Thank-you, Mark and Bea

The floor is vacuumed, washed.  The dishes are done.  The fridge is cleaned.  Washroom scrubbed and family room tidied.   It is the day after magnesium.   Still I am seemingly quite fragile, after all, it was quite a day yesterday.  The lesson I’ve learned is that I ought not to return to the scene of the crime.  At least, not to receive magnesium.  Honestly, I may as well have been sitting in that chair receiving chemo for all intents and purposes because all the emotional shit that hits a person receiving chemo hit again.  And I hadn’t expected it.

“I think I may as well take chemo at the hospital this time,” I explained to my oncologist Dr. Jessica Singh this past Friday.  “That way, I can get it done quickly in one fell swoop and not have to disturb as many people.”

And so, I had a phone call that same night from someone arranging my appointment to receive IV magnesium Monday morning.  8:15am.  Bright and early.  “Fantastic!” I responded to the call.  “This will be quick and easy.”

Sunday I didn’t feel well.  I wasn’t sure what it was.  My stomach was upset.  I had no energy.  “Hmm.  Must be low magnesium,” I thought.  As the day progressed I became less and less social.  “Hmmm.  Must be the busy week I had.”  By early evening, I  was weepy.  What?  Can’t be hormones.  I don’t think I have any of those anymore.  And then it dawned on me.  I was really not looking forward to going back to the chemo suite.  Not one bit. As the evening progressed, it became more and more clear that I was experiencing anxiety about my forth-coming adventure.

Have you ever had a time when you know you are being unreasonable, yet, no matter how much you try to talk some sense into yourself you just don’t believe you?  Phobia:  an irrational fear.  “What the hell are you afraid of, Stacey?” I kept thinking.  “If nothing else, you are going to be safer getting your treatment at the hospital.”  It wasn’t working.  The stress mounted.  I went to bed.  I retreated.  I turned down company.  I turned away food.  I withdrew from the world and hoped I would just be able to sleep it off.  HA!!!  Fat chance.  Irrational.  I should have guessed that sleep would elude me.  It was the ghost of the chemos past that came to haunt me.  They were relentless.  And I wasn’t even going for chemo.  I had just had a fantastic check-up.  My cancer indicator (CA-125) was remaining stable at 8.  I had hope.  Some women, the “super responders” on my drug, Lynparza, were now into their seventh year!  That was the first time I had heard such good news!  Yet – I managed to stuff the good news to focus on the impending visit back to the chemo suite.

By morning, I was focused.  I hardly remember getting up.  I know I showered.  I barely talked.  David was on his own to make breakfast and lunch.  I packed my bag – the one I had packed for chemo.  I packed a blanket – NOT my chemo blanket.  I packed snacks – thought about how much I’d like the cheese they may bring by.  I packed a tea bag – I remembered they don’t provide coffee or tea – and remembered that the hot liquid sometimes hurt my throat after chemo.  Chemo is hard on the throat and stomach – and intestines and heart — and — well, I digress.  I just kept moving.

I made it to the second floor by 8am.  I was early.  It was sometimes good to be early because then, I thought, my chart would be pulled early and I would get in right away.  I never really did learn that I was at the discretion of the nurse I had been assigned and when s/he was ready I would be called in.

“Stacey!  It’s so nice to see you!” exclaimed the receptionist.

“Oh, wow.  You remember me?”

“Of course I do.  You look great!”

“Well, I’m not sure you’ve seen me with hair – long enough to remember it!  And now I’m “styling” it.”  I replied.   “I’m just here for magnesium.”

“That’s great, Stacey!”  she responded.

Momentarily, I was waiting.  In the waiting room.  With others waiting there.  In the chemo waiting room.  To be called.

They came and they left.  And came and left.  I waited.  I watched the infomercials scroll on the television and remembered how I had once watched that same tv – Heather Hiscox was bringing me the CBC news.  It was some sort of controversial story I had commented on to another couple – then – who were waiting to receive treatment.  It was the beginning of a new adventure through chemo.  And it was that couple who talked me through it.  They calmed me down.  They helped me to believe that stage IV wasn’t the step just before death.  Marc and Bee.  They were to be the subject of my first post on this blog about cancer.

It was during my pondering which story had been running on the news when a man and his wife walked into reception.  I don’t remember what he looked like, but I do remember her.  Her hair was the first thing I noticed.  It was so thick, long, and tied back neatly in a braid which lay on the left of her shoulder.  She had a look of terror in her eyes.  I watched her for a while.  They must have been close to my age – but these days I think everyone I see whose hair is not as grey as mine – must be younger.  He sat.  She did not.  She paced.  Sort of.  Terror.  Her eyes flickered from place to place.  She was clearly on the verge of tears.  The nurse came to reassure her that she was going to be well looked after.  I knew her terror.  I had walked her walk.  I felt her fear.

