CORON-over It

This is our time, cancer patients.

The world is upside down in panic about the one thing we’ve been silently screaming about…our health. Many times, I’ve told people that if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. We so take for granted this aspect of our lives that when something comes up behind us, we are blindsided. Shocked. In a pearl clutching uproar. Everything about your life changes when your health is affected. Going to the gym, walking around the block, even walking around the grocery store becomes a Herculean task. Your life as you knew it is over.

With the eruption of COVID-19, people are really struggling with the reality of a shift in their norms. For metastatic cancer patients, this is what we refer to as our ‘new normal’ and guess what? This new normal we have to become accustomed to lasts the remainder of our days. It’s amazing to see how many people are fighting, rebelling against what is likely a temporary adjustment to their lives. I get it though, and here is why.

No one thinks it can happen to them.

News flash – it can and it will, because why not you? People used to ask me why I wasn’t more angry or self-despairing with my stage IV diagnosis. I remember thinking that there was never a point in saying ‘why me’ because really, why not me? I’m no more indestructible than anyone else. My family and friends love me like anyone else. I’ve lived a very satisfying, and in my opinion, good life so while I don’t necessarily believe in karma, I don’t feel I’ve done anything in my life to deserve a terminal illness (no bodies in my backyard, thanks Dateline). The reality is that some people get sick and it can happen to any of us at any time.

Here is why I have reached CORON-over it status:

⁃ The News: I can’t. I just can’t with all of the politicizing about this illness. Love it hate our president, he’s not a medical professional and I’m sure whoever writes his talking points aren’t either. Now he is allegedly a businessman, so yes, him wanting the stock market not to tank makes sense in a self-fulfilling way. I’m sure a lot of people feel the same all over the world, especially if they or their loved ones aren’t sick. You already know how you feel about El Presidente so why cause yourself more stress watching him on the news if it upsets you. It’s a mute from me. Thank you, next.

⁃ Springbreakers, naysayers, and conspiracy theorists: OVER IT. When and until you’ve brought home COVID-19 to your grandparents, your aunt sitting next to me at chemo, or your toddler nephew, you need to think about someone other than your own selfish behind and stay home. Awww, you’ll miss out on the memories? Trust me, you will have plenty of opportunities to get drunk, get shot down, and puke all over yourself many, many times in your life. Save it until you won’t accidentally kill someone with your ignorance. Stay home.

⁃ Finally, all of you saying it’s a media hoax, it’s blown out of proportion, etc: Just stay with me a second. What if everything you are seeing on the global news (yes, I said GLOBAL, not solely Fox or solely MSNBC…get outside your comfort zone on this one), just what if everything you are seeing IS happening? Pandemics are not something new. Throughout history we’ve encountered numerous ones and quite frankly were overdue for something like this. If you can break through that stubborn mentality and for a second think this could be happening on the scale doctors, scientists, researchers, and other people way smarter than you or me are saying it is, isn’t it worth staying home for a couple of weeks? Oh, you don’t believe in science and the Earth is flat? Then I suggest you keep walking flat-earther so you can leave me and grandma out of it.

Bottom line is, please think of others right now. Cancer patients, we’ve had to live like this for a while. Now our friends and family know why we stay gone so much. Only now it’s not just protecting ourselves that’s at stake, it’s protecting our neighbors as well. Stay home, pick up a hobby, read a book, and for goodness sake stop buying up all the paper products. That’s a whole other topic I can’t deal with y’all.

A huge, gigantic, world-encompassing thank you to all of the doctors, health care workers, police officers, and all first responders for selflessly stepping up right now. We’d truly be lost without you.

Stay safe, be healthy, and live with love.

Letter 1: My Son

Dear Colin, 

Im sitting here, right next to you as you play Xbox, all in my feelings tonight. It’s scan day and I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t thinking the worst while hoping for the best. You keep asking me if I’m okay because you know anytime I’m quiet, something is on my mind. You’re the same way. 

