Friday, October 19, 2012

A Thought Is Just A Thought

So I am back and in a very different place from my last entry. I was feeling lost last week and puzzled by my mixed reactions to the very good news. Cancer is tricky and it can really mess with your head but I have had my AHA moment and finally see things clearly.

I often write about how I have changed as a person through having cancer and I really try to see the good and positive sides to most situations. But if I am being perfectly  honest and for those of you who really know me – I am a natural born worrier. I have mastered the art of hiding my anxieties and worries under the shroud of humor and a smile but it is there and I feel it. This tendency to worrying was essentially given steroids when I got sick.  My worst fear had come true so what did this mean for everything else? Cue catastrophic thinking. What I have realized is that I am a very emotionally reactive person and almost immediately jump to the worst possible case scenario. Maybe I am a drama queen? Maybe I am a born pessimist? Or maybe I am just simply afraid. I don’t know the exact cause but I am giving my thoughts wings to fly on over to anxiety town by this dangerous way of thinking. It is exhausting for me and for the people around me -this constant rollercoaster up and down and round and round. No wonder my husband and I are utterly worn out. What I need to realize is that a thought is just thought but it is up to me whether I let it turn into something else. I am not a cancer expert nor can I predict the future so there is no real basis or validity to my worries. They only became real when I have been told otherwise. I often wrote in earlier entries about how I would never let cancer define me or be my identity but I think I failed in that. By allowing these worries to control and influence my life, I was letting cancer take more of me and I don’t want to give it anything else. I am not cancer. In acknowledging that worry and fear are normal parts of our busy lives, I also need to let these thoughts go. I will not allow the what ifs to control my life anymore. I also need to accept that uncertainty is just a part of my life for the next little while and I cannot do anything to alter that. And really, doesn’t everyone have some degree of uncertainty in their lives? We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, or next month or next year. It is just a part of life. I do not have cancer now and that is the only real thing I know so I must not spend any more time on thinking of other possibilities. Time goes by so incredibly fast and I just can't afford to waste any more on this pattern of negative thinking.

So as Monday rolls around, change is on the horizon for me. I am joining the real world again and beginning a new job after three years off. I think I would be scared if I had just been home with my monkey this whole time. Change is scary full stop. But boy can it also be exciting. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and I don’t want to waste it. In some ways, losing the safety net or crutch provided by being ill, makes me afraid. I need to stand on my own two feet and prove to myself and others that I can do it. No more excuses, no more waiting on the sidelines while life passes me by. I need to just close my eyes and jump off that cliff and not worry about where I land. I always seem to find a soft landing and I have no doubt I will find it in my next adventure. So seeing as this blog began as a way for me to deal with my cancer, like my time as a patient, it seems like it is also coming to a natural end. It has been so helpful for me to write down everything I felt and experienced but now I see that it is has become counter- productive. I am still hanging onto to being this cancer person and I need to cut the cord.  I am not saying it is over but it will be less of a focus for me. I need to start living like everyone else and not reliving this experience. It just isn’t healthy. I have this amazing new life waiting for me on the other side of the door and all I need to do is turn the handle.

I have so enjoyed and appreciated all of you joining me in this last chapter of my life but now it is time to turn the page and start writing a new one.

I thought I would close with some lyrics from the queen of Rn’B – Miss Mary J Blige. It felt fitting.
Uh, it feel so good
When you let go
Of all the drama in your life
Now you're free from all the pain
Free from all the game
Free from all the stress
So find your happiness
I don't know
Only God knows where the story ends for me
But I know where the story begins
It's up to us to choose
Whether we win or loose
And I choose to win
Mary J.Blige “No More Drama”


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Coast is clear so why do I feel like I am drowning?

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. " Anatole France

First of all, I want to thank everyone for the calls, texts, emails, messages and positive thoughts from around the world. It really is amazing to see your circle of “people” in action and how many people you can call friends. I am lucky.

