You may see me, but let me be honest: It doesn’t feel like the real me that you are with. I don’t know who the “real me” is anymore, quite frankly. It feels like I have broken off into different pieces, most of them scattered and broken and lost.
“Don’t isolate,” people tell me, but I have lost interest in most things. I know that a deep depression lies within me and that when I smile and laugh it feels real, but the next moment all I want to do is cry and pull the covers over my head.
My liver numbers are being monitored really closely because I guess they have been too high (I’m still trying to understand all of this medical jargon), and it is within the last few months that I have realized all of these great cancer treatments bring about such mean side-effects. I am so grateful for the treatments but I am also resentful of the residue that they leave behind… A half-eaten rotten apple with brown spots. I am rotten. (With brown spots).
The liver radiation that put me in bed and on the couch for months has worked, at least for the time being, so we try to live in that space of hope and gratitude. My liver looks stable in terms of the melanoma, but unfortunately the melanoma has also traveled to my stomach. Thank g-d it doesn’t seem to be life-threatening at this point. They tried to open up some of my bile ducts that had closed with the liver radiation, putting 3 stents inside of me, and they told me that I should take some Tylenol after the procedure and that I would be OK within a couple of days. But we all know how that goes; a week later I was still on pain meds. Tylenol? F you doc for suggesting that this isn’t a big deal! 3 stents put inside my poor, aching body. I went to the ER last week, feeling worse and worse, and they admitted me for 2 days, finding that I was probably having spasms in one of the pancreatic ducts, which was causing a lot of pain. (This after taking blood and doing a CT scan and hooking me up to all kinds of monitors and giving me antibiotics in case it was an infection). I’m so tired of hospitals. And colonoscopies. And endoscopies. And biopsies. And all things that end in “ies.”
I find out that I need to have another stent put in to replace the two small ones already there. A bigger one. I think about how my body feels right now; like a scarecrow in the middle of a field where ravens come by to pick at it. Little by little my body feels less like my own, and more like it belongs to cancer.
I don’t want this to become my reality. Or has it already?
I try to take care of myself. I get massages and rest/nap/sleep and I’d love to exercise but my body is so, so tired. The self-care, including meditation, keeps me just above the water. Sometimes I feel like I could drown, but somehow something always lifts me up again. Is it g-d? The universe? My family and friends? I am so grateful that you will not let me sink beneath the waters.
Then I get the news that I’ve been nominated by Conquer Magazine for the Hero of the Hope Award. The Cancer Hope Network and the Jimmy Fund nominated me, and I am one of four finalists. I even get to go to their conference in Orlando in November where they announce the winner, and better than that, the person gets $1,000 to go to any charity that they like! Voting is now open! I am blown away by this nomination and I am not saying this to be humble—I really, honestly, don’t understand how I’m a hero. Especially now, when I feel like all I do is complain about not feeling well. What kind of a hero is that?
I go to work—everybody says that’s good for me, gets my mind off of my health, I can help other people, socialize with my co-workers, etc. But there is major change going on at work with layoffs, people resigning and retiring, and integrating two EAP’s that my company just bought. We have a whole new system to learn with just a few days until we go live. I try so hard to concentrate; there are so many new things to learn. I get calls about people who feel suicidal or whose family members have just died from cancer or train conductors who couldn’t stop the train in time and somebody was killed on the tracks. Everybody is stressed and I’m not sure that I should really be there.
If I could, I would take some time off and not let anybody do anything to my body for months (unless it was life threatening). I would travel and visit friends and pretend like none of this is happening. I would go to farmers markets and museums and shop and enjoy nature and maybe go to the beach somewhere. I would get back into my book and write and sip awesome lattes because I am obsessed with coffee these days. I would eat ice cream sundaes and sleep and not set an alarm. I would forget about cancer and all of the cruel side-effects and I would pretend, just for a little bit, that I’m me. The real me. Not the broken version, but the put-together version who loves life and all it has to offer.
Since April: 4 part liver radiation. Kidney stones. Surgery. Blood taken. Colonoscopy. Endoscopy. Biopsy of liver tissue. 3 stents placed into my bile ducts. 5 hospitalizations. Restless leg syndrome. Melanoma now in my stomach. Liver stable. Lots of missed work. Tons of sleep. Guilt over not giving SHL a more normal life.
The sadness sweeps through me with a huge sigh and I do my best to tread water.
In between writing this post I go for a walk around my neighborhood. It is a gorgeous day here in New England; warm and sunny and there’s something so still about the air, like it’s praying.
I haven’t been able to walk in weeks, so this feels like a real feat. It takes me 30 minutes to walk what would usually take about 20, but that is OK, I tell myself. I still did it.
I long for Kris Carr’s savvy advice, menu plans, and soul inspiring blogs. Gabby Bernstein’s videos. Miracles. Talking to the universe. Moving my body. Finding joy in the things that I once did. But I don’t reach out to Kris or Gabby or anybody. Too many pieces floating. Too much wreckage. Not enough energy. The sorrow takes me and breaks me apart and though I promise myself it won’t always be like this, because hope lives inside of me and always will, I forget the real me for a while and wonder what kind of a hero would let herself get this far down the river without a life jacket.