I am okay, though. I’m just reflecting on my life.  I know from witnessing my friends these last few years how quickly these days can go, super fast, until I’m gone. I may not be able to write down everything I want to say to you if I don’t start now. Consider this letter the first in a series. It is something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the strength for. I want to say all of the things now in case I’m not here to say them later. 

You are the great love of my life. I am thoroughly convinced that I was put on this earth with the sole purpose of bringing you into it. You amaze me every day. I have never regretted one day of my life because it gave me you. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so fiercely, I know how much you love me and I am comforted that you know how much I love you. There is nothing you could ever do to change that. Whatever choices you make in your life, I am so proud of you and support you unconditionally. You have the kindest heart and most genuine soul. Follow these guidelines in life, and you’ll be okay. 

  1. Be honest and true. Not just to others, but the hardest thing we can all do is be honest with ourselves and true to what we want in life. Trust me, life is too short. There is never enough time even if you live to 100. Make the most out of the time you have. 
  2. Love. Losing someone hurts no matter how the loss occurs. But loving and being loved by those you care for is the only thing that matters in the end. When you look back on your life, you won’t be thinking of money, belongings, or your career. You’ll be thinking of the relationships in your life. Don’t be afraid to get close to someone because you’re afraid of one day losing them. 
  3. Be compassionate to others. There is a lot of ugly in the world and enough people already in it trying to capitalize on that ugliness. Be the light. I don’t care who you surround yourself with, who you love, female or male, black, brown, or white, but I do care that you treat everyone with compassion and kindness.  Treat your partner and your friends with the respect and caring that you hope to receive in return. 
  4. Practice gratitude. This is hard and takes mindful awareness. I do this myself, every day. It’s easy to wallow in what’s wrong, what you don’t have, what doesn’t come easily. It’s more difficult to recognize those feelings and turn them around. Turn those feelings of wrongness into one thing you can name that’s right. Eventually, it becomes a list. Focusing on what is right brings a much better feeling than what is wrong. There is always something to be grateful for. 
  5. Lastly, for this letter at least, don’t take your health for granted. Take care of yourself, seek treatment when needed, and always be mindful that health problems are often out of your control and you don’t find out until it’s too late. Don’t abuse your body. Stay away from cigarettes and drugs or excessive alcohol. Drive the speed limit. You only have one body and once it starts breaking down, it changes everything. Trust me on this. No need to help it along, time does it for all of us. 

I’ve never been a very religious person, but I do have a strong sense of spirituality. I believe there is something more after transitioning from this life. Once my body leaves this place, I’ll be waiting for you. Somewhere. Hopefully, that will be a long time from now, but in case it’s not, you need to know that in my life, I’m most proud of you, of being your mom. You are my joy.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And I’ll be watching and waiting until I can hold you again, my sweet boy. 

Don’t ever doubt my love for you, my pride in you, and my unwavering support for any choices you may make in your life. My only regret is that I may not be there for all of life’s events. That as I hard as I fight, am going to keep fighting until my last breath, that it may not be enough. Just know, I’m giving it my all because nothing, nothing is more important than being here with you. 

I love you more than all the stars in the sky. My sweet boy. 

Your Mom

This Christmas

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. For me, the holiday season has always inspired such a sense of hope. The elusive Christmas miracle. Everyone seems a little kinder to each other, families come together, friends reconnect…all of it seems possible during this time. I love the lights, the food, the tradition of it all. I am usually amongst the first people putting up their trees and jumping into a Lifetime Christmas movie marathon in my fuzzy socks.

This is my fourth Christmas with metastatic breast cancer.

The last few months have been really hard. In September, I found out that my cancer had progressed throughout my bones.  My PET scan also picked up a tiny, unreadable spot in my right lung that had never been there before. I had been taking Aromasin and Afinitor, my fourth and last in a series of available anti-hormonal, CDK4/6 inhibitors that were available to me with the type of breast cancer I have. I was now moving onto more traditional chemotherapy.

This was a terrifying adjustment to deal with. I have crossed the line between the easier, hormone based treatment options into the harsher, more publicly obvious, regiments. Was I going to lose my hair? Is this the slippery slope leading ever lower in my declining health? Is this really it? I’m not going to lie, I was seriously freaked out.

