I hate this day. I don’t even want to have it. I want to skip right over it, go from October 26 to October 28, perhaps even in a comatose state, so that I don’t need to experience living, breathing, or facing this day.
On the one hand, I feel like I should celebrate this day. One year seems momentous. If I thought I wasn’t truly a “survivor” until something happened, this something seems a good designation. I’m a breast cancer survivor now, for real. Not only that, but a metastatic breast cancer survivor.
Of all the things I’ve learned in the past year, I can tell you one thing for certain: I’m not very good at blogging.
I want to be! But chemo.
And I don’t even need to explain. You get it.
My last chemotherapy treatment was on June 1. Even though I thought I learned the lesson that I shouldn’t push myself, I still did. There are all these things I want to be doing. I most certainly do not want to be sitting around the house, exhaustion coming and going in waves, pain crescendoing so that I’m unable to do anything but watch television.
I wasn’t put here on earth for this!
But, ah, that’s it, isn’t it?
I started on a journey a few months ago. Technically, it started on October 27, 2017. Or maybe on the day that the cancer cells first divided undetected by my immune system. Or maybe that one day in college at my job as a student security officer when we went up to that door and…
Maybe it started the day I was born, I don’t know. But whatever, it doesn’t matter.
I’m not ready to share everything yet, but I can share that I’ve been growing and changing.
When I was first diagnosed, I wrote up sticky notes with encouraging things on them. I stuck them in the kitchen and looked at them when the anxiety ran away with itself. “Warrior mode,” said one, although I’ve learned that it’s not about fighting cancer, it’s letting go and healing. But again, I digress. The point is, those are the types of things I wrote on them.
One of them said, “There are no epidurals for rebirths,” and I thought I had one about a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, but now that I think about it, I don’t remember what it said, so I don’t think that one actually exists. Thing is, that’s what I’m going through right now. A rebirth.
I can tell you one thing: I’m learning to trust myself, to trust my intuition, to tap into an ancient wisdom buried in my soul. I started this journey more than half my lifetime ago. I’m struggling with whether it was arrested, or if I’m following a path that I’d always set out for myself. My psychotherapist, who also ascribes to similar philosophies as me, said at the end of our first session together, “Perhaps you decided [in your Incarnation Plan] that this would happen.”
That sounds like me. It really does. When I wrote Tabitha’s story, the part of her that wanted all the challenges! came from someplace inside me. Isn’t it just like me to decide that I would get cancer at a young age? And not just cancer, but metastasized cancer. And not! Just! At! Any! Time! I’ll find out five months after I’ve given birth… dun dun dun… to twins!
And Herman, I can see him now, standing behind me in the bright, white Foresight Room, going, “Um…”
And here’s me: “Look, I could find out I have cancer while I’m pregnant with the twins, but I’ve decided that probably would just be a tad too much, so you should thank me, Herman, really, for dialing it back.”
I’ve “graduated” from the newly diagnosed breast cancer support group to a class called The Healing Journey. It was my own decision because I wasn’t connecting anymore with the women who were there. They were starting chemo, and I was finished. They were embarking on a journey, and I was soul-weary and slogging through the aftermath of heavy-duty treatment. I do hope at some point that I can give back to the community, that I can volunteer and be the inspiration all those people at the Hearth Place have been for me. But for now, I’m at an in-between place. Not newly diagnosed, but not completely thriving.
So I’m going to The Healing Journey, and it’s a summary of the spiritual teachings I’ve taught myself from the voracious reading I’ve been doing over the past five months. It’s good, though, to talk to others who are going through this healing journey. In many ways I’m more advanced. In some ways, I’m only beginning. For instance, this afternoon, I realized I really need to work on my self-confidence.
It’s ridiculous, really. I’ve known I should work on my self-confidence since my teenage years. How is this only now occurring to me to really focus on it?
I meant to blog my time in the hospital in March, when my port became infected because it wasn’t closing and I got a staph infection in my blood. I was admitted for eight days and then on antibiotics for six weeks. It got pumped straight into my veins every eight hours through a PICC line that made me miserable and that the babies always wanted to tug at, and I counted the days until it came out.
“And then,” I would have said to Herman, “I’ll get a blood clot in my neck from the port line! I’ll have to go on blood thinners, so I’ll get a shot in my stomach every day for three months. But, here’s the fun part, it won’t completely dissolve, so I’ll have to go back on blood thinners in August, for another six months or more!”
