The Elasticity of Time

Outside the Neptune Diner on our wedding day - March 25, 2003

Outside the Neptune Diner on our wedding day – March 25, 2003

What a weird & emotional week it’s been.  Full of travel, sickness, milestones, pure joy, memories, and anniversaries…  To name a few.

Plus, I have now officially entered the “surgery prep” zone.

This morning I had my pre-surgery breast ultrasound…  In the exact same room that I found out I had breast cancer back in November 2011.  With the same technician.  She said she remembered me and asked how I was doing.   I still experienced the same nervous energy when she exited the room to consult with the doctor after the scan.  But today, unlike in 2011, the doctor did not come in the room when she returned.  Always a good sign.  This time the news is good.  My ultrasound does not show anything of concern.  Phewww…

Early last week I took a quick 24 hour trip to NY to meet with my plastic surgeon & my naturopath to discuss surgery prep and recovery.  My plastic surgeon assured me the procedure should be less severe than the last.   The surgery will be outpatient.  I will receive a “lighter” form of anesthesia   And I should be able to resume my normal activities much quicker.  My naturopath tweaked my diet and supplements.  Talked about my energy and stress levels.  And outlined her natural blood thinning strategy for post-surgery and beyond.

And now for the big news…  Drum roll please…  I finally get to stop taking Coumadin!!!!  Woohoo!

Friday I see my oncologist Dr. K to complete pre-surgery blood work and discuss my transition off blood thinners.  It’s been 6 months since they found the blood clot in my lung.  Of course going off Coumadin is both amazing and terrifying.  Every time I have problems breathing, a tickle in my throat, a cough that won’t let up, or a pain in my leg I wonder, “Is it that damn blood clot again?!?!”  But after surgery I will receive Heparin injections (another blood thinner).  And then start implementing my naturopath’s plan that I will stay on long-term.  So I’ll still be doing something to keep my blood levels in check.

The past week also brought with it two very joyful days…  Both revolving around anniversaries.

On Sunday Miss M and I went to the Dayton Ballet’s 75th Anniversary performance.  Miss M was transfixed (well, at least for the first 45 mins).  It was her first time at the ballet.  I watched her follow the dancers around the stage with her eyes.  And felt tears welling up in my own eyes as I thought of my mom and felt her presence around us.

I felt my mom’s energy strongly again yesterday – On my anniversary – When Hubby and I celebrated 10 years of marriage.  Wow!  A decade together already!

It was back in March 2003 that hubby and I sealed the deal in a two-minute civil ceremony at City Hall in Manhattan.  My mom & dad were the only guests.  Afterwards we dined at the Neptune Diner in Astoria – right under what was then the Astoria Blvd stop of the W & N trains.  I was 28.  Just back from teaching in Taiwan.  Working in advertising.  Submitting applications for grad school.  Hubby was a 26 year old illegal immigrant from Brazil with a sexy accent.  Driving a delivery truck during the day while attending college at night.

I’m pretty sure my family had its doubts about us.  But here we are.  Ten years later.

Our marriage has definitely had its ups & downs.  Hubby drives me crazy.  He pushes my buttons.  He calls me out on my shit.  And yet I love him.  When the chips are down he is there for me.  When I gain 30 lbs he still tells me I’m beautiful.  He accepts me for who I am & doesn’t try to change me.  When I’m diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer he assures me he isn’t going anywhere.

Time is such an elastic concept.  Expanding and contracting.  Abundant one day & scarce the next.  It can seem like forever and yet go by in a flash.  I can hardly believe I’ve been married for a whole decade…  That it’s been 16 months since I was diagnosed…  Almost 4 years since Miss M was born…  And almost 3 years since my mom died…

Where does the time go?

It is yet another reminder to enjoy the present moment.  Live fully.  Waste no time.  Dive in.  Don’t hold back.  Because time waits for no one.

Peace.  – T

At the alter

At the alter.

Waiting our turn at city hall.

Waiting our turn at city hall.

Here We Go Again…

Family fun at Charleston Falls Park

Family fun at Charleston Falls Park

Another major medical procedure is drawing near and Miss M is totally starting to freak out.

She has become a little leach – stuck to me, attached and unwilling to let go.  I can’t go to the bathroom, leave the room, take a shower or make a phone call.  Her tantrums are out of control.  Anger.  Fear.  Sadness.  Worry.  It’s all there – in her precious little 3 year old self.

I don’t blame her one bit.  It’s hard enough processing everything as a 38 year-old with some life experience, let alone as a fresh faced pre-schooler.  This is hard on everyone.  I get it.  Cancer sucks.  And we’re all a little angry and fearful and sad and worried.

But it’s so damn hard dealing with her out of control behavior.  And not knowing what to do about it.  The other day we were stuck on the side of the road for 45 mins while she just screamed & yelled & cried and refused to get in her car seat.  And of course I can’t physically gain control in these situations because every move she makes has me immediately sheilding my chest – scared she’s gonna break my breast expander or dislodge my medi-port.  So what do i do?  I just sit there.  I sit there and listen to her scream and cry and wail and whimper and spit up all over herself.  And I wait for it to end.  I don’t know what else to do.

