I'm bringing you today's blog right from the heart of things...the Avera Cancer Institute in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I'm here today for lab work, a visit with my rockstar oncologist, four monthly injections and an added on appointment with my therapist right here at the Cancer Institute. My morning started off a little rocky. I had to be ready for labs early this morning, which meant rising before my family so that I could get on the road and drive the 90 minutes here. I turned off the alarm on my phone when I woke up and instantly my phone died. Like trauma, man down, I need a professional....died. I'd be lying if I didn't instantly panic a little at the thought of having zero contact with the outside world as I was starting my trek north. I mean, like most of you, my phone is the key to my world. Work, appointments, kids...you name it. Before completely spiraling, I took a deep breath and asked my son if I could take his phone with me for the day for emergencies. I'd deal with my phone later and really, I had to remind myself that if this is the worst thing to happen today....I'm ok. What a shift, huh? I mean, the old Mia would have been FREAKING OUT. This version of Mia has had to realize repeatedly (sadly) that my phone is just a tool. The amazing thing is that I'm here. I'm alive and I'm capable of moving forward and hopefully not sweating the small stuff. Magically, about 30 minutes into my drive here, my phone just turned back on. I have no idea why or how or what actually happened. I just took it as a gift (and a reminder to back up my pics, haha)! It took a little bit of a mindset shift, but starting out my day with a "this isn't really that bad" attitude, has helped me walk in here with confidence, peace, ease....and dare I say, joy and gratitude.
My appointment with Dr. J went well. He always takes his time to talk with me and make me feel less like a patient and more like a human he genuinely cares about. Thank you. It's really something to feel like your life is of value to others and they legitimately want you to experience the best possible outcome. I don't feel like just a number, I feel like a friend, hell, family. That's pretty amazing. It's honestly like that with all of my team and the great souls I meet here. I recently had to take a break from my oral chemo because of an infection that took over in my left breast. Surgery wasn't too long ago and I'm still healing and well, chemo makes that a bit of a challenge for me. It's hard, it's scary, but it's just my reality and thank goodness I have smart, capable people looking out for me and helping me through it. I'm starting back on my chemo meds tomorrow. Hoping for the best and content knowing that I have help should I need it. This is where that saying "faith over fear" is pretty damn relevant. Just like the example I gave about my phone, I could be freaking out and stressing about the "what ifs" and the scans coming up in April, or I can look at the facts as they are now and embrace that word that I spoke at lengths about in my previous post....grace. Whatever that word means, embodies or looks like, I'm going to do my best to hold on and enjoy the moment I'm in now. I'm going to embrace the support I am receiving and I'm going to constantly remind myself just how capable I am to put one foot in front of the other despite the hardest of setbacks. The perspective and mindset that I'm having to choose about a million times a day, are probably the most important tools a survivor can possess. In my favorite book, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, he writes: "Perspective is everything. That is, when you can break apart something, or look at it from some new angle, it loses its power over you. We choose how we'll look at things. We retain the ability to inject perspective into a situation. We can't change the obstacles themselves-that part of the equation is set-but the power of perspective can change how the obstacles appear. How we approach, view and contextualize an obstacle and what we tell ourselves it means, determines how daunting and trying it will be to overcome." Cancer-0, Mia-1.
When I went to the infusion floor to get my injections, a nice lady waiting for her turn to go in the infusion suite looked at me as I started walking in and said "You look way too good to be going in a place like this". hahahaha.....She instantly filled me right up, like my ego REALLY needed that boost, so thank you, thank you kind stranger!! This sweet exchange, though, also got me thinking. I guess I'm proud that I can show up and appear like I have it all together, but for goodness sakes, I've been bald, scarred, terrified, deathly sick, traumatized but also empowered, strong, a force, resilient and resourceful. Cancer is a mixed bag and it certainly doesn't ever look one way or another. I would never get into all of that with a stranger, but I did explain to her that I was first diagnosed four years ago and I come now every month for injections to help keep my cancer at bay. I didn't scare her with my latest scenario, but I did reassure her that she is in the best possible place receiving the best possible care. If anything, I hope I gave her a little bit of hope that whatever state she finds herself in that she felt the need to comment on my situation, she will find herself in a better state soon. It's also a good reminder to me, that what I'm feeling and carrying on the inside isn't necessarily blaring with neon lights on the outside to those I encounter. This is both reassuring and maybe a cause for alarm?! We all make assumptions about people, (including ourselves) all the time. I've had people say I look good and healthy or that I've always handled everything with such strength that they think I'm doing just great. So, they stay away. The reality is that maybe I am those things, maybe I'm not, but the struggle has been life changing and not always in a good way. I choose to see and run for the light in the darkness that is cancer, but the work it takes to do so is next level difficult and exhausting. A little bit of support, care and compassion goes a long way. Don't assume everything is great and at the same time don't assume it's easier to write me off because my situation is too difficult for you to handle. Yes, that has happened, too. Don't avoid me, because it's hard for you. That's complete bullshit. This happens to a lot of survivors and I've been therapized enough to know that this says more about them, than you (us), but hurt is hurt. Rejection is rejection. Neglect is neglect. Good humans show up for one another. It's just what you do. If it's hard for you to do that, which I get, you be honest and own it. There's nothing wrong with not knowing what to say or what to do, but communicate that. It's the silence that leaves those of us needing support feeling like our lives don't matter or that people will easily move on without us. Mortality is such a hard topic and it's confusing and it brings up so many topics and emotions. I certainly don't have all of the answers, but I'm doing the work to try to figure some stuff out. At the very least, I think those of us constantly dealing with life and death issues, we just want to know that the people that love us want us to still be here with them. I know it sounds like I'm on my soapbox here with this a little bit, but it's just because I'm feeling this whole thing times a million. I'm not perfect. I should have and should now reach out to others, too. I'm just learning some first hand lessons that have come at a pretty high price. I'm relaying the message because how glorious life and relationships could be if we just let go of ego, got out of our own damn way and cared a little more deeply for others just in general. Everyday life might just be a little more peaceful and glorious and man....we could all use a little bit more of that, am I right?! Mindset, perspective, grace and now, hope.
It's time for me to go and process all of these thoughts. Who knew that a building that once scared the living bejeezus out of me would now provide me with such peace and insight. I guess that's the thing about learning and growing both despite and because of our circumstances. It's pretty magical if we lean into that which might be a little (or a lot) uncomfortable. Keep on Killing It...you all lift me up and I'm so happy we have found one another. Much love-M
For my old friend "S" who has gone much too soon....thank you for the many memories and life lessons. I will forever carry our best of times with me and I'm grateful for having known you.
Fly high & Play on my friend.....