My Cross To Bear

Everyone has a cross to bear.  I said this to my aunt the other day.  Mine just happens to be breast cancer.  For others it may be the struggle to get pregnant or have children…  Having your marriage or partnership consumed by years of fertility treatments…  Miscarriages…  Disappointment…  Then there’s others who are stuck in toxic relationships…  Caught up in never ending family feuds…  Or surrounded by people who are not supportive or loving…

We all have something we are stuck with.  Some troubling aspect of our lives that we must accept.  And while it’s super easy to allow the difficulties in life to become our life, it is so important for me to not to let myself go there.

Sometimes I think about the massive role breast cancer plays in my life and how it will be a part of my life for many, many years to come.  From the food I put in my mouth…  To my inability to make long-term commitments…  To the ways I choose to spend my days…  Having metastatic breast cancer means I will forever be getting scanned, examined, poked, and prodded.  Spending time at appointments, getting treatment, doing research, and finding new ways to stay alive.  Every ache and pain I have is a potential disaster.  Is it the cancer coming back?  Growing?  Spreading?  Or did I just sleep wrong?  Plus, the endless side effects I now live with – my cracking, fragile fingers that often hurt to touch, let alone perform any of the daily tasks I’m used to performing without a second thought…  Or the side effect of becoming menopausal at 37 years old with hot flashes every other hour…  Or having my heart checked every 3 months because the meds I’m on can cause severe heart damage.  Oh joy!

But this is my cross to bear.  I have breast cancer.  I will always be a breast cancer patient.  Even when I’m given the stamp of NED (no evidence of disease) – notice i said “when” and not “if” – Even then, I will still have to get scanned and examined on the regular.  I will still live with the fear that the cancer may come back.  I will still question each and every ache and pain and worry it’s cancer.

Right now I’m still awaiting the results of New York’s assessment of my scans from December.  I should know something by the end of this week or early next week.  I feel surprisingly calm about the whole thing.  I’m not having the usual ‘test anxiety’.  But maybe that’s because in my heart of hearts I really believe that NY isn’t gonna find anything different than Ohio did.

This is my cross to bear.   It is what it is.  And who’s to say one person’s cross is worse than another person’s?  Every cross is different.  And they are all difficult.  They all suck.  They all bring pain.  And yet, our crosses can also force us to ask big questions, re-evaluate priorities, and make a commitment to living a fuller life.  Amidst the turmoil we can try to make peace with our crosses.  Figure out why that particular cross is ours to bear in the first place.  Understand the lessons contained in the suffering.  And use it all as an opportunity to grow, learn, and discover who we truly are.

To all those out there with a cross to bear, I feel your pain.  We’re all in this together.  As my dad, author Spider Robinson, and many of you have said, “Shared pain is lessened, shared joy, increased.”  So let’s all keep sharing.

Peace.  – T

16 Responses

  1. Terri
    Another amazing post. You my friend are full of grace. I am thrilled every time I see a new message from you. You are truly an inspiration. I too have a cross to bear and have been for a while. But now you’ve given me a reason to really examine it and find out why. Thank you letting me “think ”

    Be well. Love u

  2. How did I get so damn lucky to have you for a niece?
    Deep gratitude for your inspiring insights, your gentle reminders to pay attention, to dig deeper, and most importantly, to remember that we are all in this together…
    Love you, Laurie

  3. I’ve read your dad’s work for years and started reading your blog after I found out about your diagnosis about a month ago out of sympathy and continued because I like your positive attitude. My particular cross is severe obesity. But I’m fighting the good fight and have lost 140 pounds so far. Meanwhile, my heart goes out to you and your family. Keep sharing. You are an inspiration.

    • Holy cow! 140 lbs! Good for you! Keep up the good work. I keep saying that changing the way I eat has been one of the hardest things on this journey. Food is such a complex emotional, spiritual, physical, and psychological entity. There’s so much wrapped up in what we choose to put in our mouths. Sending you strength and love to keep going. – T

    • PS – Just checked out your blog… LOVE IT! Love the honesty, your healthy way of doing things, and all your fabulous goals. And your comment about how you’re losing weight by just eating better and moving more is so bang on. Such a simple concept and yet so hard to put into practice. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Inspiring, in so many ways. You are in tune with yourself and what life is asking of you. As well as having the capacity and desire to inspire others to look at their own lives… People like you don’t come around too often…and I have a feeling you are far from done here. Looking forward to reading your book 20 years after you are given that stamp. :)

  5. Life is seriously tough for most people.
    It is, however, the VERY BEST GAME IN TOWN!
    Keep working at STAYING IN TOWN!
    I believe you’re gonna make it. Enjoy it all.

  6. It is amazing and immensely gratifying to read your comments about OTHER people’s problems! Truly a huge step for you, and I’m delighted to see it.
    It always seems that those who WILL make it do so because they recognize they are not the ONLY victims of life. As you say, many of us have huge crosses to bear. When we reach the point where we can SEE the others, our life improves IMMEDIATELY.
    Congrats for making it!

