A New Story

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I deserve a new story.  We all do.

Today, I will break up with my story.  Will you break up with yours?

I will say to my story, “Thank you story.  Thank you for making me who I am now, in this present moment.  I now release you out into the universe as I ask for a different, healthier path to follow.”

OK Universe, I get it.  Clearly you’re trying to tell me something.

I’m listening.

I recently wrote about my story as a cancer patient and revealed just how alone I feel.  Wrapped up, unraveling, little bits of hope and pain and fear all trying to crowd the same space.  But then I heard this quote by the wise Maya Angelou, and it goes like this: “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Invite one to stay.”

G-d?  Is that you?

I wrote that last piece for the blog quickly, the words just gushing out of me like a river that was afraid it was be swallowed whole by the ocean if it didn’t move briskly  enough.

Then that night I remembered that my free 21-day Deepak Chopra meditation started.  I logged on.  The topic?  Hope in Uncertain Times.  Touche Deepak, touché.

I click on my spirit junkie app.  That day’s affirmation?  “I will step back and let the Universe lead me today.”

I log onto my email.  A video from Gabby Bernstein.  The message?  “You deserve a new story.”

I sit back on the couch with my legs curled underneath me, resting my head on the pillows and pulling a blanket over me even though the room isn’t cold.  I want to feel secure, wrapped up in something other than deep and incessant fear.  I close my eyes and think.

This is what I have been putting out into the universe:

Sadness.  Fear.  Anger.  Jealousy.  Bitterness.  Lethargy.

Pain.

The universe responded in kind, and this is what I heard:

Stop telling yourself the same story over and over again.  You’re not just a cancer patient.  You’re not a victim.  You’re not powerless or hopeless or helpless.  It’s OK to feel that way sometimes, but remember:  Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it true.

Re-write a new story with the help of the universe.

I create one in my mind.  It goes something like this:

Dear Universe:

I’m ready to let this go.  Thank you for giving me a wake-up call 3+ years ago that I can’t hit the snooze button on life anymore.  I know I was a walking zombie there for a while.  There has always been potential inside of me to love a bit deeper, help a bit more, find greater fun and meaning and authenticity in the every day, but it slept still as the night, only awakened by the C word.  The D word.  The oh-fuck-I-better-live-my-life-like-I-mean-it-word.

I’m ready for my new story, and I hope it goes something like this:

New Cancer Protocol.  Life.  Family.  Friends.  Prayers. Fun.  Work.  Passion.  Advocacy.  Healing. More fun.  Glitter.  Unicorns.  Sunshine.  Feathers. Bravery. Iced coffee.  High vibes. Long walks. Magic.  The beach. Self-compassion (I’m talking about loving myself as much as I love all of you).  Bagels. Massages.  Puppy.  Miracles. Opportunities.  Gratitude confetti.  Travel.  Stillness.  Peace.  Love. Meditation.  Repeat.

Thank you Universe.

“I will step back and let the universe lead me today.”

And the living with hope in uncertain times?  I am reminded– I hear you g-d, loud and clear–of a blog piece that I wrote years and years ago, that I now know, as certain as anything, will be my very first chapter.

Remember how I wrote Chapter 2 which started to outline my story?  The one with the infertility and eye cancer and miscarriage and shoulder surgery and cancer again?  I knew that I wanted Chapter 1 to be about hope.

The piece that I had already written?  It was called With Hope Comes Life.

The phone rings.  My best friend A is coming to visit from Austin at the end of the month.

I hear you g-d, I hear you universe, and I thank you.

Feathers

 

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Captured

5

Nyquil brings me strange dreams.

I’m in the middle of a mall, which was a few seconds ago supposed to be an airport.  I’m late for my flight.  I was staying at a friends house and overslept; I jumped out of bed only to see the car I had hired to take me to the airport drive off into the early morning sun.  “Wait!” I yell through the window, though the driver is already turning left out of the driveway and way too far away to hear me.

Somehow, I make it to the airport (now the mall), only to find out that we are under attack.  We are all hostages, being told that we either have to gather guns and shoot them, or be shot ourselves.

