The Hours in My Life

How would you respond to the question,  “how are you”, if you were still alive three years longer than anyone had expected?  Wouldn’t you be inclined to say, “great!”?  Don’t you have an obligation to be great?  After all, you are alive!

And I am great.  That’s how I respond when my doctor asks.  I am alive.  I stay alive by focusing on the positives.  I highlight my accomplishments and ignore my failures.  In the context of life or death – my life is friggin amazing!

If I weren’t living in this context, however, and someone really wanted to know how I was – I’d answer differently.  I’d have higher expectations for my life, my health, my emotional health.  For the sake of anyone reading this, who is struggling with cancer, I need to come clean.  The following is a “day in the life” of me living with cancer.  I would never confess this to anyone, but I have recently become aware that I am fooling people by making them think I am “normal” again.  I’m not.  I will not repeat this again because I choose to remain positive and think in the affirmative.   After this – I will only post in the context having survived three years longer than anyone thought I would – including my doctors.

I struggle to get up in the morning.  I am so tired.  The fatigue depresses me and so that adds to my struggle to get up.  I hear Kevin and David up and so they provide me with the motivation I need to put my feet on the floor. My first few steps hurt – the pain from chemo (neuropathy) or the pain from the antibiotic that damaged my tendons have never left me.  I try to re-direct my mood as I walk down the stairs so that no one has to leave for the day thinking of my gloomy face.  I am happy I can walk.

Kevin greets me with a coffee and a kiss.  This helps me to smile.  I sit on the couch, turn on the weather to see what kind of a day it will be.  The first few sips of coffee don’t go down well – my taste buds have changed and coffee doesn’t taste as good as it used to – no biggie, but now the acid hurts my stomach.  I drink water to ease the pain.  Kevin and David scurry about getting ready for their days – rarely do I have the energy to help David with his breakfast or his lunch.  I am grateful he likes left-overs from my home-cooked meals – I feel I am at least doing something to help him.

They leave.  The dog greets me – hoping I’ll take her for a walk.  I know I have to eat first so that I can take my six over-sized pills an hour later.  Do I have chocolate milk?  That is the only thing that helps me swallow those suckers without gagging.  I prepare breakfast slowly – watch a cooking show or two.  I wait for my energy.  On good days, I get up, get dressed, and walk the dog.  It is on those days, I can create my agenda of things to do.  I am good for another couple chores.  Nothing past 5pm.  I just don’t have the stamina.  I am so grateful that there are no expectations for me to work past 5 pm.  I am so grateful on the evenings when I can stay up past 10!

Once I’m home, I feel better.  I’ve at least had some exercise.  That is a feat for me!  I shower, then do dishes, tidy the house, do laundry.. something – but not everything.  That’ll take me all day.  I chose my chores wisely so that I am not too tired.  I see what needs to be done and recognize that three years ago – I’d have everything finished in an hour.  If my back is sore, or my side is sore, or if I feel my scars stinging, I put the heating pad on – and rest.  Good time to do so when I’m taking my pills – upstairs with my warmed up chocolate milk.  Playing Candy Crush or writing a blog post helps distract me while I take my pills – I am NOT a pill taker and I have six in the morning and seven at night.  I never forget to take them.  They are saving my life.  It takes me between 10 and 15 minutes ‘ish’ to finish the pills – which fill my stomach to give me an “I’ve over-eaten” feeling.  Half hour later, they give me intense heart-burn which I can eventually relieve with water and by standing up.  I am so grateful that I can still eat, breath, walk, and talk. I can even sometimes ride my bike, climb a hill, do a step-class, or kayak.  Sometimes. That’s all I need.

