Searching for Magic
When I was first diagnosed with cancer four and a half years ago, I swore to myself that I wouldn't let cancer take away the pieces of me that I held so dear. I was trying so hard to hold onto a version of myself that I honestly loved and admired for as long as I possibly could, but over the last year or so, I've watched her vanish even though I fought so hard and held on with every ounce of strength that I had left. It's a very weird thing to look in the mirror and not really be sure who is staring back at you. Cancer steals away pieces of you and so does grief. You obviously know I've been dealing with cancer in my life, but I've also been experiencing grief on many levels. Lots of it. Grieving for myself and a life I once knew, the circumstances I just can't escape from and for my mom...that one there is one giant piece of my heart that has been literally ripped out of my body, over and over again. It's obviously a lot to process and a whole lot to unpack. With everything that has changed and is changing in my life, I'm just trying hard to steady myself and figure out where to land. For someone not experiencing trauma or grief of any kind, this may be really confusing to understand. Put simply, I've experienced so much in such a short amount of time that as things settle, I feel somewhat shell shocked and maybe a little lost. I wish I had the time to just stop and think, smell the roses or whatever one is supposed to do after one's life is almost taken from them, but the reality of my life is I still have kids to raise, money to earn and a family to care for. I don't really have the luxury to just walk away, even though there are days I want to and some days I need to. Everything and everyone keeps going at warp speed and although my body and mind just want to STOP, I'm trucking right along trying to understand what I've been through and where I'm at while just existing in the craziness that is everyday life. Maybe all of the "noise" is why it seems like I've been on this healing track for what seems like forever. But maybe, just maybe, what I've gone through is just that significant that it's not the quick, easy fix I wish that it would be.
I spoke with a sweet friend of mine today who shared with me that she's expecting her second child. She was telling me about how tired and sick she has been feeling and then told me she feels guilty for even admitting that! She has wanted this pregnancy for so long and she is grateful and happy and so excited about what's to come. Though her eyes were tired, they sparkled. I shared with her a bit of wisdom that it's taken me a lot of good and bad experiences to come to understand. I truly think you can and it is OK to feel it all...both gratitude and frustration. Joy and anger, hope and resentment. I am so grateful to still be here and that my treatment plan is working. I know this isn't the case for everyone, so I one hundred percent realize that I'm one of the lucky ones. With that said, I can still feel angry, resentful and grief stricken because those feelings are completely justified. I, we, don't have to be just one or the other. I find that the state I'm in right now is better than six months ago, but not really where I hope to someday land. I'm trying to live this time in my life as an opportunity...a time where I can shed the layers of this illness that I just can't and don't need to carry anymore, but also to recreate what I want the new version of me to be like. This week I had to attend an annual work meeting where our entire agency gets together to kick off a new year of serving the families and schools in our territory. I used to love this day because I actually had time to see my many work friends! I still enjoy the camaraderie, but I honestly met this day this year with profound dread. Due to Covid and past medical leaves as a result of all of my surgeries, I missed this day for at least the past two, maybe three years. I'm so far from that last version of me that attended this celebration that I didn't really know where I would fit this go around. Fish out of water is the metaphor that comes to mind here. If I'm being honest with myself, I have this same feeling in my extended family, in my friend groups, at work....where in the hell do I fit now. I don't really know, but like the advice I gave my friend, I do believe I can feel sad about the me that is gone and grateful to still be here to discover the me that is meant to be. I can be angry that it happened and grateful for the lessons just the same. Confusing, conflicting, but real feelings in real time. It's funny the timing of some things in life. It's as though the encounter and conversation with my friend today, was another way for me to process some of the feelings that I've been having that are quite similar....but NOT about pregnancy! haha! Whew. The guilt I feel as a survivor has been heightened lately as news of Olivia Newton John's passing. She was also a Metastatic Breast Cancer Survivor who, as it happened, had a recurrence of her cancer in her spine many years after her initial diagnosis. I know her story is not my story, but it hits home and it not only scares me, but it hurts my heart. More and more I'm hearing stories of young women diagnosed and some dealing with progression of this ruthless disease. I know I'm in a good spot. I know I'm lucky, fortunate and so, so grateful to have this opportunity to live free of cancer cells when others cannot. This gift is not lost on me, just as my friend's pregnancy gift is not lost on her. BUT....we are human and we are allowed to hurt, to heal and to experience the range of emotions that makes us human, that makes us alive! I was honored to have a piece published this month by Elephants and Tea Magazine. Ironically, it is about Survivor's Guilt and just how guilt in general plays a role in survivorship. I don't have all of the answers, but I do have this one voice of mine that I'm willing to use to hopefully help anyone else out there on similar paths.
Surviving Guilt-Mia Tardive, Elephants and Tea Magazine
In closing tonight....I'm just going to keep taking the highs and lows as they come because really, that's what I wanted to be here for! I saw my youngest turn EIGHT this month, I'm loving the hell out of my mom each day (F*#K Alzheimer's) and even though the woman in the mirror doesn't seem very familiar, I'm excited to figure her out in the moments to come. Do me a favor...please make sure you take time each day, even if for only a moment, to do one thing, no matter how small, that just feels good. This gift of life with all of the twists and turns, really is something sacred. So much Love to you all-M
I'm leaving you with TWO songs and a sweet little verse I found this time because I can't pick just one to define this moment in time for me. Imagine that. :)
Demi Lovato-Still Have Me
Hollow Coves-The Woods
"One day, you will look back on this time, and all you will see is magic. You won't remember how stuck you felt, or how far behind you thought you were, or what you wished you had done differently. All you will see is that within your uncertainty was also your potential, and within your lostness was also an opportunity to be found, and within your discomfort was also a chance to see what you needed to change, and changing it was you becoming the person you were always meant to be. If there is one single thought that can comfort you in your darkest, quietest nights, please let it be this-one day, you will look back on this time, and all you will see is magic."-Brianna Wiest @moonomens