So yesterday good news came a week early and was so unexpected and of course positively wonderful. This is why I am struggling with my later reactions once the shock of it all and the relief had worn off. Many of you might be puzzled by what I am writing here so bear with me – this cancer business is complex.
A few hours later, I started to feel exhausted and this heaviness was pressing down on my chest that I couldn’t explain at first. Then the tears started to flow over dinner and my appetite just wasn’t there. Where was the champagne? Where were the happy giggles and smiles of relief? To be honest I felt depressed and lost and I felt like there was something dreadfully wrong with me for feeling so. I can try and explain it to you and maybe it will become clearer even to me. I compare it to an old man who is finally let out of prison after serving a life sentence. All the life he has known happened in that place and suddenly he is thrust out onto the pavement to face the world again without knowing where to go or what to do. I kind of feel like that old man right now. We had prepared ourselves for the cancer to be back. We had made plans and come to terms with that reality. The evidence was all there weighing heavily in cancer’s favor and I would have had to have some real casino luck to dodge this bullet. But somehow I did much to the surprise of my doctor who even said he had not expected this result. This is something amazing and so great. But in having earlier accepted that my cancer was back and doing enough background research to understand the serious implications of it, I had asked myself the tough questions that would terrify most to contemplate. I came up with plans and strategies to deal with the what ifs – I planned a book that I would prepare for my daughter to remember me by and the letters I would leave behind for my husband to read on special days every year. I imagined losing my hair again and having life put on hold again. I even came up with a blog title for the delivery of the news that the bitch was back. You can say I spent a lot of the last few weeks contemplating all of this. Yes this sounds morbid and even crazy but it wasn’t. The survival curve for a relapse like this dropped off significantly to almost 0%. I wasn’t being dramatic, I was being realistic. I always tell my doctors that I never want to be naïve about my situation and be unprepared for news like I had been the day I first found out. But suddenly the game had shifted and it is an entirely different playing board. So I also need to shift and adapt to the changes as well.  I also maybe need to grieve the past 2 years of my life that were dominated by cancer before starting to build a new one which can be scary too.  Acknowledgement of your feelings is the best way to get past them so I cant just pretend I am not feeling the way I am. I have to own them and then let them go. My life is no longer dominated by this beast and that might feel weird for awhile but it will be great once I get used to the new me.

As I will be rejoining the working world shortly, following this change of events,  I am questioning everything. Will I be successful? Do I still have what it takes? Will my body keep up? It really comes down to fear of the unknown – a different kind of unknown this time round. After being traumatized by life recently and thinking that things hadn’t gone my way for a while, you can be lead to believe that the odds will never be in your favor again. But what my family and I have learnt this week is that they can be beat and that life can be one hell of a rollercoaster. My story is far from over and there will be more tests, more dreadful waiting times and more unknowns over the next few months and then years but I will start slowly rebuilding my life brick by brick with a few good cries here and there.

I want to thank you for coming along on this wild ride with me. My life is so much richer for the friendships that have been tested, the new ones that have been formed and the family bonds that proved they were built of pure steel. I also want to thank my dear husband for being a rock through everything – I couldn’t have come out the other side of this a better person without you by my side. And Captain AC – thank you for listening…to everything and for being strong enough to never let me see that you were ever afraid. Having people believe in you is what makes you believe in yourself even when things seem bleak.  And little monkey – you have grown into a little person before my eyes – into someone who feels my pain, treasures my love and tells me, “Mama, it will be okay.”

Here is to the end of one chapter and the beginning of another...

A very loved OBB

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Oh Joy!!!

