Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fumbling The Ball

** "I'm getting less moody, aren't I?" He pauses and then says, "A little."  I start to tell him just how wrong he is. I am a LOT less moody. And then I start to laugh. Right. Dearest One walked right into a trap of the sort of "does this dress make me look fat?" variety. I let go of my need to be right and realize that even my protest shows that I'm not quite where I thought I was.

** "I didn't recognize you because you were so skinny." It's a few hours later and we're in the grocery store. I hunt up and down the aisles for something when I see Dearest One talking to an elderly couple we haven't seen since last summer. Back then we talked about how fortunate I was that they caught the pathology report mistake before I had my breast removed. I have no energy to tell them what came next. I duck around the corner and continue shopping. I stop to dig through my purse and find my cell phone. I expect Dearest One to send me a text and ask me where he can find me. Except he didn't. He came looking for me and then walked right by the aisle I was in because he didn't recognize me. I wish this made me happy.

** "Are you the wife?" Them's fighting words although the telemarketer on the other end of the phone doesn't know this. I tell him that no, I'm not THE wife. He asks me to repeat myself. I do. Then his voice takes on the hue of someone backing away slowly from the room and he tells me he will phone back later. Good call. I was getting ready to tell him I may be moody and I may be skinny but I am neither an article nor an adjective. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Little Engine That Could

It was -45C with the wind chill factored in this morning. The windows are frosted up nearly to the top but the sun is shining through them. The northern version of stained glass windows courtesy of Jack Frost. A good day to stay inside and keep warm.

I'm healing. It feels like there is light at the end of this year long tunnel. And hope that this cancer journey will truly be a distant memory one day.  I look forward to when I don't tag a post with the word cancer. My mood swings are lessening. My goal this week is to get through it without telling someone to eff themselves. So far so good.

I'm learning that skinny people really do need a cushion for their chair because otherwise their butt hurts too much to sit for very long. I had to ask only daughter last night if that was true because it's a brand new phenomena for me. After I asked her I excused myself and went and got a cushion for my kitchen chair so we could continue our talk via Skype.

I took a writing course last December where the instructor told us that a good writer didn't write about their relationship with God in a post because she said it put up a wall between writer and reader. That intimate place where really only the two involved could enter into it. I've mulled her opinion over a lot since then.

My prayers of late have mostly been silent ones. Except for the time after communion where I knelt and the only words that came to mind, in the vein of the little engine that could, were, "I need you. I need you. I need you."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pinning The Tail

I've spent the past week trying to point in the direction of getting back to normal, whatever 'normal' is. One thing I've concentrated on is continuing to get my range of motion back on my mastectomy side and I am winning that challenge. From what I can gather I will feel the pull/tightness all the way across my chest for a good long time yet but am grateful that I can stretch further than I could last week. The day I can make a full snow angel motion with my arms will be a day to celebrate.

This past week was also the first medical appointment free week I've had in a very long time. It's made me realize just how much of my time and mental energy has centered on the next medical thing in front of me.  I told a friend that it's felt a little like playing that pinning the tale on the donkey game and maybe I'm starting to have some clarity in the direction I want to aim for now. Figuratively speaking I'm less dizzy and more clear headed.

One of the guided imagery CDs I've listened to throughout this process invites a person to accept their feelings of worry, fear, grief and anger as their inner truth of the moment, without self criticism or blame. That doing so will be encourage the healing process. The key word there is 'moment'. I felt relief and a bit of a chuckle the first time I heard that sentiment. Inner truth of the moment. A reminder that there are no permanent feelings no matter how much that seems impossible in the moment. It takes way less energy to acknowledge a feeling than it does to repress it. Funny how I needed to hear someone tell me that it was okay to feel all those things without self criticism before thinking that was an option.

