I’ve never had as passionate conversations with the universe as I have over the past 5 months; and the words “cancer”, “Oncologist”, “chemotherapy”, and “metastatic” are what started them.
I am pretty certain I signed up for this human lifetime with the hope of experiencing everything possible; and, I am not close - but moving in the right direction. I also believe one of the gifts in this is that I will be able to look back at my life and realize I was given a full human experience - which I am so very grateful for. But, with the full experience, comes a little bit of EVERYTHING…
On 12/21/17 I sat in a Radiology office, anxiously waiting for a biopsy which would later be translated to, “You have Stage 3 c-word” (Merry Christmas). I didn’t know what else to do - so I began what is now a running journal entry in my phone...
I’m scared it spread.
I’m so scared to tell Mom, Dad and K.
I’m scared its going to hurt
I’m scared I’m going to die
I’m scared I’m going to lose my hair
I’m scared I wont be able to ski
I’m scared I won’t be able to get married and have kids.
I’m terrified to get this phone call.
I drove home after the biopsy, truly fearing I was going to die (based on what the Radiologist explained), but knowing I was NOT going to accept that. And, with this, I thought to myself these exact words: “Here it is again, this is nothing unordinary…this is just life happening.”
Life includes a little bit of EVERYTHING - the joy of smooth sailing and the turbulence of a storm. And, so far, some of the “EVERYTHING” I have experienced in 2018 are these things:
Adaptability: With no warning or preparation, I left my life in CO, moved to MA to undergo 15+ months of treatment, left my job resulting in no more income, moved everything out of my home in Denver, drove my car across country, and most importantly, learned to adapt to a new life, accepting a new full time position as CEO of curing this disease. Knowing humans DO have the ability to adapt makes me believe surviving this, IS possible.
Extremes: Extremes are kind of my thing. I’m all or nothing - love adrenaline - love wild adventures. I just never expected THIS kind of extreme. To go from never even having a cavity, to multiple major surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and all the other weird medical things - this experience has officially made top of my list of extremes. And, I want to give this as much extreme back in its face as it has given me.
Phobias: Of course, I happen to have a severe needle phobia. Snakes or spiders - don’t care. But, the thought of an IV - no freaking way. I am working on it - but so far failing - still get sweaty palms.
Time: The only way I know how to cope with this diagnosis - and more so the treatment and surgeries - is to embrace “one day at a time”. Of course I fast forward, I get anxious about what is to come - but, I can honestly say my daily coping mechanism for this is “take it one day at a time”. We also have a saying that helps me grasp this daunting illusion of time which is, “this is a fucked up temporary”. I believe deeply this IS temporary. THAT gives me a reason - everyday - to want to take the next step - one step at a time.
Milestones: i am considering the Clinical Trial from Jan - April as like “Milestone 1” of a multiple phased (daunting) treatment plan. I know the upcoming milestones will be quite more difficult than the first one, but, maybe Milestone 1 gave me the preparation I’ve needed to get to the next milestone.
Challenge: There has been so much confusion, some setbacks, dissapointments, so much I medically don’t understand, so much contradiction between medical modalities. And i have taken that on as a challenge. My new full time job consists of doctor appointments, research to bridge Eastern and Western thought, adjunct alternative therapies to enhance traditional therapies, and so far all of this equates to my life’s biggest challenge. As my mom says, and I agree - I’ve always loved a challenge, and there are parts of this challenge I thrive in. Solving problems, getting shit done, and moving through the milestones.
Fear: I’ve never been so scared shitless of any journey I’ve begun than this one. The depth of my fear feels so real at times I don’t know how I will get through all of this. And then I remember these brilliant words: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Fear is ok to feel. I am learning that too. It has its place, and then it melts. It usually comes back at some point, but the trend has been in my favor so far.
Annoyance: The paperwork! The needles (moreso a phobia I guess). The endless hours spent at doc appointments. But mostly, the constant reminder of the c-word. Thankfully, there ARE moments I forget I am sick - I feel “normal” - and I thank god for that!