What to do next?  I’ve not made any commitments because I’m not sure if I’ll have the energy to keep them.  Some days, I’m simply emotionally drained.  It is difficult to put on a face for the public – don’t want to drag anyone down.  I suffer from social anxiety.  Crowds drain me. Some days, I’m good.  Most days I remember to count my blessings.  That helps.  If I go back to bed in the morning, I usually stay there.  I’m not sure if it depression or actual physical pain from my cancer, my meds… whatever it is – it makes me want to just get the day over and wait to try again the next morning.  I am so grateful I don’t have to work.  I miss teaching and contributing to society terribly.  I don’t know how I would be able to function in a job right now, though.  I wouldn’t be able to be in a crowd, to multi-task, to get up, to meet the general demands of a job.  How lucky I am supported by a disability plan which affords me the peace of mind I need – when cancer has already placed an enormous burden on my family and I.  I am so fortunate I have the desire to give back when I can – to help others when I can – to have another day to recover.

This sounds so depressing – when I am being honest.  I don’t like writing this out because I don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.  I like to forget the pain, the sadness, the fear, the anxiety.  So – I focus on the good.  I am alive.  I open my eyes when I walk – I really open them to try to enjoy the beauty of nature.  I do.  I purposefully breathe.  I am so grateful that I can live in the positive, and shut out the negative.  I can stuff the bad things and focus on the good.

I have my inspirational days – I am working on a project to honour a dear friend’s memory.  I have a tough time committing my energy because I’m not sure when it will come and I want to have that energy to cook dinner for my family.  It is actually a choice. Cooking a good meal is my way of telling my family I love and appreciate them.  It is not as easy to do as it once was.  I have to begin cooking by 230 or 3 – or else I become too anxious and I become paralyzed.  That’s when we go out for dinner.  I am so glad my family and friends are flexible – they understand my limitations and know I’m trying my best.

I fight with myself to “do”.  And I mostly win – I “do” things.  I sometimes go for lunch with friends – as long as I don’t have anything else on the agenda for that day.  Again, two or three things a day is all I can handle.  I am thankful that people have not forgotten me.

I hosted a couple retirement parties for friends – that was important to me.  I organized the meals for weeks in advance – down to the timing of the cooking.  I socialized, I laughed, I enjoyed myself.  Then – I was in bed for a week afterwards.  There was a price to pay at the end of the day – but it was worth every penny!  I am thankful for wonderful friends and colleagues.

I shut down, typically, after dinner.  I watch television.  I am sometimes in bed by 7.  I can’t sleep until I’ve had my pills.  I’m too tired to read, so I play Candy Crush or I push myself to watch the news.  I used to follow the news religiously.  I push myself to be normal should we have guests for dinner.  But, we really don’t entertain as much as we used to.  I don’t have the ability to do so.  I am so very thankful to have those pills – even though they scare the crap out of me.  I wonder when they will impact my digestive system, kidneys, liver, or lungs to create new issues?  But – I thank God these pills exist.  Or I wouldn’t be alive.

Generally, my memory sucks.  I have to write everything down.  Age-related?  Chemo-related?  I don’t know.  I am grateful to have the paper and pen.

I cannot multi-task.  Not at all.   My kitchen preparation is slow and steady.  It takes me three times as long as it used to.  More than three people in a room terrifies me.  I shut down and become a listener.  I placate myself to believe listening is the best thing I can do.  I am grateful to have people who are patient with me and don’t expect me to be the life of the party.  They know I will do as much as I can and leave when I need to leave for a quiet place.  Thank-you for that.

My good-byes are that.  I live with stage 4 cancer.  I fear that I may never see people again – once they’ve left.  That is a reality.  I watched cancer ravish a friend’s body in two months.  It’s hard to not think of that.  I am thankful that my cancer is slower – I think I am thankful for that.  Being BRCA 2 positive means that I will always have cancer.  Remission isn’t really a remission – it is an “on hold” kind of situation.  If I stop taking my Lynparza,  the cancer springs to life.  I focus on living.  I must.  I do not like the alternative.

If I have an hour of exercise per day – I remember that.

If I have an hour of happiness per day – I focus on that.

If I have no pain for an hour a day – I focus on that.

