Cancer is Not Cancer; The Agony of being Dependent.

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This was written when I was still quite sick a number of months ago.  I was too low at the time it was written to post it.  I’ve decided to post it now.  I  share it to truth-speak about how painful cancer can be. Sharing what it was for me, as a way of being a voice for those who have not words to share.  This rant of sorts is not an attack on any one person, but a broad-brushed painting of the reality of what it is to be sick and dependant on others.

Cancer is not cancer. It’s not breast cancer or thyroid cancer. It’s strokes, heart attack activity that isn’t, doctors treating you like a hypochondriac while functioning slips away.  It’s skin that peels, clothes that don’t fit anymore, potassium levels so low that legs throb through the night.  It’s not recognizing yourself in the mirror.  Foggy mind half the time not remembering what I’ve said, what you’ve said, what we were talking about.  It’s family sweet as can be, and condescending sometimes too.  It’s having to listen to people “Oh you look like you’re feeling better” while the entire left side of body is numbed out, can’t hear from the left ear, do laundry for five minutes before having chest pain and doctor saying “you’re heart is in great shape”.  It’s your little six year old daughter telling you that you get first place for being the meanest one in the family.  The mean mom that gets tired of the denigrating remarks when trying to get kids to do their chores, one by one the entire family decides they are going to be sicker than Mom today – until their pals come over and off they race across the yard, Nerf and laser guns a-blazing, and once again, when they return to the house, asked to pick up coat, or feed the dog, the sudden illness takes over and death is at the door. 

It’s the doctors passing their job off to another doctor.  Oh it’s the endocrinologists job, no the oncologists job, no the primary care, … .on it goes, while the mystery symptoms that take away my ability to take walks, swim, drive, to care for my kids get worse.  The computerized diagnosis is last word, with physical problems all hovering in the “rare” category, no one bothering to dig deeper while symptoms hold me in place, so much piling up around me, and I must be still. 

Cancer is having all the kind persons who have pitched in to help become judgmental of the way my life looks, judgmental of what happens in this house, condescending of who I am.  It’s having to receive help from others who don’t respect me because they are incapable of helping and empathizing at the same time.  The most empathetic person is the world can flip a switch when doing another a good turn.  It’s watching them lose respect by the day – each and every act of kindness they provide decreases the peer to peer relationship – me having no alternative but to receive it. 

Cancer is not a surgery and missing body part.  It’s the loss, week by weakening week of clients, and eventually a career.  The destruction of a business.  The death of a dream.  It’s not rosy and romantic.  It’s ugly – creepy … the stopper of life.  And I’m stuck between.  Alive and not at all.  Stuck receiving support, care, favors, errands, driving kids to school, with bitterness in the doer, irritation of the helper, and shame at being the taker. 

The part of cancer I can do quite well is walk into the hell hole of the chopping block.  I can tolerate physical pain.  I can usually manage being mangled.  I can’t handle the shame I feel receiving assistance – the baring all – the inside scoop on our junk, irritably of the one doing all the favors due to their superiority and my shame. 

Cancer could be the most ideal way to go if it weren’t for all that.  Known outcomes, time frames, managed symptoms until death.  What makes it awful is loss of dignity (relationship) with people I care about most due to my neediness at the end, and their inability to give and maintain respect for the person they are giving to.  A few of us can give without shaming – most of the time, a few can receive without feeling the shame, but most can not.  We call it being “stewards” of our time and money by nosing into others lives when a need arises.  ‘If she hadn’t let herself go, he’d have never looked elsewhere.”  “There are consequences to slacking on the job”.  “Live and learn”.  We have all said things like this – or thought them.  It’s obvious it’s wrong to give cash to a meth addict.  We take this reasoning further and do harm – judge – while extending a helping hand.  I tell you from the receiving end, it helps more to not help but maintain a relationship of respect then to help with judgment.

Most of us have ZERO BUSINESS being involved in another’s crisis, because crisis is a HOLY PLACE.  It’s where God hovers.  It is SACRED.  Anytime we have all the answers, we do harm.  Anytime we can’t give without judgment, we harm.  Anytime we get inside the disaster of each other’s life and can’t set judgment aside, we hurt each other.  I’m getting to feel it, first hand.  No one means to harm.  They just want the system to work better.  Just want routines in place that make things better, but that’s not how it feels to the one is on the receiving end.  If I ever get beyond this cancer mess, I vow to God and to others that I will NEVER HELP SOMEONE UNLESS I CAN HAVE A SOLID CHECK ON MY ATTITUDE. 