FUN: My New Years Resolution was to not let this c-word take my identity or thing things I most love in life away. So - before surgery and the next round of chemo begins - I used all of my airline miles to visit, with family and friends - Panama, Columbia, Costa Rica, Bali and a little bit of China. Adventure fulfills me - so I got a shot of that even while dealing with this illness.
Love: The amount of love I feel these days feels infinite - and almost tangible at the same time. My belief that love heals has been renewed - and what a gift from this that is.
Hope: Maintaining that undeniable knowing that this trip (my life) is not over for me. I’ve got a long ways to go, this is just a speed bump, and will be a distant memory backfilled with a continued amazing life. And if I question this, I try to remind myself of bright white light when the darkness of fear blankets my reality. Another saying we have - Let There Be Light.
Gratitude: Waking up every. single. day. with. THIS. Mainly, for the people in my life.
Questions: And along with the questions - I know I will be tested right back every step of the way. So I learn to be ok with uncertainty with some things. It has helped me exercise that muscle of letting go when appropriate.
Lessons: Something stuck recently: “you should always keep something beautiful in your mind.” When my anxiety takes over, my thoughts race, my responsibilities overwhelm me, I start questioning my mortality - I TRY to remember this advice. I TRY to think of something beautiful - something in the background of my thoughts. Because thoughts are just that - thoughts. They, themselves won’t kill you. And, they are so much more tolerable with a beautiful backdrop. (Mine is typically snow filled)
Curiosity: I swore I learned what i needed to know about appreciating life, your people, mother nature, humans in general, majestic earth, the depth and complexity and simplicityy of it all - after my fiancé died in a kayak accident in 2009. That experience took me on a life trip I never thought possible. I thought I had learned what I needed to through that experience, but, here we go - learning more. I wonder what will be in store at the end.
Change: We all experience change in some form, and, it is up to ourselves, our choices, our path, our mistakes for these changes to happen. I have been thinking on the daily, sometimes the hourly, why did this disease come into my life, and what do I have to change for it to leave?
Gifts: I have a lot to work on, I am a massive work in progress, and I am committed to experience EVERYTHING possible this life has to offer. This, in the end, is the greatest gift life can give me.
Trust: From Marigold Hotel movie that resonated: “We have a saying in India. ‘Everything will be alright in the end. And if things are not alright, it must not be the end”. I know how I interpret this, and that’s another conversation for another day - but, I believe it.
Reflection: At the Pink Vail event, I got to ski. Chemotherapy affects your body, and after 6 clinical trial treatments, my body definitely felt different - not as strong, sore, tired. I keep catching myself with deep daily reflections, like I did that day at Pink Vail - when my skiing was at about 50% capacity than usual. The reflection was that my body felt weak but my mind felt strong, my heart felt full and my soul felt free.
Strength: So - I move into the next phase of curing this illness - with an Eagle’s lyric: “I’m beginning to realize it is time to sink or swim”. When i feel like I have received all the news I can, the grief of the losses I will and have experienced with my body and parts of my life, or anxiety about a painful procedure is about to begin - I remember, it is time to sink or swim. My strokes are getting stronger - thanks to this experience.
Faith: My faith in something more powerful than ourselves has been renewed, I lean on it, and it gives me peace.
When I think of the word EVERYTHING, and I think of Life... I think of ALL of the experiences, all of the pain, all of the joy, all of the uncertainty, all of the wierdness, the fun, all of the adventure- and every feeling that surrounds it.
I like to imagine our lives having a soundtrack, and so I wanted to call this blog “A Little Bit of Everything” - because this is a song I heard a few weeks after being diagnosed, that spoke to my soul. It also reminded me of that drive home from the hospital that first day in Colorado - when I told myself, “this is just life happening” - of which I have been reminded through this experience so far - includes a little bit of everything.
Tomorrow I will enter Milestone 2 - the first surgery (mastectomy and lymph node removal). I have to believe there will be a lot more of EVERYTHING with this phase too and I am open to it all.