If I make dinner – but do nothing else all day – I rejoice in my efforts.

I live for my hours – I focus on my hours – I remember my hours.  In the context of living three years longer than anyone expected… those hours are the ones that count.  Those hours are the ones worth talking about.  They are the ones that are my “life”.

And those hours are the ones I will speak of to my doctors, my disability coordinators, to my readers, my friends, and most of all, to my family.

Am I telling the truth when I say I am fantastic?  It is all about interpretation.  It is all about context.

I choose to tell my story in “hours”.

 

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It Takes Courage To Cry

Oh, how I hate good-byes!

The older I get, the worse they are.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered a secret; If you ignore the event, it doesn’t hurt.  Yup.  You can just simply turn your back on it and pretend it is not happening.  I’m not sure why it took my 54 years to discover this little secret, but I have.  And I’m not proud of it.

It’s too easy to ignore the pain of a loss.  It is too easy to just walk away.  I mean, waaay too easy.  Nothing gets processed.  Nothing gets resolved.  Honest.  The pain is still there – but it gets stuffed.

I’ve taught about the perils of stuffing one’s emotions for YEARS.  Literally, years.  I know it is bad.  I know the studies – the ones that talk about the correlation between declining emotional and mental health ( which in themselves are totally in synchronicity with one another) and emotional stuffing.  I never understood how people could actually do that – stuff emotions that is.  I just festered and boiled over.  I cried all over people.  I just couldn’t help myself.  And when I knew I needed to cry but couldn’t, I went into the shower and let the falling water inspire my tears.  It worked like a charm.  So – I never could stuff.

Until my daughter left for Abu Dhabi last week – for one year.

I avoided thinking about her departure.  I looked only to the adventure she would have.

I ignored how much my heart ached for “me” in her absence.  I thought about how many new friends she would make.

I turned my eyes to her – instead of acknowledging the pain that was spreading through my body.  Funny, that pain.  Hard to tell the difference between the pangs of cancer and the pangs of longing and loss.  I still confuse myself.

We hosted, my husband and I, a wonderful farewell party for Katya. Oh, it was grand to meet her friends, to see Katya through their eyes.  It was pretty clear to me that she had made a very nice circle of friends who cared for her deeply.  They cried, they hugged.  Not me.  Not Stoic Stacey.  Nope. I was NOT going to cry – Katya wasn’t leaving, afterall, for another few days and we had to enjoy that moment.

I heard my late friend’s words, Thelma, ringing in my ears.  “It takes courage, Stacey, to cry.  Why do you think crying is a sign of weakness?”

I never, never, never really understood what that meant until just recently.  She was so right!  It is easier to ignore pain than it is to acknowledge it.  It is easier to be the one who walks away than to be the one who is left behind.  It is easier to pretend what you’d like a circumstance to be rather than see it for what it is.  It is HARD WORK to process emotions – to cry.  It is hard to let people see a softer side.  I didn’t want my daughter to think I was hurting by crying in front of her.  She felt the same way about me.  It became almost a “thing” with Katya and I; We did not cry.  We pretended nothing was happening and we carried on.

Well, let me tell you something.  The pain is still there.  My body aches.  I am happy today is gloomy because I can relate!  Mother Nature is my best empathizer today.  Should have cried.  Should cry!  Will cry.  Need to cry.  Need to cry out to the world, “Cry!”.

When we show emotions, we make ourselves vulnerable.  We admit we are vulnerable.  That’s a frightening proposition for some.  It’s not that I’m recommending a good cry in the middle of a foreign crowd – the term, “unstable” may be applied in these conditions.  To have a good cry, however, with a good friend not only brings relief, it brings closeness, intimacy to the moment.  The correct response to tears, by the way, is a giant hug!

So – I SHOULD have cried with Katya.  I SHOULD have shown her my vulnerability.  I SHOULD have allowed her into my heart.  I SHOULD have been stronger, had more courage to cry in front of her.  Lesson learned.  It was simply easier to not cry and to deny.