  7. Hi Terri,
    We’ve never met, but I am inspired by your comments and your battle with breast cancer. Your father is an old friend of mine – and your mother too. I helped Jeannie make a dance video as a surprise twentieth anniversary gift for Spider. To this day, given the amount of time it took to video it and even more to edit it in those early days – before the advent of the wonderful editing programs that are available today, I can hardly believe that we didn’t arose suspicion in Spider’s mind as to what the heck we were spending so much time doing back then!
    I just got an email from Spider, telling me about the amazing donations from David Crosbie and Graham Nash and giving me a link to your website, so I have signed on to follow you. My youngest sister went through a bout with breast cancer as well, which she totally recovered from and beat.
    I feel greatly privledged to have known and enjoyed the friendship of your parents (and continuing to enjoy Spider’s friendship) and am looking forward to continuing my aquaintanceship with their extended family, through you and your blog. I hope the medical news continues to be so positive and improving.

    Yours in support,
    David Myers

    • Thanks David! I actually think i saw that video you made for their anniversary. Dad still pulls it out to watch when he needs some of mom’s magic. My parents are pretty amazing folks. Glad to hear your sister is doing so well. I hope to continue on my wellness path as well. Thanks for the support. Hugs, – terri

  8. There’s a lot of wisdom here. It’s especially poignant because I have a friend whose son seems to be having problems with depression (or something related), and… well. Well, he’s a teenager, he’s had these problems for years, and the fact of the matter is, he’s probably going to be like me – struggling with depression all of his life. And on the one hand, I wish someone had told me that when I was a teen – that how I felt wasn’t *normal* and wasn’t *right*, but that *no one could fix it* – because no one but me knew where it hurt, or when it felt better.

    But on the other hand… I would have felt like slugging the heartless bastard who said such a nasty thing to me! (Remember: depressed teenagers aren’t the most rational people in the world… I’m not sure if a :-) or a :-( belongs here.)

    But it’s true. And however heartless it is, unless a person’s life is built on a foundation that’s true, they can’t build much of a life.

    So, thank you for the reminder….

    • And thank you too. You also seem to have good nuggets of wisdom to share. And whenever I see your name it makes me think of my favorite ‘long-haired weirdo’ – my dad. I hear ya about the depression. My husband’s got it, my dad’s got it, and I’ve waged my own battle with it at different points in my life. My hubby is sick of being on meds but I can’t stand to be around him when he’s not on meds. Tough choices. Hopefully, you’ve found a way to still live (and love) life despite it all. All the best, – T

      • Well, I think your post zings in on the absolute biggest thing for folks who have chronic depression problems… to realize that it is a cross to bear. That it is (or at least might be) chronic.

        Depression is assumed to be an acute problem, and for many people, it is. But for some, it’s chronic, and it needs to be treated as a chronic disorder – and most importantly, it needs to not be a moral failure (“Oh, how could I *let* myself become depressed again?”). And just as a person with a physical problem has to learn their limits (and find out how to safely extend those limits when possible), so does a person with depression. It’s complicated, and confusing, because depression MUNGs perceptions.

        (“MUNG is a recursive acronym – “MUNG Until No Good”. That really fits with what depression can do to perception.)

        A person with depression might feel “I can’t do X” but they can. Or they might feel “I ought to be able to do X” but, really, they can’t. But just like a person who has any other cross to bear, it can be managed, by learning about how one’s own self is, and what’s reasonable and what’s not, and by demanding nothing less than what one really can do, while accepting the real limits. So it means constantly pushing, at least a bit, to see if one can do more, while not pushing so hard as to make things worse. And… heh.

        I’d spent a couple days pondering this post, and my feelings about it, and yesterday, I had a mild epiphany, where I remembered something my first shamanic teacher taught me. He said that there’s two sources of energy – the river, and the cup. The cup is your personal energy – it’s limited, and should (out of self preservation) be reserved for *you*. The river is the unlimited energy. This is what you should use to help others.

        It’s a common metaphor in a lot of spirit work, but yesterday, I realized that it’s very meaningful. There are things I can almost always do. If I’m at my absolute worst, but someone wants to chat with me and brainstorm about a tricky problem, it wakes me up, it gives me energy. If I’m not rushed for time (alas, I often am) I tend to like cooking for people. I don’t like cleaning, but if someone said “I’m sick, and too exhausted to clean my kitchen, and it just make me feel so *awful* to see it like this,” suddenly cleaning would become a holy and happy chore until the job was done, because it’s something I *can* do, and now it’s very important to another person’s well being… even if I’m too tired to clean my own kitchen.

        Those are parts of my “river”. Those are things that energize me, or at least don’t drain me. That kind of thing is the river that I should tap when I can.

        And then, there are things that drain my cup. Things that tire me, and that I have to be careful about, and watch out for. Is my cup full enough to do this now? Will it be more full tomorrow, so I can handle the cost better then? Will putting it off until tomorrow drain my cup more than doing it now and getting it over with?

        Finding the river, or the things that, for you, tap into your river, and nurturing the cup – I think these are big things in handling any long term challenge.

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