Questioning My Beliefs

The "old me"...  Back in the day...

The “old me”… Back in the day…

I’m sitting here in the chemo chair as the drugs drip into my body…  Questioning life…  Questioning my beliefs…  Questioning it all.

Life is real confusing these days.  Each day brings new questions, fresh insights, and a tumble of emotions.  I spend my days perpetually on the verge of tears.  I feel hyper sensitive to people’s moods.  I’m simultaneously trying to heal the past, envision the future, and remain in the present.  I know I’m overthinking things and yet I can’t stop.  I know what I need to do and yet it is so hard to just do it.  I’ve been sliding down into the rabbit hole.   It’s all starting to take a toll on me…  The chemo.  The surgery.  The pain.  The exhaustion.  The frustration.  The emotions.  The chemo brain.   Aaaahhhh!!!!

We did another ultrasound today to check my arm once again for blood clots.  It keeps swelling to ridiculous proportions and no body can tell me for sure what’s causing it.  Turns out the veins and blood flow are fine.  No clots.  No edema in the tissue surrounding the veins.  So that’s good.  My oncologist figures the swelling is because of the tumors clogging up the lymph system and preventing it from doing what it needs to do.  A lymphadema of sorts.  So we’ll consider a sleeve for my arm (sexy!) and some physical therapy.  But the hope is that the chemo will knock those tumors down and free my lymph system to start functioning properly again and that will heal the swelling.

But all this swelling, and pain, and chemo exhaustion ends up taking me to the bad place where I turn to food as a quick fix (which would be ok if it was celery and lettuce, but it’s not) – Trying to find a temporary release from it all.  Food has always been my #1 drug of choice.  Plus, I haven’t exercised in 2 weeks.  And I’m not always taking my supplements as I should be.

Sigh.

On this day before Thanksgiving I’m really trying to hold onto the moments of gratitude.  Trying to remember all that I have to be thankful for (and lord do I know I have a lot to be thankful for!!) But I’m just tired – mentally, physically, emotionally.  My body is not happy.  My body is not well.  And it’s hard to move past it.

But all is not lost…  I refuse to go down without a fight.

Even though I was tired I went to my Bernie Siegel support group last night.  I needed it.  And on the way home I had time to reflect.  To take in the wisdom of my fellow group members.  To absorb the uplifting support.  And ponder what I’m doing with my life.  As Bernie says, “It’s not about avoiding death.  It’s about living life!”

I figure maybe I need to go through all this turmoil, to get lost down the rabbit hole, and come to this bad place in order to tear myself apart so I can then completely rebuild and redefine who I am.  I realize that the last 5 years I’ve been so focused on everyone else that I lost sight of who I was.  I didn’t make my needs, my career, my dreams a priority.  And still didn’t even after I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  Now this second round of cancer is trying to shake me awake.  Forcing me to truly question who I am and what I want from life.  And I can’t go back to the person I was before.  Before cancer.  Before my mom died.  Before I got married.  Before I had Miss M.  What was right for me then is certainly not right anymore.  I am different now.  Older.  Wiser.  I’ve seen more, done more, faced more.

Last weekend I had the privilege of going to a symposium at the NY Open Center on near death experiences with Anita Moorjani and Eben Alexander.  It was a magical event that was made even more magical because my half-sister came along with me.  Each speaker had amazing insights to share about the meaning of life and what happens after we die.  I found myself in tears numerous times throughout the day.  I think the main lessons I took away from the day were the importance of living from a place of love and not fear…  Making self-love a priority…  Making the choice each moment to seek out joy…  And to surrender…  Surrender control….  Surrender trying to be something you’re not…  Surrender to what is.

Lately I feel like I’m all talk and no action.  Knowing what I need to do but not doing it.  So tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day, I vow to take action and live from a place of gratitude, love, and surrender.  Then I’ll try to do it again the next day.  And the next day.  Until one day, I’ll look up and realize how much fun I’m having living life and not avoiding death anymore.

Blessings to all.  -T

20 Responses

  1. Great big buckets of love and good energy coming your way! Don’t be hard on yourself. Press ‘pause’ on the monkey mind and stop those spinning thoughts. If you do decide to get some physical therapy for the edema, look for a Dr Vodder certified therapist. They are the creme de la creme in the world of manual lymph drainage. The Vodder Technique has some dramatic and amazing results. They should also be able to fit you for a compression sleeve. Try this link:

    http://www.vodderschool.com/find_a_therapist/search?province=228%7CCT&submit_btn1=Run+Location+Search

    I don’t know if it will work posting to a blog, but it’s worth a try!
    I have seen crazy arm swelling in some of my patients due to changes to the lymphatic system from the mastectomy surgery its-self. This can occur even when the surgeon did not remove the lymph nodes or vessels. Sometimes it doesn’t show up until as much as three years post surgery. Don’t give up hope, there is help out there.