As a result, I ache.  My body aches.  My mind aches.

I’m trying to use words through this post instead of tears.  The words seem to help – hence the reason I’ve kept this blog for three years now. Words help me to process my emotions and make sense of my life.

I am an emotional person.  That’s who I am.  I cry when I’m hurt.  I am strong.  I have courage.  Just because I cry doesn’t mean I’m weak.  Thelma, I get it now.

It takes courage to cry, to show vulnerability.   It takes courage to love and to be loved.  I choose to be courageous.

“I am the master of my fate.”

 

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Change

My father used to say, “the only thing you can count on to not change is change itself”.

Of course I had no idea, as a young person, what that meant.  Youth is full of change.  Of course things change.  And what’s more is that life is dull, when one is young, if there is no change.  Routine sucks…. when you are young.

I get it now.  Change rattles my bones.  It disrupts my world.  I am so spoiled by the things that are constant that I begrudge things that aren’t.  Oh – how I long for stability, calm, and steady.  My pace is slow.  I move when I am calm and pace myself to be calm.  Last minute throws me into a tizzy.  Even home renovations happen at a slow pace now.  And that’s saying something for a woman who used to change things up every week – cuz it was good to change things up.

Change.

Ben, my eldest, moves back to university.  Katya, my middle, leaves for Abu Dhabi.  David, my youngest, moves into grade nine.

I am in a holding pattern.  Thank God.  My CA (cancer marker) sits calmly at 9.  To be precise it vacillates between 8, 9, and 10.  No pain, other than the few (or multiple) scar tissues that plague my body every once in a while – that I think must be cancer returning – but they aren’t – so far. You know what I mean?  I am not working.  I watch cooking shows.  I cook.  I clean.  I do the regular things around the house.  I lunch out with friends sometimes.  I go to fitness.  This is my holding pattern.  Again, I thank God for that.  The world seems to swirl around me like a frenzied whirling dervish:  North Korea’s nuclear threats, Trump’s provocative and reactionary threats, hurricanes, earthquakes, famines, droughts… change, change, change.

I pause.  Sometimes.  When I pause I realize I have not slowed down from my pace to reflect.  I have been swept up in the change of other events and have, consequently, changed.  Nothing is the same.  No one is the same.  Nothing is “on hold”, in real time.  Living in the moment is the only way I can find stability.  There here and now is stable.  No change.  I pause.  I breathe.  I reflect.  I write.  By writing, I find stability.  It grounds me.  I can focus.  I can organize and categorize.  I create a memory that will not change.  I cannot romanticize it, I cannot dramatatize it, I cannot let it fade.  Writing freezes time.

Today, in this heat, I stay inside.  It is too hot for me out there – I can’t breathe.  Likely, this is a side-effect of my condition.  That’s okay – because thank goodness I know I can turn on the air conditioner and be cool.  No change there.  I can drink plenty of water – cold -when I choose.  No change there.  I can count on my husband and my children to get the care, education, opportunities they need to thrive.  No change.  At least, for now.  In this moment.  And for that stability of things I am so very grateful.

So, my day moves forward, helping David with his homework, celebrating Katya’s new opportunity with a dinner, and touching base with Ben to hear his voice which reassures me he is happy.  Together, Kevin and I hold down our wee fort called home.  I stay in this moment until I am forced with the change that will inevitably come.  “Don’t lose yourself in the future, Stacey”, I say to myself.  “There is no point.  You can’t count on things you cannot predict.”

And then I reflect on my father’s words of wisdom once again, and remember I can always count on change.

That’s for sure.

 

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More – Revisited

A memory from facebook popped up on my feed this morning.  It was a post I had written one year ago today and was entitled, “More“.  I read it.  I remembered how full of hope I was at the time, my last cycle of depression through my final chemo of that series.  Funny how one can feel such hope … when suffering a chemically induced depression.

One year later – did I fulfill all those dreams?