“I know how scary it can be,” I offered to the woman.  “Honestly, you are in such good hands with such a loving group of nurses.  And chemo is not as bad as you think. The first one is the worst.  You don’t know what to expect.”

She was drinking in my words as though they were the only water she’d had in a week.  “I’m very nervous.” she replied.

“I was too.  It’s understandable.  Are you from Barrie?” I inquired, hoping to get her on a different line of thinking.

“Just north of here.”  she offered.

“Oh that’s good you didn’t have to travel far.”

“Yes.  It would be so much more difficult if we were further. You know, between doctor’s appointments, blood work, and now treatment.”

I knew all too well that there were many, many people who traveled from great distances to get to this treatment centre.  I thought once again of Marc and Bea. And remembered their comfort.

“Are you here for chemo?” she inquired.

“No.  But I have had 16 in total.”  I think that’s right.  I did the math.  Round one:  5.  Round 2:  6.  Round 3:  6.  I guess that made 17, but that wasn’t worth correcting.  16, 17, 18… whatever.  It was a lot.  “And now I’m on a designed drug that has kept me going now for a year and a half almost.  I’m very hopeful.”  I paused.  “You know, there wasn’t any treatment for me after my first bout of cancer – other than the typical chemo.”  I waited for a dramatic pause.  And then quietly offered, “But there are so many new drug being developed for cancer – so quickly – it is so hopeful.  All types of cancer drugs are being developed.”

She listened.  Her eyes pleaded me to continue.  She seemed to be struck by a thought and rushed into her purse to find a photo.  She brought it over to me.  It was a family photo.  “This is my family.”  She went on to explain their ages and which had children.  She was soon to be a grandmother – again.

“So – this new grandchild will keep me focused on something to hope for,” she said.

“It’s good to focus on that – what a wonderful family you have.  And so much to live for!”

And almost at that very moment, she was “called” for chemo.

“You will be fine.”  I stated trying to reassure her.  “You’ll see.  Chemo is do-able.” I said, quoting the words that were once offered as comfort to me from a woman who had placed years of distance between herself and cancer/chemo.

I’m not sure if that was the right thing to say – I just knew those words had helped me.  I was slightly satisfied with myself that I may have been the person she needed to meet at the time she needed to meet someone with those words of comfort.  Was I her Marc and Bea?  Had I done even a portion of what they had done for me?  Everything – bloody well everything is monumental in that waiting room of the chemo suite.

And she and her husband were off.

I was not.  I was to meet several more people before my name was called at 8:35 am.  These people – one couple in particular were going to re-enter my day hours later – to make an impact on me that I would never forget.

And the woman with the braid?  She had her chemo.  She noticed me sitting in “my chair” while I was hooked up to “my pump” and detoured her exit briefly to me.

“Thank you”, she said.  “It was fine.  You were right.  It was not as bad as I had expected.  I’m all finished for now.”

“That’s great.” I said to her.  We smiled.  I think she wanted to hug me in gratitude, but well, it’s a little awkward to get around all the pumps and cables and chairs and nurses physically.  And a little awkward to hug someone who you really only know from a waiting room.  But – I would have gladly accepted that hug.  And I think she knew it.  I think we communicated our emotional departure through our eyes.  When facing cancer, connections are made hard and fast.  You want to leave the people who have had a part in saving your life – but then again – you don’t.  It’s a weird debt of gratitude you offer to those who save you by poison.  Who save you by having walked the walk.  Who save you with a smile or a word of reassurance.

“Thank-you”, she said again as she hesitantly turned … and went on her way.

“Thank-you”, I whispered to myself.  “Thank-you, Mark and Bea.”

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Posted in Cancer Journey, health and wellness, Living with Cancer, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

Carpe Diam!

Run – don’t walk!
When the chance is there to play…

Gulp – don’t sip!
When life’s cup is full to drink…

Smile – don’t grin!
When joy fills your heart…

Live – don’t exist!
When memories are there for the making…

Seize life –
Hold on tight!!!
Don’t let go –
…and run with it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Christmas Minus One

The table is set – something’s missing.

The favorite meals are purchased – “something’s” missing.

The house is decorated – something’s missing.

The Christmas Eve games are planned – something’s missing.

The house is quiet – something’s missing.

The family is here – something’s missing.

Something – someone – someone who completes this family is missing.

Every “thing” is here.  Not every “one”.

It’s Christmas minus one this year.

I need one more person home – una persona mas – to make my Christ”mas” joyous.

I need my Katya home!

