To Everything There is a Season–PART 1

SEEING RED

Written on 5/8/11

(flashback)

Summer ’09 was the worst summer of my life—to date. The diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma In Situ and subsequent mastectomy had left me angry at the world and seriously depressed. So much, in fact, that it was all I could do to get through my days with all the children in care and then shut the world out when the last child left each evening. I tried to make the most of moments when they would come my way, but I can say, matter-of-factly, that I was not someone you’d want to socialize with that year. Bitter resentment along with despair were the facial expressions of choice. I didn’t want to hear words of encouragement. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to find the humor in things (although I tried hard to each day and it just came out biting, sarcastic, and crass sounding). I didn’t want to do anything but cry, or scream, or punch something or someone. I had to hold it all in, though. I had to maintain so I could just get through each day and holding it in just made me an even hotter mess. If you were to ask me now if I ever exhaled that summer, I would honestly tell you no.

I know NOW that was the most unhealthy way I could have lived. Hell, I knew it then, too, but chose to ignore the signs–Defeat-est mentality at its finest and those of you who know the Type A that I am probably can’t ever imagine me getting that low. But that Type A began working overtime on my self-destruction. For example,

Why should I worry about my grades anymore– is God really gonna care that I was on the President’s List or made it into the National Honor Society?

Why should I bother turning in any paperwork for any agencies I’m accountable to for my business, like they really give a damn what I’m fighting here anyway.

Why should I bother fighting for my oldest daughter, after all, so many others had given up on her.

Why should I care what I look like, I’m just gonna lose my hair anyway… I’m just gonna look ridiculous wearing makeup…I’m just gonna have to find shirts covered with such loud prints that it will distract anyone from noticing I don’t have a chest anymore…

Why should I bother with anything…I’m just gonna be 6 feet under by the end of the year.

Why should I bother with reconstruction—I’ll finally get the boob job I always wanted just to have the best looking chest standing at attention from my coffin as everyone passes it by during the visitation.

I was feeding the beast inside me by continuing such inner destructive self-talk. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t get out of the quick sand that kept pulling me back into that pit of despair. Each time a friend would throw me a lifeline, I’d only hang on half-heartedly. I was giving up–giving in. It was all too much. I didn’t know how to process all of the stimuli attacking me. It was just easier to retreat into a comfortable cocoon of anger. I was prescribed medication after medication from anti-depressants, to anti-anxiety, to sleeping pills so I could just shut off my brain at night–all of them addictive. At least I had enough sense about me to avoid filling any of those Rx’s. My doctor wasn’t happy about that. I argued that–I drive children to schools and I won’t drive under the influence of something. I won’t take something that would make me feel loopy or jittery. I won’t take something I would only later have to fight to get off of. I knew that it was up to me to pull myself out. I just didn’t have a clue how I would go about doing that.

I know there are some women that handle such extreme stress with grace. I wish I could say I was one of them. There were times—fleeting nanoseconds that would allow me the courage to hold my head up high as I walked into a room, but they vanished as quickly as they appeared. I’ll give you a glimpse back at who I was that summer. It’s written all over my face and my body language screams, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU LOOKING AT—HAVEN’T YOU EVER SEEN SOMEONE WITH ONE boob!.” Yes, for me to bring about a change…it would probably take more courage then for me to walk into a hospital and have my chest cut off–and since that had already happened, the fight was only just beginning. Not a physical one, though—a purely mental knock-down, drag out fight that Mr. Miagi wouldn’t be able to help me get out of.

As you can see, I had truly succumbed to the anger. It overrode most of my emotions. It had itself manifested into a type of cancer that was once again invading every area of my life. The problem was that I breathed life into this type and it was by far Stage 10. By summer, it had become a comfortable friend. Letting go of the anger would have been just too easy. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be ready. I held tight to it and slammed the door on anyone trying to get in including my family. There were times when I I would look out that door’s peephole to view the world that was still going on without me. That made me angrier, still!