I sit here this morning and feel the cool summer morning air across my arms.  I hear the birds singing outside my window.  I smell the aromatic flavors of the basil plants we brought in from outside last night (for fear of frost).  I am alive.  I am alive.  I am alive.

It’s hard not to take stock of where one is at  – this time of year – the beginning of the quiet season, the reflective seasons.  Like the ant in the story of the Grasshopper and the Ants  I must consider which I’ve been more like throughout the summer.  If I had been the grasshopper, I would have played – been merry – lived and had fun.  If I had been the ant, I would have worked hard to prepare for the winter.  I would have cultivated my crops, fortified my estate, and taken inventory of what I would need to care for my community when times got tough through the miserly winter season.

I consider whether it would have been better to be one or the other?  My conclusion:  a happy median.  I enjoyed myself at play, at enjoyed myself at work.  I am happy that I take great memories away from this summer and in particular, spending time with my family.  We may not have been all together all at once, but I sowed the seeds and reaped the rewards of family time one load at a time.  I also worked hard to maintain our family home through renovations and upgrades.  We will enjoy our new kitchen this winter.

A year ago – I wanted more.  I wanted more energy, more health, more optimism, and more time.  I got it.

I have more energy.  I’m still not at full steam, but I have more.

I have my health.  If I weren’t diseased, I’d be in fantastic shape!

I am more optimistic.  I make future plans now – still, rather tentatively, but I make plans.

I am more able to be in public.  I suffer from time to time with social anxieties, but I can get out. I can even be in a crowd – for a while.

I have my family and friends.  I may not see them as much as I like, but thanks to social media and the phone, I can connect when I like.

I have more. I am blessed.

What “more” could I want?

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In Limbo

This time of year seems to bring on a lot of “hurry up and wait” feelings in me.  I am in limbo.

Ben leaves for school Sunday.  I dread that day.  I am happy for him.  I will be fine.  Everything is ready for his journey, yet, I wait.

David starts grade 9 this coming Tuesday.  I’ll miss his company.  I am happy for him.  I will be fine.  Everything is ready for his first day back, yet, I wait.

Katya leaves for Abu Dhabi at the end of September.  She will be so, so, so far away.  This will be such a fantastic experience for her.  She will be fine.  I will be fine.  Everything will be ready, yet, I wait.

I saw the first hint of colour in the leaves of the maples this week.  I’m ready for fall.  I love the cool air.  Yet – summer hangs on and … I wait.

I am on the plateau of life’s storyline – the time when one season ends and another begins.  Transitions.  Changes.  Moving on.  One routine will replace another and life will carry on.

Yet.

I wait.

In limbo.

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I Sure Did Learn My Lesson!

I had a dream this morning from which I begrudgingly awoke.  In fact, I’m not sure I woke up from it at all – it was one of those dreams that stay with you for a long time and actually changes you.  It was one of those dreams that you hope to have again very soon to see if new events unfold – like a drama on television that you just can’t seem to get enough of. Only, this dream was “mine”.  It was about me.  It revealed things in me that I had buried.  It piqued my curiousity and disrupted my thinking.

I was teaching again.

I was back in the classroom.

With “badass” kids whose lives were set on a self-indulgent, anti-societal path at a young age.  So, in fact, they were only “badass” to society – not to me.  To me, they were wonderful.  They were inspiring.  They were in dire need of a mother or a father or a cheer-leader.  And that – in my dream – was me.

I can remember each student that was in my dream.  I forget the order in which they appeared to me, but I do remember each one of them.  It was my first day of school when I encountered the space in which I was asked to teach French:  a hallway.  It was a shared hallway with the Spanish class.  Not one of my students seemed to be gathered together to form the “French community”.  They were scattered and so I requested they come closer as I couldn’t raise my voice.  They did.  I knew I had already scored a point with them – at least they were curious enough to comply with my request.  The class didn’t last long as I tracked each one of them out of the class and into their issue(s).  Afterall, remember it was a dream.

