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.



Snobby Bobby said...

I thought we had an agreement, no posts to read that'll make me cry while I'm at work...Ok, maybe we didn't have that agreement, but we should, I gotta keep up my rugged, manly exterior.

That's a beautiful post love and once again you never fail to amaze me. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have you in my life.

I'm so glad you were able to drop those continents off your shoulders. You never deserved to even have them there, but I'm so impressed you carried them.

"I love you" is so insignificant, but will have to do as the feelings I have for you can't be put into words.


BaldyLocks said...

Thanks for checking in on me. I'm okay, and mostly because of my friends, including the posts left on my blog.

Thanks for being there.

I'm going to read your post now.

BaldyLocks said...

Your post was so beautiful and to the core. I'm so glad you are finding a better place to be, post cancer. I often wonder what sort of truce I will make with myself so I can go on living with life. It's so nice to hear peace exists for us.

I too know that nothing more will be done for me if it comes back. If they did offer anything I will refuse it because it will not work, only make my last minutes worse. I saw it firsthand.

I wish my friends and family realized this. I told them but they carry on as if nothing was up. It feels very isolating. If I talk about it I'm being "negative".

Thanks goodness for blogs and other bloggers.

Thank goodness for you.

BTW snobby bobby was the one who made me cry with his response. Great now I'm crying a good way.

BaldyLocks said...

Sorry for leaving so many messages but I HAVE to comment on your new photo. Your hair looks SO good!

faye said...

That really was beautifully written.

Tara said... amazing thing, and I am so glad that you have found it, my friend.
Thank you for the wonderful post. It moved me.

P.S. I love the new look of your site.

Carver said...

I'm glad to have gotten to know you through your blog. Beautiful.

bratgirl97 said...

A beautiful post. It brings me back to how people came and went as my mother fought her cancer battle. And it made me feel a bit guilty about how I sometimes behaved.

Bobby isn't the only one crying at work!

Ann/MI said...

Wow...that was beautiful and it touched my very core. I always felt when I was dealing with melanoma 6 years ago that never have I felt surrounded by so many people who love me but felt so all alone.

Ann from Michigan

mange said...

So...WOW. you have the best talent for putting you and your feelings into words.

I love you and I love your post.

You are stronger than I could ever imagine being ... and probablythe mostunderstanding friend i have ever had. Ps I love your pics on the site...think you could email one,...mangy

George, Group Admin said...

Totally support your effort to get the word out on sun tan and tanning vs. skin cancer(s).

I am surviving along with 188 others with merkel cell cancer we have located through the Google Groups Merkel Cell Cancer discussion group. Stop by if you get a chance. Also a grassroots poster from a photo I took several years ago. Feel free to download the large version (click on the photo to enlarge before downloading) and use with any of your tanning salon efforts.

Group Admin & MCC Survivor
Merkel Cell Cancer Google Groups


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