This morning, there was a lovely young black cat sitting on my back porch—nice touch!—and later, when I opened the door to let Holden out, a beautiful dragonfly landed on my leg.
Then when I got up to come outside for some fresh air since there was a woodpecker PECKING ON MY HOUSE, a broad-winged hawk did a nosedive past my chair.
Real subtle, guys—I get it!
So in a nutshell, the best way for me to explain how I feel about my diagnosis is that I have a new monster in my closet. It's an ugly one, and boy, does he give me nightmares.
But—BUT—I'm not going to let him lurk there, causing me fear and anxiety in waking life. I'm not going to allow him to prevent me from embracing life, being present, or living in the moment. I'm not going to let him stop me from kicking ass and taking names and continuing to work as hard as I do every day to create, and to breathe in and appreciate the creativity of others . . . to succeed and revel in the success of others . . . to leave a meaningful legacy behind me when I leave this earthly plane, whenever that may be.
What I am going to do is this.
I'm going to strap a leash on that hideous beast and make him work for me. Carry my shit for me. Pour me my morning coffee. Hell, maybe even do a load of laundry or two. Do you think he cooks? Does windows?
The truth is, I am lucky. I might walk away from this with little more than a nasty scar or two, which may or may not be turned into a tattoo one day. Right, Carl?
And I might not.
Either way, I realize I have to be grateful for how fortunate I am. It pains me to think of the struggles people face with this disease every single day—children and adults alike, as it does not discriminate. The things I see at the cancer center and here online and on the news remind me of how blessed I am . . . but then again, I always was . . . and I always will be, no matter what.
Because let's face it. Who has friends that send them daisies (because daisies make everyone feel better) and bring them hot coffee from home in a mug? And drive it over without spilling a drop? And are in general just too awesome to even describe?
See? I'm blessed. But the pendulum swings both ways, and you have to be prepared to lose your equilibrium every now and then. Sometimes more.
A recent post by Mike Davis of The Lovecraft eZine on what it's like to live with Fibromyalgia was so spot on and articulate that it made me want to cry. I've lived with Fibromyalgia for so many years I've lost count . . . along with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Myofascial Pain, insomnia, and debilitating migraines. (Yes, I know, I'm a wreck!) A terrible fall in 2011 that some of you know about cost me my career, exacerbated my symptoms, catapulted me into a deep, dark hole that I've only recently come out of, and stole years from my life.
But that's a story for another time, I suppose. (Just remind me to tell you if you haven't heard it and would like to . . . it's a doozy.)
And just like the picture my friend Gretchen gave me to serve as my emblem for this recent battle, the picture a student of mine drew for me in his "Get Well" card (one of over a hundred my seventh graders sent after it happened) was what got me through the darkest days and, strangely enough, is the strongest visual association I make with the accident today. It's not the scar inside my mouth from the emergency oral surgery, or the lump on my chin from where all the muscle detached from the bone. It's not dollar signs representing the three figure medical bills and years of lost wages. It's not the contents of my classroom taking up most of my basement.
It's . . . it's this.
But all else aside, I'll be damned if this hasn't made me smile, no matter how gravely unfunny the situation really was. And still is, by the way. My disability trial is scheduled for this month, almost four full years after the accident.
But there's a time to grieve, and a time to heal. It's so easy to get stuck in the grief . . . so incredibly easy. Letting go of the anger, resentment, and negativity to begin the journey of healing is hard.
But it's beautiful, and it's a gift we can't squander if given the opportunity. For instance, I just looked up to see Holden following a white butterfly around the yard. Every now and then it lands on him, and he just stands still until it flies away and he tags along. Pretty symbolic, if you believe in that sort of thing. And if not, that's okay. I'll just point out that that it's something I would have missed if I wasn't living in the moment.
The point is . . . what is the point?
Oh, yes. The point is that I had cancer, and while they think they removed it all during my recent surgery, I was told so with the following caveats:
- the cancer can recur locally (in or near the site where it was completely removed) months or years after surgical removal.
- patients who experience local recurrence have a low rate of survival.
- the risk of it returning are extremely high—in terms of the risk factors involved, I have all of them.
- they can't guarantee I don't have it elsewhere (metastatic)
- it spreads silently, often with no symptoms.
The point is that I'm going to have to work hard at reducing stress in my life so I don't wear myself out fighting all of my battles at once. I have to learn my limits and respect them. I have to take care of myself and prioritize. I have to stop pretending I can juggle so many projects that all it does is make me crazy and exhausted and sick. I have to tell people that I have boundaries and restrictions. I might even have to learn to say no. I just can't do everything . . . after all, I'm only human.
Like Ragin' Cajun says, I have to learn to let go and let love. And with you guys behind me, I think I've got that covered.
It'll be a balancing act, for sure. But with the right amount of self-care, and the love, support, and encouragement of family and friends, I just might learn to manage all the monsters in my closet.
My only question is, how is there even room for monsters with so many skeletons in there?
Definitely fuck cancer.
Thanks for reading,