I had a long talk with God today about wanting to feel other feelings. The ones that make me feel connected to other people and to life. I am tempted to chuck the estrogen blocking medication that has my hormones all awry and my mood in disarray. Then there is the fear that if I do that it will be my fault if my cancer reoccurs.  See how my brain works? I have bumped up against fear and my illusion of control so many times through all of this. Maybe not any more than before other than I am aware of the bump. More aware of the 'oh, here it is again, and again, and again.' in the way that is challenging its presence instead of being oblivious to it even being there. I guess that is progress. For today I'll take it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Tumour test results came back today and I don't need chemo. I am so, so relieved. There is only a PET scan ahead of me before the end of the month - which will hopefully clear up if they need to investigate further why the AP node in my chest is enlarged and the node in my armpit. After that I am good to go. It feels like a huge weight off my shoulders. The doctor is also hopeful I won't be so bitchy now.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Some Fight In Me

That about sums up my day yesterday.

I went to my home group meeting for the first time in six weeks. Drain tube free. Pain free. Good weather. I was grateful that the hour drive was possible. I knew that getting out of my head was the best medicine for me. It would be a win-win for everyone. I sat in my chair before the meeting and felt such relief to be there even though I found it harder to be honest when people asked how I was than to fake it and be cheerful and upbeat. My ego gets caught up in wanting to be a poster child for breast cancer so people can tell me how wonderful I am. My ego will seek its glory any which way it can. It's not picky.

And then he came in and any hope I had for accolades vanished in about 15 seconds flat. He is like a father figure to me. He is as tough as nails and has the softest heart around. His way of dealing with the worry that my increasing weight loss caused him was to be gruff with me. We also have known one another long enough to have had deep conversations that have created a mutual respect of one another. He is the real deal.

So yesterday I was on my way back to my seat with a cup of tea when he hugged me and asked me how I was. "Not good." I tell him. "What do you mean 'not good'?" He said this as if it's against the law to not be fine. I looked at him and asked, "What? It's against the rules of being a human being to be not good?" "Yes." He said it in a 'you're darn tootin' kind of tone. And before the filter between my brain and my mouth had a chance to engage I looked at him and said, "Fuck you."

I had an internal 'oh shit I only meant to think that, not say it' moment. Then he laughed and said, "Good. You have some fight in you."

After the meeting I tell him I am sorry. That I hope I never say that to him again. He tells me that I need to be able to say things like that to people like him who can take it. I put my hand on his heart and say, "No. It's no excuse. I know you  have a tender heart and I don't want to walk on it." He looks at me and says, "I have no idea what you are going through." So few people have had the humility to say that to me and it brought tears to my eyes.

Friday, January 11, 2013


** little glimmers of hope the past few days have been a relief.

** thank you for your support and prayers. I think we often fail to realize just how much prayer can do.

** my spiritual director emailed me this week and suggested that I offer all that I feel right now, in lieu of spoken words, as a prayer to God. I had a really good cry in response to that.

** the sun shone today and so much more seems possible in the sunshine.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Off The Train Please

** As a child I made it through each day by looking ahead to something else. It was like living in perpetual limbo. That's what I feel like I am doing these days while waiting to hear what comes next in the cancer journey.

** Had another bit of fluid drained off my chest yesterday. I keep wanting to write breast instead of chest but it's not a breast any more so what do I call it? You know, that place where my breast used to be? It's a bit disconcerting to have a huge honking needle stuck in there and to not feel it in the least. When the doctor asked if he could use a bigger bore needle to suck out the fluid I was like, um, I can't feel anything there anyway so do what you need to do. I told Dearest One the other day that that side of my chest looks like a toad. A squished toad. I want flat, totally flat like it was before complications set in. I feel like I'm being hard to please. Jeepers, they removed the cancer, what more do you want, Hope?

** Got a copy of my latest CT scan report today. It reported not only the size of suspicious nodes elsewhere in the body - dear God please no more biopsies - but that the back pain I've been having for months is explained by a degenerating disc in my back. One less doctor's appointment needed now.

** the doctor I saw today was incredibly kind, compassionate and just plain decent. I told him how much I appreciated the way he practised medicine and how much difference it made from this patient's point of view. He told me how he has worried about my unexplained weight loss in case they are missing something. The doctors all confer that the tumour in my breast doesn't explain it.