I realize these extreme moments mostly happen when she’s tired or hungry.  (Isn’t that always the way?)   Plus, right now we’re transitioning into the “no more naps” stage, which I’m sure isn’t helping matters.  Nor did the recent time change.

I also know she’s pissed that i’m going to New York without her on Monday.  When I told her she immediately asked if she was going too and looked heartbroken when I told her no.  How do I explain to her that it costs a lot of money to keep flying us both out?  That i don’t want her to keep missing school?  That sometimes it’s easier to go to my appointments without her?

What’s a mom to do?

I know her feelings are very close to the surface.  She’s trying to process what’s going on and what’s about to happen.  And on the flip side of things, she just started telling me over and over again, throughout the day, that she loves me.  “Mamae…  I love you.”  Over and over.  At random moments.  It’s so damn adorable.  I love her too.  So so much.

Thank god for therapy – hers AND mine.  Miss M’s therapist (also a fellow social worker) is amazing.  And Miss M feels totally comfortable talking to her about stuff.  It’s great.  Apparently Miss M spoke about her worries that I was going to die…  Her fears about the pain I might have in surgery…  And her questioning if we’re still keeping secrets from her.  The two of them are brainstorming ways Miss M can help me after surgery…   Bringing me water…  Laying down & reading books with me…  Giving me hugs & kisses…   And they talk about ways for her to vent her frustrations…  By hitting her pillow or stomping her feet.

Thank god she’s talking about this stuff with someone.

Hubby says I just need to give her extra love right now.  Which makes sense.  So I’m trying.  More focused attention.  More play time.  More hugs & cuddles.

I swear, being a parent is by far the most difficult thing I’ve had to face in this life.  (Well, ok – facing breast cancer is up there on the list too).  I remember my mom always telling me I was her biggest teacher.  I get it now.  I understand mom.

And that’s all I can do…   Try my best to understand…   And then remember often times there is no answer.  No understanding why.  It just is what it is.  Nothing more.  And you gotta just deal with it.

You can’t control the hand that you are dealt, but you can choose how to play it.  And sometimes, if you play your cards right, you can even win the game with a really shitty hand.

Peace.  -T

My silly goose!

My silly goose!

A little QT with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

A little QT with Miss M at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

So Now What?

The great big sky

The great big Ohio sky

So now what?  I find myself asking that question a lot lately.

I’m feeling better – so now what?  I’ve gotten rid of the cancer – so now what?  All major crises are temporarily diverted – so now what?

Even though I’m in the midst of figuring out logistics for my next surgery (now set for April 10th) and my treatment is technically not complete yet, I feel different.  Like I’m ready to step into my new life.  Start the next chapter.

Finding out that my cancer is gone is of course a major catalyst in my new zest for life.  For the last year I refused to commit…  To people.  To plans.  To projects.  My vigilant focus on remaining in the moment kept me sane.  It helped me stay away from dwelling on the uncertainty of my future or the possibility of my own death.  It helped me conserve energy for the fight.  But it also stopped me from living a life outside of cancer.

Now I feel free to consider life beyond the moment.  To make plans for my future.  To make commitments to causes and projects I once believed in.  To take steps towards creating an inspired life.  A life worth living for.

I recently joined forces with some local social workers – to offer my own social work experience and knowledge and help them birth a promising new non-profit…   I signed up for Marie Forleo‘s B-School with the hopes of gaining some clarity about my own career…   I’m entertaining the thought of writing professionally…  I’m using therapy sessions to explore my passions…  I’m starting to believe that it is possible to make a living doing something you totally love.

The whole process is fascinating now because I feel like a different person.  Having breast cancer and facing death changed me.  Better yet, I chose to change.  I refused to allow this horrific experience to break me.  Instead, it infused me with a new drive to live.  It awakened me to the infinite possibilities contained in living.  It is driving me to live the best life possible.  Reconnecting me with my authentic self.  And arming with new-found strength, inspiration, and self-awareness that I know will enable me to give back to the world in a way I wasn’t capable of doing before.  It’s all so exciting!

I have found that there are many ways to respond to life’s horrors.  And I have tried quite a few over the years…  From deep denial and numbing myself with drugs after being raped at age 21…  To pushing down my feelings and running on pure fumes after my mom died in 2010…  But this time, I decided to try something new.  I elected to face the horror head on.  To feel the terror and still go on with life.  To take the difficult steps necessary to transform myself from within.  And actively try each day to use the horror as a lesson on living.

For all of you out there facing your own personal horrors…  You can make it through.

Ask for help…  Search within…  Love yourself…  Face your demons…  Make peace with the struggle…  Seek to discover why the horror has come to you…   Ask “So what now?”…  Then use the journey as a starting point for a new way of living.

Peace.  – T