One young woman, a beautiful young girl, explained to me that she wasn’t smart enough to learn French.  For some reason I knew she played hardball with others.  I explained to her that I knew she was smart enough.  “Why, miss?  How do you know?”

“Because you are badass.  And you have to be smart to be good at being a badass.”  I had disrupted her thinking.  I may not have prepped her for French as much as I had prepped her for life.

“Do you know what it’s like to have nothing, miss?”  asked another student I had chased out of the class, down the hall and into a back closet where, by the way, I found him wrapping gifts he had stolen from others to give to his family.  This young lad was one of “eleven”.  And those of you who know me, know how much that number makes me giggle – that Youtube clip always comes to mind where the two young Scottish lads are trying to operate a voice activated elevator.  Back to the boy.  I explained to him that I had taught so many students who had “nothing” growing up and how they had overcome such great obstacles to make their lives significant.  I named a few:  Adam, Stephanie, Carlie, Megan, Chris… of sooooo very many students I had come to know and respect.  After I had spoken, this young fellow looked at me with a look that told me I had disrupted his thinking.  I hadn’t taught him French, but I had already begun to help him change his life.

The one student that really stuck out for me was a very good looking young man who had used sex as his tool to avoid school and learning.  When he tried to accost me, I explained to him that he couldn’t.  “I have stage 4 ovarian cancer and have had so much of me already removed, he couldn’t take anything else from me.”  I remember the look as he left me alone to go to a quiet place and think.  He looked at me and smiled.  I knew I had disrupted his thinking. I knew he would learn from me and the lesson would change his life.

Another young woman had been nearly suffocated by her friends when a marquee tent had fallen on her (by accident?) and she was left to fend for herself.  I understood her anxieties and fears.  I talked about my own.  And how fears are not meant to control you, but to disrupt the way you think and set you on a different course.  She looked at me.

A young man had been trapped in a cage in the flat-bed of a truck – by his friends.  I called out his friends on him when I found them in the school.  I was not afraid of them.  I had nothing to lose by teaching them about life and the difference between right and wrong.  They were not happy with me – but they stopped chirping at me.

I encountered a teacher whose tactics were those of a dictator.  He made the Hile Hitler gesture to his students and they responded back. I called the teacher out on his gesture.  He was furious with me as were his students.  I explained to him how wrong he was to conduct himself in such a nature – I took it to the Human Rights representative of the school who smiled at me.  I didn’t know what that look meant, until the teacher came to try to intimidate me, fool me into thinking he was naive and didn’t know how “bad” his behaviour was.  I called him out on his nonsense.  I was not afraid.

And it carried on – that dream.  In no circumstance was I afraid.  I knew I was disturbing the bee’s nest of which was the school, but I knew that in this school – with all these students – there was honey.  They were good.  They just needed to know it.  I knew that was my job.

As I left the school that night, I looked up into a place that must have been the central meeting area – it seemed like a residential school.  Students were gathered there – I could see through the window.  I heard my name.  I knew they were talking about me.  I knew I had disrupted them.  Some were angry, some were confused, some were defending me, questioning me.

I was not afraid, rather, excited to get back to the school the next day and to finish what I had started.  I wanted to help them to believe in themselves and to believe the world could be a better place with them in it.  They were capable of doing great things – good things – beautiful things.

I wanted to teach.

I want to teach.

I am not a French teacher.  I am not an English teacher.  I never did teach geography, math, or history.  I taught about life.  I taught about self-worth.  I taught my students to be positive and to be great.  I taught them to believe in themselves.  At least – that was my goal – cloaked in curriculum so they thought they were learning about academics.

I know I disrupted their lives.  I hope it was in a good way.  I hope I made a difference.

I hope, one day, to be able to teach in the classroom again.  I miss it.  I miss my students.  For as much as I taught, I learned.  As arrogant as I was, I was humbled.  As confident as I thought I had been, they shook my foundations.  I am a better person for having taught. For having taught, I learned it is better to live with some disruption than to be sedated by routine.  The best lessons are learned when they are not expected.