In my mind, once you started down this road, there was no u-turn back to the anti-hormonals. There was only chemo and death. Maybe that is still true, but after two months of adjusting, I’ve regained a little more hope in that regard. In the month following the discovery of my progression, I was probably at the lowest point I had mentally been since my MBC diagnosis four years ago. I retreated into my cocoon of despair, my pillow fort of denial, the place I hide when I cannot deal with the world around me. Going through the daily motions was almost too much. What had been this impossible load for the last four years, had yet another boulder added to the weight of it. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t swallow.

But, like four years ago, my son was there to pull me forward. He still needed his mom.

Since diagnosis, I have tried so hard to keep myself pulled together so that my son, Colin, doesn’t have to see his mom falling apart all of the time. Increasingly, it has been harder to hide the physical pain and issues I am having. Mentally, I can generally hold it inside in his presence. I am always, always, consciously aware of how unfair this whole thing is, not to me, but to him. I can’t be the mother he deserves, physically, when I am in pain, nor mentally when I am rocked with the guilt of possibly leaving him motherless. I know I am lucky to have had these four Christmases with him.

This year, I am struggling to maintain my holiday cheer. We got through Halloween and had a lovely Thanksgiving with family. I am more conscious this year of how precious that time is. I still try to mask how bad the pain is around everyone, even though it isn’t a secret that I am not well. My tree was up the weekend before Thanksgiving and luckily, I am mostly done with my holiday shopping. I have even delved into the rabbit hole that is the Hallmark movie channel, trying to channel that holiday enthusiasm.

Maybe I am trying too hard.

I always talk about the need to feel all of the feelings. That it is okay to recognize the bad days and move forward from there. It is okay to have a wallow, but it isn’t okay to stay there…After letting myself stay there too long a couple of months ago, I am horrified to feel the pull in that direction again, especially this time of year. I have been openly discussing the state of my mental health with my doctor, however and am encouraging anyone who finds themselves in a similar state to do so as well. It is not easy admitting when we feel weak, but sometimes it is necessary.

There is no shame in my game and I freely admit to taking an antidepressant. Who wouldn’t in this situation? I think we all are one phone call away from a proper meltdown. I so admire those of us who put themselves out there, publicly discussing the trials and reality of living with this disease. I do think we need to talk about our mental health more because more often than not, that aspect can make or break our day.

Especially at this time of year…for most metastatic patients, I would be willing to guarantee that the question of it is our/their ‘last Christmas’ has streamed through every one of our minds. Lately, it seems we have lost a lot of friends, people we have met in this community that have now left a gaping hole. Advocates, mothers, daughters, wives, sons and husbands, friends…it is heartbreaking every time. It also throws my own mortality to the forefront of my mind. Some of these people had seemed to be doing relatively well, then poof, they are gone. Anya, Laura, Andrea Z., Caitlyn…Some we knew were struggling but the shock and pain hit us all the same…Andrea P., April, Margo, and so many others.

Struggling this time of year does not mean you are not appreciative of everything. It just means you are not allowing yourself the time to feel and possibly grieve. You can decorate your tree, love every moment of it, and still be scared that it is the last time you do it. Hopefully, we’ll all be decorating our trees, lighting our candles, or whatever else we do to celebrate the holiday season.

You can stare joyously at the Christmas lights and still feel that ache of ‘what if’. Just recognizing it in that moment, you can acknowledge the feeling is there, and find a way to say to yourself, “maybe so, but maybe not”.

The reality is this may be my last Christmas. That was hard to even write. Maybe it is, but maybe its not. So that is how I am going to acknowledge my emotions this holiday season. That is how I am going to approach the next few months before scan time. I am going to remind myself that cancer is trying to kill me, but “maybe not” this year. Maybe not the year after…

I wish everyone, all of the people taking the time to read this, a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday. I hope as everyone is feeling the emotions the season brings, that you also recognize the joy and wonder that still lives in your heart this time of year. And of course, that elusive Christmas miracle…for all of us, I pray that comes with a cure and time. Time being the most precious commodity we all have. Enjoy yours this season.

