Girl Interrupted

I had my first cancer treatment just over a year ago today. Now, I’m sitting in my bed in Bozeman having just recently completed radiation. Tom came out to get me from Seattle and we packed my things, gave hugs to the family that lovingly took care of me, and we drove East. Just like that, over the 10 hour car ride from West to East, a year long battle ended and another journey began.

I feel this enormous pressure to be “fine” or even more. To be giddy and exalted. I imagine dusting off my hands, clapping them together, dust rising into the air and sifting away. As though the weight of the last year should be like such fine dust itself and I should be able to put down the heavy work of fighting through it and move on with my life. 

I’m frustrated that it’s not actually that way. It would be so easy and so nice if life were that simple, if I could cut ties with all the emotional and cognitive pieces of me that stumble and crash when pushed too fast. Instead, I am coming to terms with the fact that while my body has defeated the disease, I still have a lot of healing to do. 

This is a very vulnerable space to be in. While I was being treated, I was surrounded by medical professionals who understood what I was going through. They walked alongside me every step of the way. Also, I could easily point out my physical (and logically related, emotional) suffering to outsiders and I was constantly met with the empathy and support that I needed. In the end though, this is much harder. There is nothing to point to. Even I expected this to be a lighter, happier time. How can I expect anyone else to understand the completely out-of-my-head, deeply depressed and numb feelings I’m struggling with? It surprises and confuses me even, which convinces me that very few will understand, and that in itself makes it feel even more isolating and frustrating. 

While I was fighting cancer, the obstacle was the disease. Something random and unexpected had happened and was causing me to have serious problems. 

Now, the disease is gone. The obstacle is me. 

I am now charged with finding the courage and energy to pick myself up and keep going. That is really hard when a year’s worth of heartache, pain and suffering are on my back, and I didn’t exactly drop delightfully into a world of sparkles and rainbows. Nope. I mostly crash landed into kind of a cold, harsh reality that demands things from me I’m not sure I have yet and that already feel overdue.

Inside, I want to hunker down under the covers and wait until the softness in me firms up a bit. I want to give myself the time and space to be gentle as I learn how to reengage in life again. That is diametrically opposed to reality. Reality for me is children, marriage, work- making sure we keep a roof over our heads (monumental task, actually) while trying to fill in some of the gaps and cracks my kids have suffered in my absence. I feel pieces of me being pulled in so many directions, and yet, I desperately yearn to pull them together and and fuse myself whole again.  

It may be that I require more love now than ever (something I am not thrilled to admit). I don’t want to be so frail, I don’t want this to be so hard. But I recognize that this is where I am. I also recognize that I’ve picked up a lot of tools this year that can help me recover. Of course, I also have some spectacular people in my life that have been there when the lights go dark. I’ve abashedly told Tom that I need him- probably in the most sensitive, assuring way I’ve ever needed him. That hardly seems fair, I know, considering what he’s been through and that he needs a break, too. But that is part of our commitment to each other, and we’ll work it out and someday I’ll have the good furtune of returning the favor,  I’m sure. 

This is life now. So begins a new chapter. One of healing. One of attempting balance. One of moving forward despite the balled up fear and anxiety and eggshell exterior. Choosing to try feels like the bravest thing I’ve had to do yet. But I am willing myself to across that finish line. This, like all other things, will be captured inch by inch, pushing and pulling and scrapping to survive. Deep down, even though I’m tired, and worn out, and the light is dull, I know there is a life worth fighting for. 

So I must. 

And I will.

Give ‘Em Hell

Photos by David Rojek

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ashley Whipple says:

    Hi Love. Please know that, at present, you seem to be the only individual who is expecting you to waft around on a cloud of unicorn farts wearing an inspirational T-shirt while slinging hand weights and speaking to your clients through your ear piece. I think fighting cancer for a year lands solidly in the category of ‘Things That Entitle One To Take a Break’. It’s not as if, as a survivor, you should expect to roll out of bed today and hit the ground running. Just hit the ground. Then reach out, grab someone’s shoulder (mine is particularly solid) and wobble forward into your beautiful, cancer-free future. Stop frequently to rest and have a glass of wine. Pause to kiss your girls and grab your husband’s butt. Sit down and laugh at least once a day with a friend. Cry as needed. You will pick up speed as you go. Love you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bernadette Rhodes says:

    In a very small but sincere way, I can relate to how you feel. After I was in the hospital for a week before Christmas, continuing to need time to recover was the hardest thing for me to process, because we as moms, wives, and workers want to just keep running, doing, and making up for lost time. I think there’s a very legitimate grieving process you’ll have to go through. For the things you missed out on this past year, for what could or should have been. Be patient with yourself. Thinking of you and sending hugs.


  3. Heike says:

    My sweet, sweet girl . . . No one has walked in your shoes. No one has exactly your moments, your people, your responsibiliies, or your tears, so none of us know exactly what to say, what to do, or how tightly to hug♡ I can promise you that we say what we pray will make you feel more whole, tears we shed are in joy for your well-being, and we hug you as tightly as we would hope to be hugged if our lives were exchanged. We are forever grateful that you fought through every heartbreaking moment to give cancer a roundhouse kick to oblivion . . . May it spend eternity far away from you and your family while you get back to the business of living, loving, and best of all, tiny snuggles with tiny people♡ . . . And your hubby, of course♡


  4. Louise Rowan says:

    I am thrilled that the last year of your life is over!!

    Be gentle to yourself. 💕


    Liked by 1 person

  5. PillowHell says:

    Just as you took the treatments step by step, now you can take the recovery of the other aspects of your life in the same manner. Think back to when you stood on stage at the R2P race last year, and the condition you were in. That race is in two weeks… you’ve gone through a full cycle of cancer and defeated in in just one year, and you’re already stronger than you were then. Just keep that going and soon you’ll be stronger than you were even before it hit your radar. Proud of you!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s