It's crazy to me that somehow it's been almost three months since the "You have cancer, again" conversation happened. In some ways I feel like I've lived several lifetimes since that cold January day. The process one goes through when slapped with such a life altering scenario is bewildering and quite honestly exhausting. It can also be magical, humbling, scary, peaceful and a million other contradicting adjectives, but I guess that is why it has seemed like time has flown by and also, at times, stood still. The mental work of grieving, healing and just forging ahead has been really tough! But obviously I'm grateful with every ounce of my being to still be here. Every single day, though, I have to wake up and work at being ok. I have to chase away the demons that tell me how short my life could potentially be. I have to switch the narrative I tell myself from "you have no time", to the "but you could be here a really long time!" speech constantly. I look at my children and wonder if I will be here for their many major milestones and even for the little every day idiosyncrasies that they each bring to this life we share together. I have to wiggle out of the tight grasp that this cancer thing has had on me. I have to convince myself that not every little ache and pain is associated with cancer. Sore muscles resulting from a workout that you haven't been able to do in months is normal, not my body failing me. There's been this cloud of doubt hovering over me lately that I really need to clear! (Cathy, if you're reading this...next Reiki sesh) ! :) I know this is all normal and I know over time and hopefully some clear scans, my faith in myself and my ability to beat this will be restored. I know being Oligometastatic is truly a blessing. The gift of hope that it brings, I don't take it for granted. Ever. I know I am and will keep doing every single thing I can to be the healthiest, most resilient version of myself. With that said, the triggers of fear, doubt and hurt...they are everywhere.
Fear makes me crazy and boy are there triggers of fear everywhere! I know that my job is not to be fear "less". That is in fact impossible. My job is not to be controlled by fear. I can't let fear sweep me away from the potential beauty in the day that is before me. I sat in the waiting room of my surgeon's office yesterday and even though I was so looking forward to seeing him and his team, I was nervous thinking that something might be wrong. I was having some tightness and discomfort in my left breast, again, likely caused by my oral chemo. My doctors had put the chemo on hold for a few days, yet again, to see how my body/breast area responds. I know some of you won't ever get this, but the idea of losing that part of me again is terrifying. It was such a lonely, dark place to be and I just don't want to have to go through it again. I see my oncologist on Thursday and I'm again, looking forward to seeing everyone and being on top of my health situation, but there's this underlying fear that something bad will come from it and it will just lead to having to endure something worse. The challenge that lies in front of me is to stop this perpetual cycle of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I cannot waste my time waiting for the next bad thing. I simply have to have some faith and hope and just really live in the here and now. Easy to say, hard to do and at times, impossible to stop thinking about.
I slowly started going back to work after radiation ended and my oral treatment plan commenced. The weird thing about going back to a "normal" routine after literally fighting for you life, is that the same, mundane tasks that you were once accustomed to feel crazy stupid and at times completely inauthentic. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, my bosses, my coworkers, the families and kids that I get to work with....I literally have tears of gratitude in my eyes for all of them hanging in there with me through all of this. The emotional support they have all provided me has been this amazing gift from the universe. My agency's willingness to help me utilize paid time off to get my treatment going is something I will never forget. So it's not the job per-say, but the struggle is how to fit this new version of myself into an old role, routine and how to make it mean something that I'm willing to sacrifice myself for. Work is just one reminder of this tug of war, but it exists in just my everyday routines and commitments. too. Think about it...you've been told you might die...I guess if you're lucky, everything is as you dream it to be and you're ok when it's your time to go. For many of us, though, it makes us rediscover and reprioritize and just contemplate if we are where we want and need to be. I still love what I do, so I'm good there, but I do need to make sure that I don't lose myself in the shuffle of what does not need to control me. Just going through the motions of really anything doesn't seem special enough for me anymore. I know my Cancer friends get this. We spend so much time in this other universe with needles, medicine, scans and life changing conversations. It's so big and so heavy to carry. And then, just like that....you are released to what you once knew, only to find you don't know if it's where you should still be at all. I felt this years ago the first time I finished treatment and went back to work and the routine of life and I'm feeling it again now, too. It's more about how to reemerge and how to carry on....knowing that it all can be taken away in a mere blink of an eye. Talk about a big, giant reminder, ok trigger, that things, that YOU are different.
Only because I'm a pop culture junkie, I feel the need to discuss some very recent events that triggered something else. I LOVE watching the Oscars. My mom and I used to fill out an Oscar pool and the winner was treated by the loser to lunch...oh how I miss that! I have a dear friend who will always talk (and tweet) everything Oscar fashion with me while lounging in our homes wearing sweats and snacking on something you know the women in the beautiful dresses haven't touched in weeks! ha! On Sunday the controversial slap that was heard around the world between two famous men happened, but I don't want to get into that specifically because I think they both seriously need a time out. But what I do want to talk about is the woman behind the noise that we should all be applauding. Jada Pinkett Smith has been very open and honest about her struggle with alopecia. This whole debate about the men, honestly it pisses me off because look at HER! I was completely bald for 5 months of my life. It was complete hell.The pain, embarrassment and suffering I felt through that distant time in my life was very real. I mourned that which was taken from me and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. I didn't have the courage to go anywhere without my wig. Literally almost NO ONE saw me without it. Here she is at the freaking Academy Awards looking stunning and authentically her. Then to have someone mock her in front of the entire world.... She deserves the award! When something is taken from you without your consent and then you are thrown into the fire that is the world to deal with it, well, it can seriously crush you. The level of bravery and self acceptance that I acknowledge in Jada is something I can only aspire to discover within myself. I don't know her obviously, but I can relate to showing up with a smile on your face, trying to put forth your best self and speaking up and out for others with the hopes that your light will shine the way for someone else. When that effort is diminished by ego, toxic masculinity or insanely bad jokes, we all should stand up and acknowledge the true hero in the story. Sorry not sorry... major freaking trigger.
Certainly there are more triggers and reminders every day that keep this mind of mine racing. Introspection for me is both my blessing and my curse. As the thoughts, doubts and triggers keep coming at me, all I know to do is to find some joy and peace in the moments that try to sweep me away. The facts are that I am still here. I can look at my past and be happy that I haven't given up and that I've kept learning and growing despite the many setbacks. I constantly challenge myself to find stillness when I think I need to rush, to be true to me and not feel less than when I don't live up to the expectations of others. I absolutely have to do something, one thing, every single day that makes me pause, smile and move forward with courage, determination and confidence...not doubt.
The words I leave you with today are MINE! I was quoted in Coping with Cancer Magazine a few years ago and I stumbled upon it again recently. I have a picture of my bald self in my office with that quote. It's a good reminder to me today to take my own advice...I'm not good at doing that, haha! Keep on Killing it Always. Thanks to all of you for hanging in here with me... much love-M
"Light will come from this darkness. The perspective you gain, while entirely unwanted, will be completely unmatched. Believe in yourself!" -Mia Tardive, Stage 4 Oligometastic Breast Cancer Survivor-someday, future thriver.
This song brought me some joy today...Enjoy!
Lay it on Me-Vance Joy