Then there was the crippling events surrounding my oldest daughter who had gone missing. We were dealing with the loss of a child we weren’t sure was even alive or dead at this point, and I was going through the painstaking process of supplying dental records to the police in case remains were found. The stress of just the cancer would have been enough to anyone but combine it with the stress of losing a child and the infuriating lack of help I received in trying to find her along with the judgmental advice I was getting at all turns was enough to push me into a spiraling depression. “No…I’ll hold onto this anger just a while longer,” I thought.

As if things weren’t bad enough… I was told once again our family would be losing insurance. My husband’s job of 17 yrs. was coming to an explosive brink. The business was trying to function with a severely alcoholic boss. My husband was the only one keeping it afloat. The boss was his childhood and lifelong friend, best man in our wedding, and Godfather to our oldest daughter. If you have ever dealt with alcoholism, you may be able to appreciate the horrific strain it can put on relationships. So, as I dealt with my cancer, Jeff dealt with his friend/boss/job and the fact he knew he was losing all three to a self-destructive personality who had also begun an affair with my former best friend of 17 years and maid of honor in our wedding. It was all too much.

Then, the insurance—this bastard—this corporate structure we had paid money into our whole lives decides to begin cutting our benefits and raising our premiums. It began a vicious cycle where the teasing thought of a couple more months worth of benefits dangled in front of me like carrots–causing complete panic on my part–how will I get the rest of my surgeries?  How will I pay for medicine?  What if this metastasizes and I can’t pay for treatment?  What do I do?  I braced for the worst–complete denial altogether once Jeff had been fired from his job. Denial in mid-treatment. What kind of insurance company does this? Mind you, this was before Obama’s healthcare reform where pre-existing conditions would be grandfathered in (or so I thought at the time).  I realized I better get a game plan…and fast.

With all that, my mental state really started nose diving. I was becoming scatterbrained–unable to focus–very attention deficit disorder–without a doubt. The strain on our marriage, our family, our lives had become nothing short of catastrophic. No amount of counseling could help. There was no way to sort it all out. Prayers were offered up just to get drowned out by the yelling—whether my own or a chorus of frustrated cries by everyone under the same roof. I stopped writing because I could no longer process any stimuli coming in or going out.

In the midst of it all, I began having a recurring dream. It continued every night for 6 months straight. I began to realize it was a sign…and once that sign revealed itself and what it meant to my life…it was the catalyst for all things that followed…

SEASONS PART 2 will be posted on Monday morning 5/23/11. Don’t miss what the dream reveals! You can do that by subscribing to this blog through RSS feeds, the subscribe by email feature, or the Networked Blogs link in the side bar (the easiest way)!  Cya soon!

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1 in 8

After months without posting, I dived into my blog once again this past week. The peace writing brings me along with the tinkering of widgets, layouts and uploading pictures is so meditational for me and that is huge in terms of quieting my brain. This was originally intended to be an outlet for me. A way to express myself. A way to come to terms with how my life had been flung into a different trajectory almost mid-course. It was a visual way for me to organize my thoughts, fears, dreams, hopes, goals, and somehow compartmentalize them in such a way that I could manage them all without losing my mind. Cancer has a way of doing that to a person. It is an insidious snake that wraps itself into every crevice of your being and makes you doubt everything you ever thought to be safe or predictable or comfortable.

What I found through this cyberjournaling is that I was not the only one feeling this way. I was not the only one going through this. I was not going to be the last. I made online acquaintances that stretched out their arms across thousands of miles, oceans, and continents to befriend me, to lift me up, to support me, to walk in spirit with me. I found friends near me that were willing to do the same. In this past year, I have become one of those spirit friends myself to many women both locally and far away. I have tirelessly advocated for early detection with my growing number of friends on facebook. I have reminded both the women and men in my life and those I randomly run into weekly, if not daily, to take care of their boobs. I have passed out self-check breast exam flyers to random strangers. I have done things in the name of breast cancer awareness and I have made it known to all that if you EVER feel you are having a scare, or you need information or you want to talk or you just need someone to pray for you or with you–I will be there for you.