 

Happy Holidays! xo

Overstuffed

Do you ever just need a break from your life?

The last few weeks have been challenging, to put it mildly. I feel as though I’ve been darting around stressors and issues like a gawky teenager in a dodgeball game. After finally being hit smack in the face, I am calling uncle!

This morning as I was driving into work, I thought about how deeply I’ve been letting things get to me lately. And how much more negatively I’ve been seeing the world and even my life because of it. This is not me. I have prided myself on my growth as an adult and my ability to still seek out the positive even in the most trying times. Falling down the rabbit hole of despair is not how I choose to spend the time I have left to me on this Earth. Yet, how do you pull yourself back up when the bad hooks to you like an anchor?

Rip off the Velcro of Negativity

Every little thing, and most of them are little, that causes you grief attaches itself to your person like stepping in hot bubblegum. (I am heavy on analogies today.) That bill you are having a hard time paying? The argument you got into with a family member? Stress at work, stress of kids or spouse, your house that needs a hazmat unit to come in and clean it. All of these things build up to become one large storm of stress and negativity. Now sprinkle that sundae with a cancer topping and you have a recipe for an historic melt down.

I have been in the thick of my own for weeks and have not been able to shake it off. So instead of looking at everything piling up as one big tornado, taking my happy mood and goodwill toward man with it, I decided to break down each one and tried to see it in a different light. This is something that is a learned practice for me and one I’ve been improving upon for years. I don’t want to be the frowning faced lady with cancer. That is not how I see myself and it surely isn’t the memory of me I want to leave behind.

Turn that Frown Upside Down

So what is stressing me out, driving me mad, and making me miserable right now? Let’s take work first…this time of year is always stressful at my job. Deadlines to meet, performance reviews to write, and audits to perform well at. I have been pulling my hair out and working myself to the point of exhaustion every day. But aside from the negative aspects, how can I set this into a positive motion? For one, I love my job, I always have. I am so lucky not only to enjoy my work, but to also love the people I work with. My work family has become a cornerstone of my life and I am thankful every day for them. I am also lucky, and I know how fortunate I am, that I am still able to work with my illness. I have the support and trust of my colleagues as well as the empathy from my upper management. When I remember this, work doesn’t seem so antagonizing after all. I am placing additional stress on myself because I want to do a good job for those reasons.

How about that argument with a family member? I think family and cancer is probably the most difficult dynamic to navigate. Some are afraid to hear about it, afraid to ask, or don’t know how to approach it. This can be taken as uncaring, however that is probably stemmed from my own insecurities. Then there are those that need to be seen as the caring, unwavering, member of the support system when the truth is, they really don’t want anything more than to be included in the attention a cancer diagnosis brings. Without going into specific details, I am madder at myself in this situation than the other party involved. I had so wanted to believe that things had changed, that old hurts were memories, and that we’d learned from our mistakes. I was naïve. I allowed myself to be pushed right back into a familiar situation and this time? I carried my son right in there with me. The fact is that some people, even those who claim to love you, will never respect the boundaries you set. Sometimes when you open that door a crack, they come barreling through like a bull in a china shop. The realization I have come to is that I need to forgive myself. I can’t blame myself for taking a risk and believing in the best just because it didn’t work out the way I had hoped.

Don’t Say Cancer is a Gift

Of course, beneath all of this is the boogeyman under my bed. Cancer. Cancer is hard to put a positive spin on, because really? Between the pain, the pills, the appointments, the fatigue, and of course those damn medical bills, there is nothing positive about cancer. One day I am riding a mechanical bull in Las Vegas (bucket list check) and three days later, I have treatment and  difficulty walking. Every day you wake up and do a mental check-up, what hurts, what doesn’t, and what kind of day can I hope to have in respect to that. By the time I roll out of bed, I am already doing a mental calculation in my head to see if I’ll be able to squeeze in a nap later that day. #napqueen

I may not be able to bring forth any positives about cancer itself, but I can bring about positives that have come up in my life the last four years as a result of my MBC diagnosis. First and always, I have met some of the most amazing people, some of the best friends I could ever hope to have, through this awful disease. Friends so strong, so full of life and love, that you would almost not believe they were ill if you didn’t also share in their darkest moments. I am forever grateful for each of them.