This lesson, the one buried in my dream, caught me by surprise!

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Days like these…

Days like these feel like someone put up a brick wall between my brain and my eyes.  I see the day.  I feel the wind.  I smell the fresh air.  I can walk outside and feel the sand on the newly laid unistone – and I can taste my eggs.  All senses are working – but nothing is getting though.

Why are there days like these?  How long will they last?  How do I get the world through that wall to make my brain come alive?

Days like these, I just want to sleep and imagine that I’ll wake up without walls.

Days like these, I just want a do-over.  I would wake up, find my emotional chisel and start chipping away.

I guess, though, that days like these make me appreciation the other days – the days when the birds sing and my heart leaps, when the rain falls and awakens my skin, when the wind blows and the air takes my breath away by the sanctity of its freshness.  The other days are days when I am alive – I am living.  Most of my days are like that.  Maybe I’ve had too many of the other days that “these days” need to be my wake up call.

I’d rather the other days – to these days.

Cuz these days just seem to drag… they are sleepy… they are melancholy… they are lost moments that can never be found.  Those moments on the other days are what dreams are made of…

These and those … Of the two I’d pick those days anytime.

But to get to those – I guess I need these.

So – these days, I guess, can’t be all that bad?

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Safe Again

I like being home.

I know it.   I am comfortable.

To not be home – to not be in routine – is frightening.

I’ve navigated the dangerous waters.  I’ve leaped the leap of faith.  I’ve climbed mountains.

I don’t need to do it again.

I love my home.  I love my family.  I love my friends.

That’s all I need.

I don’t need to go out.  I don’t need to buy things.  I don’t need to travel.

I’m content.

I’m not running away from grief.  I’m not trying to stay ahead of it. I’ve faced it square in the eye and said, “good-night”.

I’m not burying my head in the sand.  I’ve got nothing to avoid.  I stare my life square in the eye and take it as it comes.

Yet.  I am a new person.  I don’t know what I can or cannot do.  At least, in terms of stamina.  Don’t ask me to commit to something I don’t know I can’t handle. Don’t ask me to shoot straight from the hip.  Don’t ask me if I’ll be okay.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what I can handle – physically.

Prepare me.

Give me warning.

Give me advance notice and let me think about things.

I’m better that way.

I’m not the person I used to be — before cancer.  I’ve fought hard and long to be where I am.  I will continue to fight.  But, at the end of the day, there is a price.  And that price is energy.  I don’t know how much I have.  I am no longer in control of it.  I cannot commit.  At least to something that takes energy.  I can commit to emotions.  I can commit to prayer.  I can commit to thought.  But – count my body out.  I just don’t know.

I like who I am – who I have become.  I am older.  I am wiser.  I am more me than I ever thought I could be.  I still want to please, to accommodate, to assist.  But the bank is limited.  And I don’t know how many funds I have in reserve.  I have some – I think.  I must spend them wisely.  And knowing what is wise is the key.

The more I live, the more I learn.  If I take time to think.  I cannot busy myself with physical lest I have no time or energy for the mental.  It is one or the other.  Balance is my key.  I cannot run from grief.  I cannot run from life.  I don’t want to.  I am good right now to live my life.  I am not bitter.  I am not resentful.  I count my blessings.  I am okay with here.  I am good with home.  I like being home.

I am alive because I know my limits and I know I have limits.

I am not the same person I was.  I will never be the same.  I embrace the change.

But change disrupts.  Learning to live with this disruption is a challenge.

I like being home.

I am comfortable here.  And I am safe.  Again.

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54

In one week from today, I’ll be 54.  I used to think that was ancient.  I used to think that was so far away.  More than a half century of living – how have I changed?