    Thinking of you.

  2. Sending good thoughts your way. I am also going through treatment, stage IV metastatic BC, initially stage IIA back when I was diagnosed in 2011. Also experiencing swelling in my arm, but it is now full blown lymphedema. I do recommend at least talking to a PT.

    Always remember that you are a strong woman who is beautiful and full of light. When we are facing this monster named cancer, we go through rough days. We will not always be those beacons of laughter and light that we’d like to think ourselves as. But let the mood pass and be as positive as possible. Remember your strength and be good to yourself. One woman warrior to another. :)

    Happy Turkey Day!

  3. I am praying for you, and so thankful for all you are, have been, and will be for your Mom and Dad, Marisa and Heron, all your aunts (and especially your Aunts Laurie and Dori, whom I know more than I do your other ones) and everyone in your large and loving family, the thousand and seven other folks who have liked your blog and each moment of the occasions of the hundred and twenty THOUSAND times someone has read something here and been moved by you. And I haven’t even touched on the thousandth part of who you actually ARE. As your Mom said to me many times over the years in our correspondence, “words can’t reach it.” — they generally can’t, where the really important things are concerned. Well, one word is at any rate somewhere in the Ballpark or the Building Elvis has left –

    LOVE –

    John

  4. John, thank you for saying most of what I wanted to convey.

    As someone with CFS and accompanying brain lesions that cause much the same symptoms as chemo brain, I can relate to your trouble dealing with all this, right now. The truth is, you’re zapped, sapped and trapped, including a lowered ability to think. That makes it *much harder* to deal with the issues, and

    ***you need to cut yourself some slack.***

    There may not *be* a huge message from the Universe here. Your body needs rest and coddling, and so does your mind and spirit. I think you’re smack on target to concentrate on self love and being as thankful as you can, but some falling down there is understandable! Realise the sustenance you crave is truly for heart and spirit, and get as much as you can. I find it helpful to remind myself of that, since I, too, am a comfort eater.

    I reach out and touch your cheek with my warm hand, and wrap my arms around you in a looong, close hug. <3 Beth

  5. What an empowering vow! One day at a time, oh so graceful woman warrior! Enjoy, love, laugh, fight, surrender, live…. one day at a time. xoxo

  6. Sending you love and peace this Thanksgiving. You don’t have to be on top of your game all the time…focus on getting better. Do the things that bring you comfort right now and get back to being feisty after chemo when you have your strength back. Nobody can fight a war on two fronts at the same time!

  7. Can you do me a favour honey? And please stop being so hard on yourself. ‘Should-ing’ yourself. Trying to be perfect in your healing. I know the fear that goes with letting go. But the fear of not doing this perfectly is also a legitimate fear. Fear is fear, our bodies do not distinguish the difference.

    You don’t have to be perfect. You can have sad days. You can emotionally eat. You can feel sorry for yourself. You can eat donuts for 6 days straight. Just don’t stress about it.
    Trust that you know in your heart, in your core, that you are a person who will always find balance in your life, who will always naturally get back on track. It is who you are. You will never let yourself get stuck in a dark spiral down and not get out of it. It is not in your nature. Trust that about yourself. Know thyself.

    Trust that and allow yourself a few spirals without guilt. Balance a few chemo’s with spirulina and kale. There is never just one path to the top of the mountain, there are many and sometimes one path is blocked by a fallen tree or a flooded river and we have to temporarily take a different path. It may not be the path you wanted to take, but the goal is the same, getting to the top of the mountain. I practice the 70/30 motto. I am good 70 % of the time. 30% of the time I indulge in either self pity or self indulgence. You can balance eastern and western medicine together. It’s ok. It does not make your healing a failure. Your path is still 70% in eastern. Balance. Trust.

    Be kind to yourself and watch crappy tv, eat donuts and cry. And then chase it down with a green smoothie and a handful of vitamins!

    heart.

    • I love this reply, so balanced, so trusting. Even when you’re bad, you’re good. Don’t judge others but most importantly, don’t judge yourself. Remember to breathe. No one gets it right all the time. You are allowed to be human.

    • Terri;

      I hear the following dialogue between us:

      Terri: I’m gonna die!!!!

      Annie: Yes.

      Terri: I’m gonna die of metastatic breast cancer!

      Annie: How do you know that?

      Terri: Look at the statistics!

      Annie: Yeah, let’s do that. How many people die in auto accidents every year? (How many do so with in ten blocks of home?) How many other causes of death can you think of that kill more people every year than cancers of every kind?