I have also found my voice in a way I never understood was possible. Most of my life has been spent trying to make other people happy without really knowing what would make me happy. I have allowed myself to be mistreated, minimized, and manipulated. Even understanding it was happening at the time, I never knew how to stand up for myself, to speak up. That is completely foreign to me now. When you are told your life will be cut short for whatever reason, you find that you do not have time to waste. I am very conscious of my time and how I spend it, including who I spend it with. Someone who brings me down is not someone I choose to waste time on and I no longer have a problem saying it. I will always be a people pleaser at heart, however I now include myself in that conversation.

I have discovered freedom, fulfillment, travel, and the pleasure of having my time to spend how I want it. Depending on the day, it may be a Netflix binge and pizza, another margaritas and dancing. Cancer has forced me to be present, every day, and I don’t want to waste that focusing on the things that bring me down. It is easy to get overwhelmed, but you don’t have to lie there letting things continue to pile upon you. Break it down, one by one, and find the balance. There is one. Things wouldn’t feel so terrible if there wasn’t something wonderful to compare it to.

Find your balance and focus on the upswing.

*Notice I never went back to talk about my dirty house. It’s a disaster. But I’m choosing to focus on the fact that it is lived in with love and creativity. It’s not a mess if it’s for creative purposes, right?

 

**And Colin, if you are reading this, know you are the light of my life. You drive me insane. Like, bang my head against the wall crazy, but you are the funniest, big hearted, and loving boy. You CAN do your homework; you just don’t want to. You are so smart and make me so proud. I love you more than all of the stars in the sky. I always will.

Don’t Tell Me You’ll Be There

Don’t tell me you’ll be there for me. Don’t say I can depend on you.  Out of the numerous family and friends who have made that statement, I can count on one hand those who actually mean it.  So don’t say it…and I won’t be let down when I realize you don’t really mean it.

It is often said that living with a life threatening illness is an interesting dichotomy. On one side, you have those people who have said they would show up for you and really do.  The other, not so much.  For those of us living this life, we understand that for everyone, life goes on.  We all have our priorities and our own challenges to deal with.  I know I do not begrudge anyone for living their lives as they choose just as I choose to live my life my way.  The rub is that I am consciously aware of my mortality, all of the time.  My challenges are life and death, pain and well-being, fear and peace.

I wish my biggest worries were money, job headaches, and weight gain.

As stressful as those things can be, I now reflect on those trials with a fond innocence. Oh to be worried about bills and nothing else, how cute I was. I do not place the level of importance on them that used to consume me.  When staring your mortality in the face, you realize with all certainty that the only important thing is your relationships with people.  That being said, when those relationships fail you, it is all the more deeply felt.

Expectation is the root of disappointment.

In my heart and my perspective, I have never had the ideal relationship with my family. I love them.  I know on some level that they love me. Some I am closer to than others and some I have sporadic contact with, at best.  And some, well, some seem to go out of their way to make my life harder or more dramatic than it already is.

I learned a long time ago that you cannot expect anyone, especially family, to treat you the way you treat them. To love you as you love them.  Or even to place the importance of your relationship with them on the same level that you do.  Because of that, I have found myself retreating from some of these relationships as a kind of defense mechanism.  If I don’t expect you to be there for me, it won’t hurt as much when you aren’t.

I Cannot, Will Not, Do it Anymore

Have you ever had someone in your life that acts like tragedy is a competition? My illness is worse than yours.  I know you have cancer, but this headache, back ache, knee ache just won’t go away.  If you have experienced this, then you know how exhausting it can be when you are already exhausted from the universe having its way with you.  I can’t do it anymore.  I made the choice a while back that unless someone is adding something positive to my life, then stay away from me.  I will not go down that rabbit hole of someone else’s desperate attempt at martyrdom.