Do I resent helping my kids with things they need help with? 

How does that make them feel? 

Do I resent making supper. 

Giving a gift and resenting the giving DOES HARM. 

Do I resent helping a friend, I HAVE ZERO BUSINESS HELPING UNLESS I CAN HELP FROM A PLACE OF EMPATHY. 

Cancer is not cancer. 

Cancer is everything else – but one thing. 

Cancer is not Boss, God is. 

God is the only one out there I know what manages disasters and love all at the same time. 

If i’m well enough to work again, I’m working for Him.

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What Race are the Kindest of Doctors?

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I had a doctor once, slight of stature, brown kind eyes, practical wash and wear hair, nothing fancy about her, and the one who sifted through mountains of charts – two separate charts belonging to one giant medical system.  One chart spelled with an “e”, the other spelled correctly without.  Both charts mine – and she found them.  Bent over her desk.  Diligent she was. 

Discovered, out of dozens of notes that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations.  This information was not found where one might expect.  She found it anyway, because she worked on my case.   From this information she realized I must not take Tamoxifen, a medicine used for breast cancer patients who are found to be estrogen positive.  A medicine that can cause a stroke for those with my gene mutation.  She suggested I not take it.  Diligent hunt.  Diligent follow-through. 

I had 6 miscarriages before the gene mutation was looked for and identified. 

The gene mutation that caused the miscarriages. 

A number of doctors did not check, though they knew my history.

One did. 

Brown kind eyes he had, too.

Found it. 

Treated it. 

And Butterfly was born perfect and alive.

“Miscarriages are not unusual. 

They are nature’s way of discarding what is flawed”

say lazy doctors everywhere,

brown and blue eyed alike. 

Those doctors who do not see the value in learning the cause of a problem

before using one-liner’s to shush up the likes of me.

My PCP, always respectful of me, when I mentioned how heavy my sheets felt on my neck at night while laying on my back, immediately stepped out of the tiny examining room, hurried down the hall and ordered an ultrasound.  There it was, thyroid cancer. My endocrinologist who hand checked my neck each and every visit paid no attention when I told him the same story.  One doctor listened. On doctor didn’t.  Taking little stock in what the person that lives inside the body might know about herself.

After the thyroid cancer diagnosis, my husband and I asked my oncologist if thyroid cancer might have been related to the breast cancer I had months before.  She said “no”.  The next visit, the same oncologist brought in research showing us she had been wrong.  Said that it very well might have been related. 

She didn’t have to tell. 

Didn’t have to admit she had been wrong. 

There are doctors who are sloppy, lazy, don’t read the fine print. 

Make mistakes because they don’t listen,

don’t trust,

don’t respect. 

And then there are the doctor’s who do.

Thank God for the gene testing doctor’s of the world.

Doctor’s who don’t take it upon themselves to social engineer other people’s lives. 

Doctor’s who don’t minimize another person’s need when it causes them inconvenience.

For doctor’s that hunt and read and listen. 

The doctor’s who set aside ego, and act accordingly.   

I am alive because of some good ‘work hard for another’s sake’ sort-of doctor’s.

Women,

Men,

Asian,

Puerto Rican,

Jewish

Irish,

Tibetan,

Middle Eastern,

African American,

German,

a mix of them all. 

Each of these good doctors have more in common with each other than language and country of origin.  Hard-working kindness is a culture of it’s own.  A race of kind hearts, and kind eyes. 

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin,

but by the content of their character.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You’re Gone

DSC_0153Breast Cancer killed you.  It took and done way with you, my friend.  Tore your life away.  Now you’re gone.  We were both getting well to run a ridge together on some grand mountaintop.  Now we can’t. I can’t even believe it.  You’re gone.  You died this morning “quietly in her sleep”.  Quietly.  Right. That’s what happens when your very breath is choked out, your brain is eaten, you just die and I HATE IT.  I’m so so so sorry Wendy, that they couldn’t heal you.  Wonder why God said no.  So sick and angry that your life is gone.  I want you back.  Want to fb you once again.  Call you on the phone.  Want to get off my lazy ass and get an airplane ticket and fly out to your Ohio farm and hold your hand and command you “Get Up in Jesus Name” but I had my fears, was too lazy and I didn’t and you are nowhere to be found as you have died, and have been taken away, and are no more and I ache with Leif who is alone now, and for your beautiful daughters who had to watch cancer show its menacing teeth, ripping tearing at you until you disappeared but for ash and earth and a stone overhead.  I HATE CANCER.  You were alive, an active God fearing beautiful woman.  Another beautiful woman fighting thyroid cancer also young died few weeks ago.  I’ve been holding on by strands, and feel I’m slipping away with the rest of you have who have been taken.  You had breast cancer, she had thyroid cancer.  I’ve had both.  How am I to fare?  I needed you both to make it, and you didn’t.  Your families, they have their reasons to need you to live.  I have my own.  I want to live.  Why will I live when you don’t?  I can’t breathe.  Something on my chest.  And I gasp, while you stopped gasping.  And the fear overtakes.  A non-pretty blog for the ripping, tearing torment of a thing called cancer death.