No doubt this is a reflection of the craziness of our society (Saturday night found me panicking when I heard of a shooting in a mall near the University of Miami where I went to college, and where my best friend M sometimes frequents.  Thank g-d she was nowhere near there that night).  The now all to common public shootings + the state of the world today with chemical attacks and my own personal worries like starting a new cancer protocol and I feel like I’m in a game of checkers.

Every time I jump over a hurdle, another one appears.  There are rules, and only certain ways that you can jump over these other players (read: obstacles).

Sometimes, I capture pieces.  Other times, my pieces are captured.

I toss and turn.  I feel pretty good after the prep for my radiation– king me; was proud of the fact that the doctors said that I did well (I take this as a personal compliment.  My body is not my own in so many ways but hooray, you got through the prep without weeping like a baby and your vascular system seemed to be just what they were looking for!).  However there is a wound where the puncture was, the catheter snaked from my groin into my liver, and that wound is bruised and hurts every time I sneeze or cough (which because of allergies is frequent).

But back to the nightmare, because even after being awake for hours I still feel like I’m in the thick of it.  I tell people that I can’t just sit around and wait for men to arrive with guns who may or may not shoot us, I must do something.  (Read:  I cannot wait for the tumors to grow and push on my vital organs until I die, I need to do something).  I sneak my way into back stairwells and try to figure out where I could hide should I need to.

I wake from this nightmare, one of the scariest that I’ve ever had, and feel beads of sweat above my upper lip.  My legs ache so badly, my knees feel heavy and my shins throb.  Just another side-effect of treatment, and I gently move my legs like scissors, back and forth, back and forth, trying to find a spot where nothing will hurt.

But something almost always hurts, and if it’s not a physical ache or pain or fatigue, my eye or my legs or my wound, it is my heart.

I tell SHL that I won’t be on social media much in the next few weeks.  He whole-heartily agrees that is a good idea.

Social media connects me to all of you; it lets me know just how many prayers are being said.  It lets me share my smoothies and juices and old nostalgic pictures of my brother and I in our Camp Sewataro sweatshirts sitting on the rocks on a Cape Cod beach.  It lets me post the pieces of my blog and the pieces of myself that need to feel like somehow, we’re all in it together.  Somehow, kids or no kids, cancer or no cancer, none of us are ever alone.  Oh g-d I feel so alone.  That’s actually how social media makes me feel these days.

Social media reminds me that I don’t just feel different from everybody else, I am different.  I’m not worried about my kid teething or paying for college, I’m worried about living long enough to see my nephew Bar-Mitzvaed.  I’m not minimizing other peoples problems (well maybe I am a little bit).  I am told that everybody is allowed to have their own issues– Of course they are!  But this is what sets us apart; I’ll never be able to truly comprehend your worries, and you’ll never truly be able to comprehend mine.  And if I had to take paying for college over cancer, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

You.  Me.  And such a big gap in between you and me.  Which leaves me over here, and you over there.  I ask my inner ally to guide me, but the gremlin speaks so loudly that her words drown out and all I hear is “You’ll never be the same.”  Damn you gremlin.

I try not to feel exactly how I do feel:  Different.  Inferior.  Alone.

The loneliness scoops me up into my very own cocoon and as I await radiation, as I put life on hold to see how this new treatment works, as I wonder how to live in the shadow of what could have been, I jump over a piece, only to be captured.

 

 

It Can Be, It Will Be, It Should Be

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Where is the most embarrassing place that you’ve ever cried?  The grocery store? Work?  How about while getting a… facial?  (A massage I can kind of understand, but a facial??).

I had just spent the past 2 days in bed flat on my back, with my knees under a pillow, a heating pad nearby, and a bottle of Tylenol next to me on the night table.  All because I had bent down the wrong way to put a glass of water on the coffee table. I already hadn’t been feeling well (fatigue from treatment, diabetes, etc.) and now this; I felt like I wanted to cry, but nothing was coming out except anger, fatigue, and boredom.

After those 2 days of taking warm showers, stretching, and lying in bed, I finally felt better.  A friend and I had plans to get facials and I was desperate to leave the house (and see her).