Sometimes a phone call can literally change your life. I just experienced one of the sort. I thought I had run out of luck, I thought the battle was lost, I thought I wouldnt get a second chance. But I was wrong. After four agonising weeks of uncertainty and anxiety, fear and pain, I have been told that I am okay. I cannot describe to you the feeling of utter relief that is coursing through my body right now. It is electrifying. I want to scream with joy, I want to laugh in celebration and I want to cry with relief. I seriously dodged a bullet here and I cannot tell you how happy I am. Where do we go from here? No one knows what happens in the long game and destiny is not pre determined for anyone including myself. The road will continue to be filled with twists and turns but I feel like today is the perfect day for starting over again.

An elated OBB

Monday, October 8, 2012

Gwendolyn the Good Fairy

When I was little, my father would tell me a story nearly every night for probably 12 or 13 years.  I felt like every story he told was original and new, though I now think there might have been a few parallel themes or repeats during all those years! He was creative but also human.  Every story centered around the character of Gwendolyn the Good Fairy. She would come to the aid of children from all over the world and help them with whatever problem they had. He was so good at bringing this tiny little fairy to life that I can still imagine her waking up on her little lily pad in the pond with rose petals for wings and covered in a bright shiny light that never seemed to dull. Years on, I could still paint a perfect picture of her, how she looked and remember a number of stories where she helped a child find their lost teddy, or learn to play a sport they were afraid of. I think my dad definitely took inspiration from some of my life issues in these stories and helped me along my way.

I have thought of him a lot this week. Many of you who read this blog often know that I mention him here and there and it is very clear that I miss him dearly. When things are tough or I am struggling with something, I think of him more often. I think of how he would just know what to do. I also know in an instant that he would be on a plane on his way to me if I needed him. I would not have even needed to ask. He would just know. I try to comfort myself with the thought that somehow he knows I need him now and he is helping me in any way he can.

This a pic I took while on my walk yesterday.

I took a walk by myself down by the sea yesterday, as we spent the weekend with the grandparents for a change of scene after the tough week we had. Autumn had made its mark and it was quiet but beautiful. I took that same walk the few days before my first chemo treatment and asked for his help at that time too. I did the same yesterday. I called out into the wind and told him that I was afraid and I wished he were here with me. No one answered back. No bird flew by. No sign. But I didn’t feel alone so I took comfort in that. It was then that I thought of all those stories from long ago. If my dad were here right now to talk to me what would he say? What would Gwendolyn do? This is my version of what I think he would have imagined for me if he could sit by my bed, hold my hand and tell me everything would be okay because Gwendolyn was on the case.

There was a little girl who lived in a land that was cold and dark.  She was very brave and tried not to be afraid of anything. She had a loving family and very good friends around her. She was mostly very happy and lived a good life. But there was something that she just couldn’t get out of her mind. It was something that no one could help her with and she felt like she could not find the right words to make people understand how she was feeling.  She grew very worried about it as each day passed. She became so worried in fact that one night while she was tucked up in bed after her mama and pappa had kissed her goodnight, she wished. She wished for Gwendolyn the good fairy to come help her not to worry. She closed her eyes and called out her name into the night sky. Suddenly a star shined brighter then all the others and came sailing through her open window. The next thing she knew there was a tiny fairy on her night stand. The little girl thought that it was one of the most beautiful things she had ever seen. “I am Gwendolyn the good fairy and I am here to help you little friend.” The little girl explained her problem and how she was worried and afraid. “I will sprinkle a few drops of fairy dust on your eyes and you will fall asleep and all your worries and fears will melt away. In the morning you will feel better – stronger and calmer and you will be able to face all that worries or scares you.” The little girl smiled and closed her eyes, ready for the fairy dust to fall. She drifted off into a delicious sleep and dreamed of only the most wonderful of things.  Gwendolyn then dusted off her hands and saw that her work here was done. And with that she was off in a flash of light leaving behind only the stillness and darkness of the night. In the morning the little girl didn’t remember anything about what had happened but she felt better and lighter. Her worries were gone and she couldn’t quite understand how or why but she knew that she would be okay.

For my big tall angel in the sky who continues to inspire me and help me on my way.