Faded PJ’s

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This morning, through dawn light, sitting in the stillness of my early hour house, eyes yet to focus, I glance along the edging of my soft blue pajamas and I feel a smile creeping now.  Sleepy smile, I feel it spread about my heart and down into my bones.  The fade of pajamas blue hover about me all the day, and I whisper good things under my breath.  Hope that this newest pair of already faded pajamas will become faded, no, just straight ratty.  That they will grow very old until they are ribbons of happy nothing. 

Crisp new pajamas.  I’ve grown to not like them much.  They come to me to be placed in suitcase packed for a hospital every time.  Some of the hospital visits are beautiful.  Baby boy brought home, precious and perfect.  Pajamas that didn’t fit me before, and body too much a mess to wear after.  That pair stayed nice for years. To the hospital for another baby, this time, a perfect tiny daughter.  I’d not remembered to think of pajamas for me. She had arrived before I’d expected, a month early.  Hadn’t packed a thing.  Other than things for her.  Her cotton pink footie-pajamas were washed, folded, held close against my cheek, folded again.  Ready months before.  My friend had thought of me when I had forgotten.  She brought to the hospital a lovely nightgown of soft pink and white, smocked and pleated, buttons down front.  I loved that nightgown.  I wore it year after year.  Don’t remember whatever became of it.  I’m guessing it was loved into shreds and threads as I rocked and fed, made a lap for two babies, a lap for reading and holding and spit up and …. Another baby years later.  And another. Pajamas packed and used until they were no more. 

As of late, pajamas for the suitcase bound for harder hospital stays.  Visits of cuts and drains, blood draws, parts removed, another cancer, another procedure, another and another. 

New pajamas. 

No thank you. 

I want to see how long the fade will keep on fading. 

Will the blue of light seem more white than blue?  I’m hoping so.  I could buy new ones for no particular reason.  And then I wouldn’t be needing another special book for my son on how to build something from nothing.  I wouldn’t be needing running shoes for me, or another hydrangea for my gardener girl, wouldn’t need to save for a night out with my best friend. I’d be too cut off from life to be buying sheet of music to practice with my girls.  I’d be winding down to dead, and I don’t want that. 

I really love how faded these pajamas have gotten.  Their worn down look speaks to how long it’s been since I’ve made a visit to the chopping block.  Long enough to make new fabric old.  Long enough to grow some strength on the legs that wear these pajama pants.  Fabric fades faster than it use to, I think.  Or my machine has more gusto than it use to.  In any case, time has passed without another reason for new pajamas, and I’m hoping my healthy full life thins them down to nothing at all.  I’m hoping.    

Weight Loss

Summer and Fall 2013 179
The writer and butterfly.

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

Always hiding sloppy me

I didn’t the match the girl inside

And as I prayed and struggled on

Appeared, one day, just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

Inch by inch

and

Size by size

I finally matched the girl inside

The years went by

most all was well

And then a cancer came to tare

And ripped the breast from off my chest

And choked my trust

And froze my bounce

And once again the hiding came

I didn’t match the girl inside

And still I prayed and struggled on

Appeared one day just what to do

A friend I’d make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it came

I grew to love

the one breast me

18 months of

all is well

And then a cancer came again

This time to claim

my thyroid gland

And spill around throughout my nodes

And throw my body balance off

I use to be who I am now

Fat and covered in cellulite

And now I know just what to do

A friend I’ll make

The one I hate

And over time

The change it comes

I grow to love

the one breast girl

fat and covered in cellulite

And as I friend away the shame

The outside me

it starts to

match

the girl I’ve always been

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Not Knowing

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Today a friend commented after having told her how I’m doing, “So, no changes,huh?” That is so depressing to me. At the moment, I’m setting up a counseling business because the last office I set up made me no money in 6 months. Will this one be a waste of time too, although I have a book keeper now trying to help me keep paperwork straight? As we speak, we are packing up a daughter for college. We are preparing to put the younger two in school, we are asked to decided whether we want to move to Salt Lake now, or in January, or Charleston now or later or stay here. As for staying here, we are told we can’t refinance unless we raise our house payments by a TON, and that our house has to be finished, which we haven’t been able to manage yet. Dealing with Adored Husband mentally teetering on the brink of crazy and genius as he always does when he’s inventing – the thing he does for a living.