Usually when people ask me how I am I automatically say, “Good, how are you?”  I bet most of us do this, because really, are you going to let the pharmacist at CVS know that you’re miserable and awaiting a liver-targeted therapy and you feel depressed and anxious and if it rains one more day you may lose it?  Hopefully not.

My aesthetician at my favorite spa took me down the long dimly lit hallway and I already felt more relaxed.  I love getting facials and I don’t let whoever gets stuck working on my face get away with too much chatter about what face products I should be using.  Every few months my skin needs a little clean up and I like to do it in the most relaxing way possible.

But as she was massaging a mask into my face I began to feel a sense of being more in my body than I had been in days, perhaps weeks.  I felt myself relax into the warm bed as she massaged my feet and then draped a warm towel over my legs.  I imagined that all of my thoughts– so many I thought I would go crazy– were like clouds, definitely there in the sky (I AM THE SKY, thank you Geralyn Lucas) but able to drift away and leave just me, bare but alive and beautiful and not weighed down by weather.  So much weather.

My eyes were covered with cotton balls soaked in some kind of rose-scented something, a beautiful fragrance that trickled down from my eyes to my nose to my lips to the rest of my body, and my face felt cool and a little tingly underneath another cream.

All of a sudden I felt, clear as day, that I was in my body, in the present moment and yet so scared of what the next few weeks would bring (that doesn’t make sense, but what does these days?), so grateful to be able to care for myself in this way, so terrified and so unbalanced and so thankful and so happy and so sad and so distraught that my feelings were so out of control.

The rose-scented cotton balls became wet with my tears, and I knew that if I wasn’t on this table getting a facial, if I was home or in my car or even at work (and could close the door), I knew that I would sob until there was nothing left inside of me to pour out.

And although I didn’t want to let myself completely go, I simply couldn’t stop some of the tears that escaped and ran down my cheeks into the skin mask that she had so gently applied.  “Are you OK?” she whispered, and for a full 5 seconds (though it felt like much, much longer) I couldn’t say anything at all.  When I finally could speak I somehow managed to say “It feels so good to take care of my body, to feel warm and relaxed and to feel in my body.  I have cancer.”

“You’re going to be alright,” she murmured back, and I wondered how she knew that and then immediately understood that she had no idea whether or not I was going to be OK, but it was just something to say.

“Promise me that you’ll do this a lot more,” she said.  “It’s very important for you to feel like you’re taking care of yourself and feel relaxed amidst all of this stress.”

She was right.  I at once felt so shallow for feeling so good during a facial, and relieved that I have the time and resources to be able to get a massage or a facial or do something kind for my body when I need to.  I hadn’t realized how out-of-my-body I had felt these last few weeks, after my last treatment 2 + weeks ago and awaiting this new targeted-liver therapy.  Between the weather and not feeling well and doctor’s appointments I haven’t been exercising much, sick from low or too high blood sugar, in pain from the shot in my left eye, not sleeping well, and just generally feeling run-down.

I had mentioned to my brother how vain it felt– and dumb considering I have much bigger fish to fry– how insecure I had been feeling, looking tired and puffy and not feeling like myself.  Thankfully he totally validated my concerns and reminded me that I’m human.  Despite having much bigger problems, nobody wants to look in the mirror and not feel good/like themselves.  Thank you bro!

I also hadn’t realized how alone I had been feeling.  The truth is, your life and my life are so different.  And alike, in a lot of ways, but also so unalike.  And that’s the truth, so please don’t try and start writing out a list about how we’re really the same and cancer is just a little thing that makes our lives feel uncommon.  My life feels like being stuck at a fork in the road while others lives seem to be going right or left, with choices and paths that sometimes feel much longer than mine.  That’s just the truth.

And so, I let myself cry, and in the end I feel so much lighter.  The fear still exists; my self-help gurus help me with their books and meditations but honestly, the fear is still there.  And I know that it can be, that it will be, that it should be.

I am different.  I am not you, I do not have your life, I do not have your choices, and you do not have mine.  My road could be shorter than yours, we do not know.  But by acknowledging this unfamiliar terrain for all of us, in the end, you are acknowledging me.