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

May the Road Rise to Meet You

One of my all-time favorite blessings turns out to be a traditional Gaelic blessing.  The images fill my heart and lift my spirits.  I’m not sure why I connect to it so much, but I guess some things speak to us more clearly than others.  And there are particular times, too, when it has its own sort of ebb and flow coming in and out of my perspective.

This morning, as I walked our dog Jazz along our usual path, the wind was most notable.  It was a cold Arctic wind that bit at my cheeks and nibbled at my knees.  Jazz, of course, didn’t mind that at all.  She was thrilled with the prospect of being let loose of the leash when we reached the wet-land, just around the corner.  This was not the gentle wind that I had wished was, as the Gaelic blessing conveyed, always at my back.  I converted my neck scarf into a head band to protect my ears.  I hadn’t really noticed, nor cared, that it projected my hair into a somewhat elongated “bun” which rose extensively in a backwards motion like a beehive style from the 1060’s.  It didn’t matter.  There were bigger fish to fry than the fashion flounder that morning.  I was thinking how I would say thank-you to Dr. Jessica Singh, my oncologist for the past three years.

She is a tiny little thing.  When I first met her I was under the impression that she couldn’t have been more than 16.  She was in the room when Dr. Dodge shared the news of my “extensive” cancer with me.  I remember her looking at the floor.  I wondered what was going through her head at the time.  It couldn’t have been good, I concluded.  And it wasn’t.  Stage 4 ovarian cancer.  This diagnosis was not the kind of news anyone would want to deliver.  I couldn’t have done it – without experiencing some collateral damage.  She, was the road that rose to meet me.  I was never to stumble alone on my journey again.

She may be tiny, but over the years, I have learned she is pretty damned mighty.  Bang on in her treatment.  She created the elixir that would successfully shrink my tumors to the degree whereby they could be operated on to be removed – then again a year later to render them “less hazardous” shall we say?  What’s more is that “she” introduced me to the miracle drug I am currently taking:  Lynparza.  This drug, although not without side-effects, has kept me alive.  It keeps my cancer in check.  For now.  That’s all any of us can hope for though, is the here and now.

It is “she” who gives me hope. It is “she” who has given me quality of life.  With hope and quality of life, I can LIVE my life.  Here I am, nearing the end of 2017, and looking forward to experiencing 2018.  I never imagined it possible.  I find myself, on occasion, making plans for the future.  I have to remember to slow down, on occasion, to live each moment and to not get ahead of myself.

I pace myself when I am tired.
I console myself – on the days when I get down.
I treat myself to something new when something needs to be celebrated.
I try to be kind to myself when I forget things I have known all my life – when my memory fails me.
I feel the sun warm upon my face.

Jessica is my optimist.  She is my rock.  She sees the miracle of life.  She holds the candle of hope on my normalized life.  She pushes me to get back to the land of living.  She encourages me to appreciate what I have – to be positive, but pragmatic at the same time.

It is a balancing act – this life between living with cancer and dying from cancer.  One must be confident of one’s footing to move forward along that tightrope.  One must know there is a net – in case of a fall.  One must know one’s limits:  to do but to not too much, to take risks but not too many, to find joy but not be able to let it go, to be afraid and act anyway.  There are some days I find more balance than others.  I sometimes feel blown off kilter.  I feel a pang here and there, I feel a bump here or there, I have a dull ache … All these symptoms remind me that I am diseased.  Even diseased, though, I can find that balance.  I don’t find it alone.  I need others to help me – my family, my friends, my medical team.

So – to all of you who walk my journey with me – I say thank-you.  I am grateful to you.  This is my wish for you:

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand

 

 

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Flat Upon my Back

It’s when she says, “walk in your hands”
That I begin to breathe,
I know that’s supposed to happen all along
…. it doesn’t come with ease

A downward dog, to me, you see
Is not my normal thing
To stick your butt so high above
Great pain to me does bring

I know the moves will someday come
I know I’ll gain in strength
To bow to greet my knees again
I haven’t got the length!

The plank, the warrior, tadasana pose
They challenge every thought
My head believes is right for me
I give them everything I’ve got!

As graceful as an elephant,
… As wistful as an ox…
I move from here – contort to there
I step outside my box

Shavasna, though, it seems to me
Should be simpler than the rest
To simply lay and breathe and flow
It’s what I do the best

Yet – to simply lay and breathe and flow
Is difficult to do
My mind does wander, my muscles twitch
Still – I can’t believe we’re through

It seems that time has flown so fast
I’ve focused, stretched, and groaned
I think I grew another inch!
And the craft – I’ve slightly honed

Next class is here before too long
Once more upon my matt
I stretch, I breathe, I reach new lengths
…..While flat upon my back!

 

 

Posted in fitness, Uncategorized | Tagged | 3 Comments

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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