      Death is a promise that is made to all of us when sperm meets egg. Manner and time of death are under our control only if we choose to die by our own hand – and sometimes not even then!

      What we ARE free to choose is what kind of person we want to be. I hear you saying, ” I’ve lost sight of who I am… I’m not meeting my needs…” But one thing I keep hearing, week after week, is that YOU’RE AN HONORABLE PERSON, which is just what I’m sure you wish to be. As a matter of fact I’m pretty sure it’s one of the bottom lines of who you are.

      Just as another day (minute, second) of life is never guaranteed to us, getting our needs met in what we might consider the most desirable way, in any given time frame, is not guaranteed to us, either.

      You have entered, in a time frame that continues through the anticipated future, into a contract to be a wife and mother. Maybe the choices you have been labeling “putting them first” might be more correctly seen as “honorably fulfilling your contract with them”. MY guess is that this is closer to “being true to yourself” than you are giving yourself credit for.

      Fear – of death, and of missing something you’ve always wanted – can act as a sort of basket, blinding you to your own light. That fear, as well as your illness and the treatments therefore, are unbalancing you and setting you teetering on your foundation. But if you had not ALREADY KNOWN that what kind of person you are is more important than what career you pursue, etc., you would not be able to tell us that FROM YOUR CURRENT VIEWPOINT you’ve been doing too much putting others first. You would have been selfishly putting yourself first all along.

      Being fully fulfilled, all the time, is not in your contract, nor in the Constitution, nor promised when sperm met egg. As you accepted when you became an adult. If, at the moment of your death, you can die knowing that you were the best person you could have been, you will die fulfilled. Regardless of whether or not you found out you were supposed to be an arborist, or a skydiver, or a pole dancer or whatever. Or whether or not you ever saw a Greek island.

      Live HERE and NOW. VACUUM JOY into your life. Contemplate something beautiful that you can hold in you hand – a seashell, or a butterfly, or Heron, or Miss M.. DO put yourself first to the degree you must, in order to have the energy and wisdom to do your best in those things for which you have assumed responsibility, but not just to comfort yourself as you might eat another potato chip.

      With much love,

      Annie

  8. It’s all been said above, so i won’t offer advice ;-)
    We are unlikely to ever meet, but you and your family are on my prayer list. I am a big fan of your parents’ books; they introduced me to a few artists I would never have heard of otherwise. I know that BC is beatable; a dear friend of mine had it back in 1998 abd fought it with both current traditional and alternative methods. She has been clear ever since and looks even better now than she did 20 years ago (and she was very beautiful then). Hang in there. None of us know when or how we will leave this life and I think all of us are at least a bit afraid of doing so. But if it isn’t one thing, it will be another. Your friends above are offering sound advice; hope you are listening. Hugs and prayer energy to you, Terri. ~ Linne

  9. It’s all been said so well above, so I’m just going to add my small piece that I didn’t see mentioned above.

    Have you considered putting a chemical bumper (ie, antidepressant) underneath the emotional free-fall? Depression is someitmes a perfectly reasonable response to horrible things happening. Putting a bottom under it doesn’t keep you from feeling your feelings, just helps limit how far down the rabbit hole you can fall. (And given that depression delays hope and healing, putting a limit to it can be useful.) Just a suggestion. Check with your docs to see what if any interactions or contraindications may exist.

    Holding you in healing as you find your way through the darkness — Dana

  10. The others have left you with wonderful advice.

    Mine is more mundane. If you are craving comfort food while you are in chemo and it is being tolerated. Then for goodness sake eat the comfort food. Much of what we see as comfort food, mashed potatoes, soup, ice cream, bread, donuts, etc., will help you because it became a comfort to you at some point and with all of the discomfort you are going through you need the comfort. Also, if you can eat while in chemo, that can be a big plus, at least that is what I was told. If you are eating, the chemo can’t totally take you down.

    I couldn’t eat and was so sick because of it. My dearest friend in the entire world (who died during my chemo) kept trying to remind me “Cancer and chemo are not a diet plan”.

    Eat what you crave and don’t beat yourself up about eating it, or all of the other stuff you want to be so sure about. It is OK to be down, for heaven’s sake, you are sick.

    Think of it this way, if one of your friends started beating him/herself up because they were battling something this serious and couldn’t be on top of everything, what advice would you give them?

    I send you positive energy every time I pass by your name on my “send good thoughts to” door where there are the names of many people I worry/care about listed on sticky notes.

    Take care,
    Blessings

  11. Just a hello, Terri — thinking of you today. We spent Thanksgiving weekend in your wonderful NYC and I found myself thinking of you a lot then, too. Hope your holiday was joyous and that this week has gone well.

    Mary on Gabriola

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