I am no stranger to the dark side. I’ve dipped my toe in that water many times and then rebounded to the light side until I went back to the dark over and over.

It’s taken years of soul searching and willingness to be able to settle into gratitude and acceptance. To find compassion for myself and others. I’m not perfect at it and some days are better than others, but I’ve come miles from where I started.

Cancer is a messy ordeal and the emotions that come with it are too. It can be depleting on so many levels. And there are times when I am afraid that if the feelings are crazy, then so am I. I’m afraid because I don’t want to go back to that scattered, very sad and lost person I was.

But feeling scattered, sad and lost is different than actually embodying those things. And I know that. Intellectually. There is that scared little person inside of me though, along with the bigger person I’ve become, that is afraid of returning to the all encompassing dark side. It’s a feeling of dread.

So what I have to do during the dreadful moments is to focus on just that moment. And remind myself that for today I am navigating this the best way I can and that crazy is just the ride I’m on.

Pulling the covers off of old wounds

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Last night drifting off to sleep, I was thinking about how I actually enjoy writing this blog. It’s nice to be able to chronicle what I’ve been through and am currently undergoing. I’m starting to feel a sense of purpose and get a glimpse of community. While we all navigate this stuff alone and in our own way, it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one with this disease or the feelings that go along with it.

There are times, though, when I post, that I become a nervous wreck. I hear an all too familiar voice. The one that asks me what I’m doing. That tells me no one will ever read what I write. And if they do, they won’t get me. Or even worse, they’ll get me and they won’t like me.

Well, the truth is I don’t have time for that voice. I’m sure it is there as some form of protection, but it’s a protection I no longer need. So instead of the usual internalization I’ve done in the past, I am making that voice public. Airing it out so that the thickness of it thins and loses its power.

…With this post I thank that voice and and respectfully ask it to move on.

Knowing about the unknown

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I try not to look at statistics or prognoses. According to what I’ve read, I don’t have much time. But I’m young, healthy (considering) and always looking to improve, both myself and my condition. Everyone is different and none of us knows how long we have to live. There’s always that proverbial bus that could hit us any minute.

With this stage IV stuff, there is a constant awareness of the unknown. It’s an unknown that’s a part of everyone’s lives although I wasn’t particularly aware of it pre-diagnosis. The idea of mortality or even being confronted with it was a vague idea that happened to old people and relatives of friends.

There’s something about my ignorant meandering that I miss. That’s not to say I was happy wandering through life with no concept of its finality. Because I wasn’t. I struggled for a long time with finding my voice, finding a sense of belonging. Wondering where is my corner of the world. But there was a kind of haze over things that made existence a directionless dream for me. I didn’t know it then, but I do now.

Once I knew this feeling, the feeling that not just life, but MY life, was finite, I couldn’t unknow it. And when I say know, I don’t mean intellectual knowing. It’s a to-the-core kind of knowing that changed my emotional DNA.

Looking at how I lived my life before, it’s sad to say that there is a Universal push in this diagnosis that was much needed. It’s really too bad that it took something as big as this to give me perspective and an innate sense of structure that I had trouble attaining. I can feel the finish line even though I don’t know where I am in the race and have found a new drive to run as best as I can.

While I am not grateful for cancer or even the “gifts” it brings, I am grateful that I can recognize its lessons. Now my hope is that as a cast sets a bone, this diagnosis will set a new drive in place so that when I am cancer free (and I plan to be), I can continue to operate with this energy and bring it to everything I do.

Flirting with IVF

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Back when I was flirting with IVF, I remember sitting in the waiting room of the fertility office. It was cold and sterile, at least is in my memory. And as I sat there I felt like I had failed as a woman. I was as cold and sterile as the chair I was sitting in.

To make matters worse, the fertility doctor had a giant portrait of his family (wife and two kids) hanging in his office. Now when I say giant, think big and then multiply it about 20 times. They were not there to represent an IVF success story, it was just the doctor’s aesthetic. Their little eyes (giant only because of the size of the picture) looked at me as if to say “you couldn’t do this.”

Needless to say, my IVF journey was short lived for many reasons. I wasn’t that fertile anymore due to chemo, plus taking hormones would have introduced too much risk to my health. But what stood out for me most was the sense that I was no longer a real woman. It was a primal loss of desirability.

To get to the other side I had to grieve my ability to have a biological child. I also had to address my sexuality. Take a look at what made me feel desirable and tap into a part of myself that was all too easy to ignore…until it wasn’t.

I found creative tools to do that – from sexy selfies to flirting with strangers online – the details of which I will share at some point. There was a lot of going from the outside in. Focusing on the external to get to the internal. I had to overcome judgements of vanity and admit that I wanted to be attractive not just to myself but to other people. And as I gained that confidence, the confidence that other people saw me as desirable, it became less important for me to seek that kind of attention. Addressing it head on got it off my plate so I could focus on other things.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with aging and have not completely let go of my desire to be attractive. But it’s not the most prominent issue I deal with anymore. My guess is it’s because I honored it and gave it a voice. When stuffing it would have only made it worse.

As far as IVF goes, I’m glad I stepped away from pursuing that. I applaud anyone who goes down that path. It’s a beautiful thing, creating life. And for those of us who can’t do it in that way, we get to find other ways to create.

It’s in my head

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It’s been a little over a month since my orthopedic surgery (you can read about that here). I am off crutch, have a little limp and some stiffness but overall am healing quite well. My chiropractor gave me some pelvic and sacral support today and before I left her office, she said it should help with the limping.

But walking around, I noticed I was still hobbling. So I stopped, took a moment and made an effort to walk without the hobble. And, what do you know, my body was able to stabilize pretty well without shifting my weight entirely to one side. It’s definitely not as easy or as comfortable, but doable and probably much better for my overall structure in the long run.

I’ve been walking without a limp for over 40 years and within a month of post-op healing, my body has acclimated to this way of walking even after it was useful. It struck me that it doesn’t take much for patterns to become habits to become part of how we navigate the world. That’s not to say that my limp is a bad thing and truthfully, I still have a ways to go before I am 100% limp free, but I definitely do not need to offload my entire left side anymore. It’s just going to take some effort to get there.

That moment made me wonder what else I might be holding onto because it’s familiar or easy. What else feels like a warm blanket to my brain but is not serving my best interest? Whatever it is, I’m optimistic that with some effort I can move through it.