I have more wrinkles, that’s for sure. I’m slower – that’s for sure true.  I have more time, more patience, and it would seem – more to do.  I’m sure I don’t.  I have less to do but it seems I have less time.  Time flies.  That’s what changed too.  Technically, time hasn’t changed – I have.

How else have I changed?  I have been forced to grow up.  With both parents having passed away, I am no longer able to count on my Mom and Dad for support.  Don’t get me wrong – I still feel like they are there, in spirit, for council.  I just don’t get the physical presence, the hugs, the kind and supportive words.  So – I have turned more reflective.  I have to think for myself.

Growing up is about seeing choices one has and making the best of the choice one makes. That’s called being responsible.  I think.  There are no second-takes in life.  At least, not in this one.  I’m okay with that – more than okay with that.  Moving on is not difficult to do for me.  I live, I learn, I try to adjust my sails to catch a better wind the next time.

Growing up is about knowing happiness is a choice.  No one can make a person happy – being grateful is the key.  I’ve counted my blessings though my days.  When I don’t, I can become negative.  Remembering to count blessings isn’t always easy until it becomes a habit.  And then happiness follows.

Growing up is realizing that being bored is a matter of personal choice too.  It is an attitude.  When life offers such rich opportunities, how is it possible to be bored, unless one chooses to not see the bounties in front of one’s own eyes?

Growing up is about realizing the joy of giving back.  The greatest rewards in my life have been the times when I’ve done things for others.  I’ve stuck by my family and friends through poor health and through death.  I’ve put myself in others’ shoes to offer my empathy and support.  I’ve put my money where my mouth is to support others who were in need – so they would have a chance to realize their own dreams.  I’ve worked hard so that others would find rest.  I’ve taught – and I’ve learned.

Finally, growing up is about finding hope and keeping faith.  It’s about never giving up and knowing the sun will rise the day after it has set.  The rain nourishes the soul; The snow soothes the temper.  Having hope – when life seems so bleak is the only way to live.  What’s the point of giving up?  Believing in a reason, believing there is a purpose, and believing in a future (no matter how long) is not easy to do – but the alternative is too sloppy and ugly.

I will be 54.  That’s three more years than I thought I’d have after my cancer diagnosis.  Since then, my life has changed dramatically.  My family’s lives have changed.  My friends’ lives have changed.  I have found life.  I am beginning to understand myself.  I have a lot more to understand but, in time, I believe I will grow and learn.

More than a half century of learning.  If I could put my life lessons in a bottle – to cork them up and pass them along – what would my elixir taste like?  I would hope it would be sweet. I would hope it would be intoxicating.  I would hope someone would appreciate them and find joy in the lessons.

Cheers to life!  Cheers to birthdays!  Cheers to living!

Posted in acceptance, aging, Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Ah, La Pluie!

The sudden purge of angry skies
The sodden path of muck
The sonorous beat upon the roof
And I become unstuck

A burst of lighting in the air
An angry crack of words
A turbulent ride of feelings fly
The flock of startled birds

The storm does rage upon the land
Confusion marks the way
Like daggers shot from fists clenched tight
The nerves of steel do fray

Take cover from the storm anon
Take solace in the flight
For after the rain, the pause takes place
And day does turn to night

Slowly chaos finds its groove
And fury finds its peace
The gentle rain begins to fall
From Heavens full of Grace

To quench anew the desperate thirst
To replenish and replace
My bucket fills, so once again
My challenges I do face

I pause, I think, I find my path
My purpose to reveal
This storm that once raged deep within
Has now a new appeal

Without the rain, there is no life
Without dark, there is no light
I see the other side of things
Without wrong there is no right

I step outside to feel the drops
As they tumble upon my soul
And cleanse away my mortal wounds
Yes – life has had its toll

The joy of rain still sings to me
Until the time does come
When I no longer fill my cup
When I know my life is done

So – vive la pluie, long live the rain
Let us savour every drip
Let us invite the storms, the rain, the calm
… And then let’s find our grip!

Posted in cancer, Cancer Journey, celebration, challenges, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments