Monday, February 18, 2008

My Ego is My Amigo

What's the difference between God and a Doctor?
God doesn't think he's a Doctor

That joke has nothing to do with this post but it's always good to get a jab in from Jump Street. It's February, one of those 4 months of the year when I'm constantly considering finding another job. I check the classifieds, I ask friends, I daydream of a job working with cancer survivors. I love the kids, but all the other stuff seems to get in the way of teaching this time of year and I'm hella ready for summer. Today I left work at 3:30 for a physical therapist appointment and by God if I wasn't amazed to see what it was like to drive around in the daylight. Crazy.

Work's been getting in the way of all the stuff I find so important- I've hardly had a chance to check in on my peeps and I haven't kept up with my message board. It's so difficult sometimes to make it balance. I feel like I've done well this school year up until now, so I guess it's true it gets a little easier every year. I'm just ready to win the lottery so that I can start working on advocacy full time. Ready to be living the dream.

So to everyone out there that I keep in touch with, all my friends that are enduring treatment right now or recovering from it, just know that you are in my heart and in my thoughts.
And to you, dream job offer, I am waiting patiently. But if you don't hurry up, I could potentially be working with a nametag and visor and a much more serious case of acne.
And you should never trust a woman in a visor.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Slow down to speed up

I really want this to be an uplifting, positive post. I really do. I've been reading another cancer survivor's blog and I have been so apsolutely amazed by the support she is receiving from the circle of friends that surround her. She writes about what a blessing they are to her, and I can feel the love beaming from the page. I feel loved just reading it, having experienced that kind of love from my friends. I bask in that feeling, because it is so amazing to have the opportunity to see what the people who love you will do for you. It makes me so grateful for the friends I have and have had and the people that have supported me through my malignant melanoma journey.

And I'm sure that I'm like most people. I'm sure everyone wishes that they could go back to the way some things were before they had cancer. I get caught up in the pity. Because, even though I've made it through so much and I've made amazing friends along the way, I still get lonely when I think about old friends. I miss being able to talk to people that knew me from way back, and wouldn't be shocked by anything I did. And I could see so much of myself in them, listening to where they were in their discovery of themselves. I learned a lot about myself and about life just by really hearing their words. I miss being there for someone else. I miss my young friends, who I could always turn to when I just needed to be free for a while from all the ugly things in my life. Free to think about nothing but fun for one whole evening. But I'm so happy I'm starting to see that ME that was here before melanoma. I really liked that girl. She's finally coming back.

I started looking back through old posts, and found several drafts that I never published. This one was of particular interest and kindof hit on this topic. I think I finally have the guts to put it up here. Plus, it's got a positive message, so it's win-win. One less thing.

Enjoy. :)
In the beginning, I was surrounded by people who'd say, "We're gonna beat this thing!" and we'd rest assured knowing that I was tough and I'd never let cancer take me. And I think that's how it works: you actually believe in your heart of hearts for a while that your own strength and determination is all you need to survive cancer. And then you come to a point where you just pretend that it is. And then, as time went on, I think we all saw that it was not a fight to survive; rather, it was a war. Ongoing battles, one after the other, all deteriorating morale and forcing us to question our ability to go on.

When treatment began, slowly, those people who were so gung-ho to fight this with you were reduced to bystanders while you lay in the hospital bed waiting out treatment or the side effects. And then you begin to understand that no matter how much they want to fight this with you and be there for you, YOU will be the one who has to do it. You and only you. You will have the i.v. in your arm, you will feel the all the aches and pains, you will be reduced to something you never imagined, and you will be the one sitting in the lead room waiting for the next test. And when the realization of how things really are comes to you, it will be you who will sit in that MRI for next two hours with just your thoughts.
And then they begin to realize it, too. And that's when the first big change takes place, and the ones who can't stand the helplessness that they feel begin to fade like the fog does at dawn: quickly, but in a way that no one notices at first, with it all suddenly becoming clear.
I look back at those times now, when I first began to feel lonely, when I was so confused and hurt by what was happening, and I wish the Me now could've been there to explain. Because now, with some time out from under the cancer cloud, now I feel so sad for them, to be faced with such a scary thing, and to feel so much terror that they didn't know what to do except pretend that it wasn't there. I don't blame them for pretending it wasn't there.
Then I think of the ones who didn't run, and how sticking it out beside me was rewarded by the anxiety of abnormal results of labs, regularly scheduled scans, more scares of recurrences, more tests and surgeries and terrible statistics. It's like melanoma was determined to punish them for sticking it out. And I know I didn't make it any easier, with my own depression and mood swings and inability to cope.
And then finally, when there was only those last few left standing, they had to live through the threat of moving to a stage IV, and they had to hear those words that meant "if certain things come about here, there will be no more choices." That was the finally agony, watching their faces go through that, and feeling the final, flat pull of distance. Like saying good-bye.
And now. Now, if I really wanted to, if I dedicated myself to it, I could actually pretend that none of this ever happened. I could actually go on with life and act like I never had to survive cancer, and that things like that could happen to other people, but could never happen to me. Some days I wish I could really do that, or at least, as a dear friend says, I wish I could "pretend to pretend."
However, once again, out from under that dark cloud of recurrence and the depression that comes from an incessant "what if," now I see everything so clearly, and most days I don't even wish that I had never heard the words "you have cancer." And that's when you know that you've truly made it through. Do you know what it feels like to finally say that and mean it? Boulders, mountains, continents off my shoulders.
I can't believe how much clarity I've achieved just over the last couple of months. It's amazing how much a little alone time has allowed me to heal and to really come to terms with big ol' melanoma. I won't say that things haven't been tough. But I will say that I am blessed to be alive today, blessed to have lived and blessed now to "have arrived." Blessed for the lessons. Blessed to have the knowledge that so many don't have. Blessed to be able to be there for so many people. Blessed to have seen every friend who was there and every one that wasn't. Blessed for my experiences.

I've made peace with my new life. And I've made peace with what my body has put my loved ones through. I never would have chosen it, but I'm glad it was chosen for me. What a blessing.



I'm Too Young For This!