This is an update I have been avoiding writing. In some ways, I hadn’t been able to pull out the silver lining of this yet. I hadn’t been able to find my own peace with the past few days and I was afraid to show up here without answers and without growth. So, at the end of the day, I guess I’m just showing up. A little worn and ragged, but I’m here. As that was my promise in the beginning. To be true to myself and to you. And so, here I am.
I of course expected that cancer would be a demanding, if not painful and completely miserable physical experience. I wholly anticipated that there would be a mental and emotional struggle associated with that physical battle. I knew I would wrestle with fear and limitations and mortality and the tedium of “dang it, I don’t feel well, and I am sick and tired of feeling so sick and tired.” I did not expect that the cocktail of medications I had to take to fight my disease would turn my own mind against me, and that I would end up battling demons I never knew existed.
I don’t know what caused it. I don’t know if it was the steroid I have to take to help my body recover from the condensed courses of chemotherapy, one of the three anti-nausea medications I was taking to try to stay ahead of being sick, an anti-histamine or some other unnamed soldier-or perhaps a combination of some of the above. I just know that it was the darkest, scariest place I have ever been in my life.
Something I took caused my mind to come undone. I have never felt so out of control of myself. It bubbled up like a flood and I soon became unable to descern if I was awake, sleeping, dead or alive. I was completely beyond myself. I started to contemplate dangerous and completely irrational ways to try to test my reality or wake myself up. I lost most of my calibration on speed, distance, light and temperature. I seriously was unsure if I hadn’t already died.
It was, by far, the most terrifying experience I have ever had.
Worse, I could not make it stop. It was like being flung down a well and buried alive by a handful of dirt at a time. I was begging for it to stop, yet seeing no end in sight.
My biggest weapon against cancer is my ability to redirect this garbage disease into (honestly) the opportunity of a lifetime. The lense through which I have been able to filter this in my mind, and the hundreds of people I have supporting me, have given me a livable sliver of hope and optimisim in an otherwise overwhelming time. So when I started to fade under my own steam, I panicked.
Fortunately, somewhere off in the distance I knew there was a light burning for me. Even though I was felt like I was being buried alive I remembered one thing:
This is temporary.
My longest standing friend, Tricia (one hell of a warrior on her own, by the way) grounded me with that this past December when we met up over Christmas. It was one of those beautiful holiday nights and the snow fell in fat flakes as we ate dinner in a fancy restaurant that overlooked the water. We were dining and sharing about our lives and I cannot remember why it had even come up in conversation. She laid it out there in this common sense, completely flat, matter-of-fact way she has of redirecting all my prior ill-placed “truths” I have about life. “Everything is temporary.” She had said, confidently and coolly. I don’t think she knew that my world tilted on its axis when she said it.
I have a tendency to snowball things, or to get tunnel vision. It’s what propels me to prepare for and ovecome life’s obstacles. It’s also what sometimes makes me feel overwhelmed and a little spun out. But Tricia is one of those rock people. Those people among whom you moor yourself in a storm…in your mind…when you’re completely alone…as it turns out. And what I took away from her observation was that, nothing, not this wonderful thing or this terrible moment will live forever. It will all move along.
This too, shall pass.
Somehow, I was able to grasp on to that. It was a tiny tether but I used it to stay as calm as possible. I was alone in my house, not sure if I was dead, dying or alive, and I somehow managed to find a little vibration of calm. With that, I got into bed, closed my eyes, and fortunately (thank you GOD) fell asleep. I battled it out less alone later and throughout the night, but I made it through the worst of it solo.
I did not wake up feeling 100% better today, but the feeling wore off as the day went on. I’ve already started working with my oncologist to find a way to avoid that in the future. For now, I’m not taking anything more than I have to and it seems to be working. Not knowing what caused it, I have no assurances that it won’t happen again, and of course, that scares the daylights out of me. However, maybe now that I’ve survived it, the next time won’t be as bad?
I don’t know what the future of this treatment holds for me. I do know that I fought one hell of a battle and won. I’m still here. I got myself out of bed today, despite not feeling myself at all, and walked the dog around the neighborhood. I pushed myself and attended a conference with Tom, all the while fighting my inner demons that finally relented midday. All I know is, I kept going.
And I will contintue.
For this is temporary, and shall soon pass. Maybe I write some of this so that I, too can put it down and let it pass while I rest a moment with friends. So I can release the stress of this and let it go and move on to a new day tomorrow. Be well, friends and as always:
Give em’ hell.