He really puts up with a lot from me. Thank you, Herman. <3
Anyway. I don’t care what anyone says, the blood thinners make me tired. (Everyone says they don’t. They do. Period.) But there are also extenuating spiritual circumstances, which I’m not ready to talk about, but anyway, now I’m getting better. My mouth still feels weird. Like my tongue feels abraded, you know? And also, wounds don’t heal very quickly. I had a sore in my nose for almost a month and a half because of the delicate nature of nasal tissue. I would leave it alone for days, and then the nose crusties would make me so annoyed I’d do something about them, and mwah, bleeding.
Maybe someday I’ll talk about my time in the hospital. It was traumatic. I went home and bawled for two days straight; my parents and husband didn’t know what to do, and I’m pretty sure I scared Morrigan. Hospitals suck. And I’m pretty sure I’m sensitive to emotional energy, so that kind of things pervades hospitals. It was ugly.
That’s not why I’m not blogging about it. I’m just still tired and healing. I’m in a cocoon–ah, yes, that was where I was going–I feel like this is a spiritual rebirth. I had written that on the sticky note as an encouragement, but now I do feel like this is what I’m going through. I’m all squishy and pulpy, but that’s okay because that’s what happens in a cocoon. I’m healing, physically, emotionally, energetically. I’m not ready to come out yet. Some more things are going to happen. Then sometime in the spring, I will emerge, a beautiful shining butterfly.
But at this point, I don’t even know what I’m going to look like then.
I feel like I’m healing, though, finally. I believe that the cancer will go, my body will no longer have the aches and pains it did and does, and my mind will be healthy and hale. I started telling myself a story of living until I’m 85. I had a tendency to start terrible stories, ones that were like, “At my funeral–” or “I will need to prepare for my girls to grow up without a mother–”
But now, when my mind starts doing that, I stop. No. That’s not the story. And that’s just it, it’s a story, and it’s not the story I want to be feeding myself. It’s a bullshit story that the lizard-brain part of me wants to write because I’m scared of not being prepared.
Here’s the thing. No matter what I was scared of, no matter what spin my anxiety sent me on before my diagnosis, nothing I imagined prepared me for this.
So it’s all bullshit. What’s the point of worrying? I could be diagnosed with a second cancer or MS or some rare form of somesuch-or-other thing that no one’s ever heard of. And unless I went through the medical dictionary A to Z and wrote down my contingency plan for every one of them, I wouldn’t be prepared. And even then, I wouldn’t be prepared because you can’t prepare for this. You just can’t.
I still worry, but I know now that there’s no point in worrying. So I try not to. I turn on the television or read a book or play with the girls or write in my bullet journal.
Fuck yoooouuuu, anxiety! You don’t get my energy! My immune system needs it for important work.
Oh, yes! I started bullet journaling. I really like it. I’ve almost filled up my first journal. I love having something tangible, even if it has smudges and white-out–maybe because of the smudges and whiteout, even. I don’t know if the girls will care about it, or if it’ll just be thrown out one day, but it’s something real for someone to hold and look at, after I’m gone in my late 80’s and have met my great-grandchildren.
I have my first “real” scan in a month. Nobody’s used that term except me. But it’s the first scan after chemo has really, truly ended. In July, my oncologist said my cancer is “stable.” I’ve been on the Herceptin and Perjeta every three weeks since then. So now, I get to find out if it’s enough. The chemo cleaned out a lot of what was there, and the Herceptin and Perjeta need to keep the work going.
I think I’m finally at a point that even if the scans show something has grown–which, I really don’t think they will–it will make me more determined. I mean, I’ll cry, and I’ll have to beat back my anxiety with a giant, pointy mace, but I’m not done here. I’ve got a whole new butterfly life I need to step into. I’m waiting right now, and waiting is hard, man, it’s hard. It feels like if you’re not advancing, you’re retreating, but that’s bullshit patriarchy nonsense.
Sometimes, we need to be still, to meditate, to take our minds out of the spin cycle that is our thought patterns, and step back. Sometimes, like with me now, it will be against my will and for an extended period of time. But after a while, you start to realize… You don’t need to always be fighting. You don’t always need to be pushing and pushing and pushing.
Sometimes, you just need to be patient and wait.