How about the people who get mad at you for irrational or petty reasons? All I can say to that is bye, Felicia.  These are not the people who genuinely care for you.  These are the people who crave attention.  Narcissists who have no logical reason to try to cause you distress other than their own irrational need for controversy.  Be mad at me, I really do not care anymore, because if you were really in my corner?  Petty issues that upset you would be discussed, not lashed out at.  I would not have to see passive aggressive attempts to get my attention for a contrived slight.  I know I’m not perfect and I make mistakes as much as anyone.  I own my errors and would be happy to have a rational discussion about it, especially with someone to whom there was mutual love and respect.  But four years after a terminal cancer diagnosis and I am a no- drama-llama all day.

Never Enough Time

We are all here on this Earth for a very short time. A blink in the eye of the universe.  Whether you are facing a life-threatening illness or not, at the end there is never enough time.  I, and most other metastatic cancer patients, understand this on a fundamental level.  We have gotten used to the people who disappear from our lives.  Personally, I am okay with it.  I respect that life goes on and I respect their choice not to make my issues a priority in theirs.  Go on your way with love and fondness.  But, please, do not pretend, do not make promises, and do not give me hope to expect something more from you than you are capable of giving.

Life can be hard for all of us. We all have struggles, challenges, and fears.  I do not choose to live my life in that zone.  I choose to live in hope, positivity, and action.  I choose happiness over sadness and peace over distress. My life and my circle of friends and family have SHOWN UP.  They said they would and they did, they do, every time.  I am content and my peace of mind is my sanctuary, my home.  Do not come into my home and disrupt that.  I am real, I am ME, and I am not changing.  I love the woman I have grown to be and everything that has gotten me to this point…even cancer.

You do not have to. And, I won’t expect you to.  We will not disappoint each other.

To my friends, my true family, those of you that I’d swim through shark infested water for (well, maybe those sharks that don’t have teeth, but you know…), I appreciate every day that you are THERE. Whether we met two years ago on the internet or have known each other most of our lives, you have taught me what it means to be loved and respected unconditionally.  I take that lesson to heart and put it back out into the universe, to you.  Never underestimate the importance of your relationships.  At the end of your life, that is what you’ll be thinking of, that is what matters.

 

And to my beautiful boy…Colin, if you are reading this, I love you more than all of the stars in the sky.  You are my favorite everything, but please, please stop playing Fortnite.

Living Honestly

Sitting up, wide-awake and late one night, I did some deep thinking. I made an effort to be consciously honest with myself.  What are my priorities?  What do I still want to accomplish?  What is my biggest fear?

Recently, I was told that I might be at the end of the line for my available targeted therapies. My doctor bluntly stated that I had “blown through them too quickly” leaving my next options to be strictly chemotherapy.  My last and most recent appointment showed that my tumor markers had doubled within the month and my pain had noticeably increased.  Like hardly able to walk, increased.  Because of these two things, I was referred to a radiation oncologist for some “spot welding” as my doctor calls it.

Somehow, I had lucked out in my nine-year history with breast cancer and had never experienced radiation before. All I knew were the horror stories relayed by my friends of horrible skin burns, fatigue, pain and further discomfort.  As with anything unknown, I was terrified.  The whole thing makes no sense to me. You are flooding part of your body with radiation hoping it kills cancer cells.  Doesn’t radiation cause cancer?  Not to mention that they take X-rays every day prior to starting the radiation.  I felt like Chernobyl walking.

Regardless, I found myself lying on what looked like a CT scan table, naked from the waist down. Oh, hi strangers, no this isn’t awkward at all.  X-rays were taken, marks were drawn with sharpies, and eventually tiny tattoo dots were placed mapping the area to be struck with radiation.  I was terrified to move in case they missed their target and hit my intestine or colon, the doctor having told me that they wanted to make sure not to hit those areas as that would be bad.  Just that…it would be bad.