I have had women I barely know and many I do contact me this past year. I have talked into the wee hours of the morning with strangers across the country. I have facebooked and I have messaged and I have emailed back and forth with others who are in the middle of a scare. I have begged and pleaded for everyone to get a mammogram–and to NEVER blow it off, and I have just sat and listened and cried with some who have been diagnosed. I never really thought in the beginning that I would later go on to become someone that would be a source of comfort to another that was fearing her worst nightmare coming true. I never thought that there might be a former high school enemy that would be inspired to go get checked for the first time because of me or become someone I actually appreciate now that we have grown up. I never thought that people would really read this blog. But, all those things have happened and continue to happen.

When I submitted my post a few days ago after a 5 month hiatus, I was astounded by the irony of what happened later that night. I was reminded once again that because of me putting out there the good, bad, and ugly, a woman somewhere would also be reminded that they could call me–to talk, to cry, to vent, to plan, to question, and to ask questions. I never thought I’d get a call anytime soon. But I did.

A long-time friend of mine messaged me through facebook. The urgency in her tone led me to believe that something was very wrong. This same woman began reading my blog from the onset and two weeks after I launched it about a year and a half ago, she found herself thousands of miles away going through a similar scare. She found me then on facebook and we talked and talked and talked. Her scare was just that at the time. I have learned that if you are a woman and you have a scare that is in need of biopsy or MRI imaging or you are told you have dense breasts or there are just a few “normal” looking calcifications showing up on a mammogram, you should be diligent in your self-care. My friend has done just that. However, her followup mammograms have been proving to be more questionable. Without telling many people, she went in for the suggested biopsy last week. She thought nothing of it because she had been told since that first scare she was fine. She wasn’t nervous at all.

She has just received the news. She listened to the woman over the phone tell her those words that change everyone’s life when they hear them. “You have breast cancer”. It wasn’t 24hrs. after posting my blog that here again was my friend–now facing the same form of cancer I did–DCIS–Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. I stopped everything, didn’t care if I was an hour late to a meeting, because I knew I was the person she wanted to talk to. I listened to her and I shared with her–the tears silently streaming down my face. She will be seeing her surgeon tomorrow. I am asking for prayers please.

Yesterday–I couldn’t help but feel a heartwrenching ache in my gut. I was mad. Mad that a cure hasn’t been found. Yes, early detection is the key and there are many pieces of health news always swirling around puporting to be something for you to do in order to decrease your risk of getting the disease. But ya know, I did most of those things and I still got it. Sometimes, no matter how you live your life, manage your stress, what you eat, or drink, or how much you exercise–sometimes you still get cancer. Sometimes it’s just predisposed in your genes and you don’t know when that snake will raise it’s head to strike, but it doesn’t make it any easier for me to swallow. That pill still gets lodged in my throat and it makes me really mad. My status updates since finding out have been filled with angst. Many of them reminding everyone that 1 in 8 women (or men) will be diagnosed. Let me rephrase that–1 IN EVERY 8 INDIVIDUALS WILL HEAR THE WORDS–“YOU HAVE CANCER”.

I took stock of just the people on my facebook friends list and realized that many of these women had already had scares. A few had already been through their cancers. I wondered how many more in just that list alone would have to go through that. I put out a request for everyone to stop and go through their own lists and to take a moment and pause for a prayer for each person on their list. I might seem melodramatic to some and that’s ok. I get it. They just have never had to go through what I did and there is power in prayer, I do believe that. 1 in 8. That is too large of a pill for me to swallow. I sometimes don’t know what else I can do though. I have wondered what else I was meant to do. Maybe I’m doing enough. Maybe I could do more.

Maybe we could all do more. Maybe we could all just take the blinders off and stop trying to pretend its not one of the leading killers for women. Maybe those that are scared of having the pancake masher hurt them will be reminded that having your boob CUT OFF hurts more–emotionally, psychologically, physically, etc. All I can do is put it out to the cyber world now and scream!! GO GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS!!!!! Maybe we’ll find a cure. Maybe…Maybe…Hopefully…I do hope. For now, “L”, you are in my heart and prayers as you embark on this road. Good luck tomorrow, dearheart. I am with you in spirit.

Started Tracking on 12-1-09

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