Not So Broken
This Spring (I think it was in April), I had a checkup with my oncologist. At that time, I was consumed with various emotions surrounding my healing or perhaps lack thereof. I had been dealing with a lot of pain and issues physically due to still healing from my surgery. My plastic surgeon informed me that the type of surgery I had typically takes 18 months to heal from....EIGHTEEN FREAKIN MONTHS?!?! I could be raising a toddler in this time frame! Pre Mastectomy/Reconstructive surgery I honestly figured 2-3 months after I had my "new girls", I'd be more than good. Clearly it was more than just a boob job... and my clinical trial drug was just making that healing process even slower. Throw in some lymphedema in my left arm (which at the time I didn't know that was what was happening), as well as, a rash and a lump on the left side of my breast that was stumping all 3 of my really smart doctors. I had never been in a situation where I had to deal with chronic pain so I was feeling scared, confused, overwhelmed, angry and just really fragile. I don't think really anyone knew this was how I was feeling because I'm really good at keeping my shit together on the outside and inside being the sole passenger on the struggle bus. Typical me, on the outside I was Superwoman. I was crazy busy at work, running kids here, there and everywhere and just busy making memories and living life! Concerts, races, weekend trips and lots of fun with friends because I was so afraid that not doing these things would leave me on that death bed once again regretting what I didn't take the time to do in my lifetime. I felt (and still kind of feel) like I have to seize each and every day and create some kind of joy, magic, memory or experience that fulfills me. It's kind of a mission of mine if you will. With that said, I think inside I was overwhelmed with the "why" I was doing that. The truth is I'm living this way because I'm scared. I'm scared that if my cancer returns and I'm left in that ICU bed a second time not knowing if I will survive, I will once again feel empty. Not empty in the sense that I don't have a loving family and friends and happy life, but that I could have had more! More love, happiness, experiences and joy! The narrative in my head in my BC (before cancer) life was to fit a certain mold, set certain goals and achieve in the proper order. I've spent a lot of my life doing what was expected. This has served me well, but it hasn't really let me be authentically me. The only way I want to live now, is so that when I am on that death bed again...hopefully in many, many years...I will feel complete. Proud. Peaceful....not disappointed.
So here I was dealing with all of this. I found myself at times just choking up and the tears would literally burst out of my eyes. Thank goodness this typically happened in private. When I was driving listening to my tunes, in the shower or on a run. In retrospect, I think it was now that I was finally dealing with what had happened to me. When I was barely keeping my head above water during treatments and surgery I was just focused on survival. Now I was dealing with what that all entailed and the trauma it really caused. It was definitely a PTSD type of thing and how to move forward was unchartered territory. My doctor, who is just one of the most amazing people in my life, took note. He suggested I see an oncology based therapist to talk through what I was dealing with. Disclaimer: I had never been to therapy. I always felt like I had my shit together enough that I could handle whatever I was dealing with. I had healthy outlets to deal with emotions and I am a very strong woman. The thing of it is, that you can be strong and still need someone to listen and to help you work through what's consuming you. I had felt like I couldn't really talk to anyone in my life about all of this in it's entirety because I"m sure they are all just sick of the cancer talk. Hell, I am sick of the cancer talk! The reality of it is, however, that it just doesn't go away. You finish treatment and the world expects you to move on and and just be good. Well, survivorship has it's own demons and it too, deserves attention and time to process and to heal. My therapist and I have talked about everything under the sun. How my cancer has affected my relationships, body image, religious beliefs, financial setbacks and my general views on life. We recently revisited what I had stated I wanted out of therapy. My response was " I just want some peace." I'm so much closer to achieving that! We have worked through how to deal with the anxiety surrounding my fear of recurrence, mindfulness and meditation, dealing with this perfectionism I have felt I needed to achieve in all aspects of my life, ways to my deal with my own and other people's shortcomings and so much more! She has opened my eyes to my strengths and helped me to feel really proud and joyful for the person I am becoming. A hundred times over, Thank you....This quote profoundly resonates with me:
"And once the storm is over, you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what the storm is all about." -Haruki Murakami
I'm not sure if the storm is over, but I am certain that I am not the same person I once was. I actually kind of like me even more...I still don't have it all figured out and there are certainly going to be some more bumps in this
journey of my life, but I like this path that I"m on. I genuinely love the lens I'm looking at life through and I appreciate the work, the trenches that I've endured to get to this point. It just feels good! In March, I remember having a dialogue exchange with someone special to me and I had stated that "Cancer really fucked me up. I'm so broken". Well, if you're reading this...I can state now with absolute certainty...I'm not so broken anymore. -XOXO-M