I was told I would have ten rounds, or every day for two weeks. Later, I found out that this was really nothing considering I met a woman there who was on her seventeenth week.  I began to feel dumb for making such a fuss about it.  However, here is where it gets cool…after the fourth day, I began to feel…better.  The pain had noticeably decreased. I was overwhelmed with fatigue, but the pain had definitely lessened.

During all of this, I found myself in a very dark place. I was just sad. I have never been one to wallow in my moods, but I feel I did a fair share of wallowing over those two weeks.  Maybe even the last month.  So instead of letting fear set my navigational compass, I asked myself the three questions above and really listened to my answers and myself.

What are my priorities?

Obviously, my number one priority always has been and always be my son. Being the best mother I can be and leaving a lasting impression on him is my everyday goal.  That being said, I also need to be better about self-care.  I push myself too hard.  I am so used to having to do everything myself and I resent not being able to do the things I once did, so I push to the point of breaking.  I should not, nor do I want to do that to myself any more.  What I once felt was lazy, is now a much needed self-care day of rest and restoration.

Continuing to work and doing well at my job remains a priority to me. Do I lose sleep over an unfinished report or that one thing I forgot to do that day?  No.  Not at all.  My career gives me an outlet and opportunity to keep some normalcy in my life.  It also affords me to live comfortably and give my son great experiences.  I am proud of my work, but my life happens when I am home.  I do not live to work.

My friendships are another of my great priorities. For the friends who want to be here, that is.  All of us in the breast cancer community have lost friends and family members who, for whatever reason, cannot handle being present for our cancer experiences.  It hurts at first until you remember to show them the door.  I will not ever waste a moment of time chasing people so they are still in my life in some capacity.  I would rather save my energy to have great moments with my friends and family that are still here.

What do I still want to accomplish?

I have realized that I no longer have grand quests to conquer. My accomplishments are much more narrow and close to home.  For instance, I really want to re-paint my bathroom;  What I was thinking with that green is beyond me now.  I want to read more books.  I want to travel and show my son places he will always remember having been with me.  I want to grow my hair out (I think…maybe not). I want to start painting again and find that creative spirit that has been lying dormant inside me for too long.

Large-scale goals are great, but I have found that it puts too much pressure on me. I do not like having the stress of something lingering that I need to do.  I want to do those little things that fill me up and give me satisfaction.  I am not giving up by any means, but I am trying to let go of the control I so badly want to have on my life.  I am learning to meditate and with it, to let go of things that do not fill me positively.

What is my biggest fear?

Recently, I posted a graphic on my social media pages with the admittance “my biggest fear is being forgotten”. For me, this is the core of my fears in this life.  I cannot control my death, either the when or the how, and I have come to accept that.  I fear death, of course, and that great unknown that all of us will eventually face.  However, my biggest fear comes from the thought that someday (hopefully a long time from now) my son may forget my voice, my laugh, my smell, or how it felt when I held him.  He may have that moment where he realizes he forgets something about me, and it crushes me to think of his pain.

A lot of us, myself included, feel forgotten already by our families, friends, and spouses. Feeling forgotten in life makes it so difficult to have sympathy for those you know will be sad at your passing, yet they do not attempt to be in your life now.  This may be where this fear comes from or it may just be a mother’s lament.  Yet, I have realized that this fear has been my motivation for the last four years.  It is there in everything I do, every picture I take, and every word I write.  It is my way of trying to leave something of me behind.

What now?

Feeling as if I am in a good place, I am going forward reminding myself of the things that matter most to me. I am going to travel as much as I can.  I am going to paint that ugly bathroom.  I will show up at work and give it my all, and then I will go home and be the best mom I can be.  I will not fear what comes next in my treatment, whether I get some more mileage out of this medication after completing radiation or if I have to move on to chemotherapy.  And I am going to keep taking pictures, videos, and anything else I want to document not just my life, but my and my son’s life together.  Self-care starts with admitting to yourself what you really need…this is the first step in mine.

 

 

*Colin, if you are reading this, I love you more than all of the stars in the sky. My sweet boy.