He explained exactly what was happening in my body with the new drug from the oncologist and that it would take three months for my body to adjust. I told him I could handle anything for three months. It was the five years of drugs that was hard. Then I said, "Oh, hell, I can do anything for five years, one day at a time." I just don't want to.

For the second time in a week a medical professional suggested anti-depressants to help me get over this hump. We'll see. Hopefully all my posts for the next three months won't be estrogen starved brain cell induced writings.

** Yesterday I tried on winter jackets and was disturbed that the size I tried on was just about too loose. Not being in control of my weight loss is the most vulnerable feeling. And I feel guilty every time I write or talk about it because it is many a woman's dream to lose weight without effort. Millions have been spent in hopes of that promise.

** I can't believe how much I am hankering after certainty. Every time there is a new bit of medical information that leads to more questions than answers I can hardly stand it. Off the train. I just want off the train.

** Today someone, in response to my sharing the grief I am feeling at losing my breast, tried to tell me all the reasons I should be thankful instead. I just looked at her and said I need to go through the grieving and that none of her suggestions changed that. She tried to explain how I should have perspective in different words. I had to tell her that it didn't change the grief process. I could, to ease my own pain, and to make it easier for others, shove that grief way down deep, put on my happy face and pretend otherwise. But I'm not going to do it. I told my friend that I wasn't going to get stuck in the grief but I was going to go through it.

I don't know how to explain to people that just because I am feeling grief and expressing it doesn't mean I have no perspective, know no gratitude. It's not an either or scenario but a both and one. I feel intense grief and I feel grateful that what I'm facing is much less serious than some other people's. But dammit, I have to live through it and for once in my life I'm going straight through it and not try to sneak my way around it. Why is that so hard for people to accept? Why can't they celebrate that I am going through it instead of around it?

There's part of me that would love to pretend I am fine. But man, pretending my feelings are not my feelings has bitten me in the butt more times than I can count. I told my sponsor the other day that the only way I'm getting through this right now is knowing that feelings aren't permanent. And knowing that God is with me in it whether I feel his presence or not.

** Today in a parking lot I was driving behind a young woman who was walking arm in arm with a woman my age. They were so engrossed in their conversation that they didn't see me behind them. I watched their body language and it was so evident how fond of one another they were. I just about rolled my passenger window down, when they moved off to the side so I could pass them, to tell them how much pleasure I felt watching them so thoroughly enjoy each other's company.

And because it's all about me I longed for someone to walk like that through this journey with me.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

At The Dinner Table

** realized yesterday that the number of people one can truly take into their confidence about how things are and not get shit on is small. Reminded once again that some people find it hard when I can't summon up any rah-rah cheerleader spirit for my own journey. I wanted to say I just didn't have any emotional energy left to be okay for their sake. I hung up the phone feeling deficient in the faith department and general human being department. I didn't want pity I wanted empathy. Sponsor later reminded me that expectations can give way to disappointment. True.

** new medication is doing a number on my whole being. Today was a weepy day. Oncologist said to give the medication a few days break and then try again at half a dose. I hate feeling like a stranger in my own skin.

** phone calls where the other person is understanding without jumping into the pool with me are invaluable. It makes climbing out of the pool much easier and inviting. I just wanted someone else to tell me it was okay to be where I was, that it wouldn't last forever, and not try to fix me. She did that. Pure gift.

** was supposed to get all test results tomorrow, waiting over finally. Oncologist called today to cancel tomorrow's appointment because the most important test result isn't back yet. It felt like the straw that broke the camel's back. Not living for this day. Not accepting life on life's terms. Just tears and despair.

** Oncologist called back later in the day with a little bit of test results that were hopeful. That helped balance the earlier call where other test results showed a possible need for more biopsies.

** had a frank talk with God about how I was feeling. Read this quote that made my day:

"My belief is that when you're telling the truth, you're close to God. If you say to God, "I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don't like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You," that might be the most honest thing that you've ever said. If you told me you had said to God, "It is all hopeless, and I don't have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand," it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real -- really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table." Anne Lamott, "Help, Thanks, WOW"