…they that wait upon the Lord WILL renew their strength…

I’m told to keep moving forward. To act as if I’m going to put the kids in local school. As if I will have a dozen paying clients in my new office in a week, moving forward.. not knowing – yet moving forward. I don’t do that well, which means I’m not doing well. Last year – today – I had a breast removed in an effort to keep cancer from spreading through me. That was the day I wondered if the cancer was taking me or moving on. I had to adjust to one on, one off. The crisis gone, why does life feel so off and so hard and so confusing? I don’t know. All I know is that I love to see my kids learn and grow. I love to work with clients, even when I’m not getting paid. I love my friends in WA, and my house. I love the mountains in Salt Lake, and the sunshine. I don’t love anything about Charleston because it’s too far from my kids… but if I was forced to, I’d learn to love life there as well. I love my guy, always curious about life  – despite his swings. And so I toss the stress back at God…. and move forward, not knowing.  Teetering forward, haltingly forward, hoping as I move along that God will direct these stressed out steps of not knowing.

Holy Underthings

The drive to Nordstroms to meet with the plastic part fitter, I’m a mess.  Want to go alone, but find no way of doing so.  Butterfly is along, chatting happily from back seat, asking me random questions.  “What are we doing after we go to the mall, Mom?  Are we going back home?  Is Sis going to be home by then?”  Our college beauty-girl is coming home for Christmas break.  I meet her at the airport tonight.  She hasn’t been home in months, and the house is all a buzz. The kids and I put everything together just right, but day before college beauty-girl arrives I fall apart and cry the entire day.  I have put off getting a prosthetic four months now.  I want more than anything to have a Merry Christmas with our kids.  I’m so lousy at faking.

Grey drizzle, wipers going, butterfly and I make our way down the interstate corridor.  We play Christmas Music.  It’s hard singing with a throat lump.  She is still chattering as we make our way out of car, Butterfly and I.  We are in the store, weaving through the bustle of the season, the escalator up, up toward sparkling Christmas trees.

Another bit of a walk and we are in the lingerie department.  There’s a line.  I wait behind one beautiful lady after another.  I think I’m the only one here today not buying lace and satin because I’m lovely enough to show off for my man.  I hate the gouge in my chest, numb and not belonging.  No matter how much Adored Husband tells me every day he finds me beautiful, I feel like trash. Butterfly’s warm hand swings mine.

“May I help you” says another gorgeous lady.  “I have an appointment” I say.  She rushes to the back room and in time Kind Eyes greet me.  “Hi” She takes my hand, tells me her name.  She smiles and talks to Butterfly.  We walk past the panties and satin gowns, down a narrow hall of mirrored doors, walls papered in flowers, soft carpet.  Christmas tunes playing as key unlocks room at end to the right.  We pass through the door. In the fitting room there are the preliminaries.  The measures.  The questions.  Cat rarely gets my tongue.  I can’t find much to say.  Slow at answering Kind Eyes questions.

I sit there in a fluffy overly turquoise robe and wait a while longer as she rushes away only to return with the loveliest girlie things I’ve seen in a long time.  Beautiful things.  Things I had thought would never be part of my life again.  The prosthetic is completely hidden.  I can’t stop looking.  I look like me.  I feel the shock.  It warms me.  I turn to look at her.  She’s busy loosening each, one by one, from their hangers.  Even the hangers are pretty.  Somehow industrial undergarments are all I can imagine will hold a prosthetic.  These are nothing of the kind.  No-one can ever tell from sight I’m missing a breast, that I’m wearing an engineered pillow that fits in a pocket.

This lady probably doesn’t know it, but she works for God.  Her calling is holy.  I think of the designers of these bras.  They must be God’s agents, too.  The engineers who make the best prosthetic they can, thinking of everything from comfort to heat transfer – ministers, all of them.

The song playing overhead  “… till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”  I leave the holy place of lingerie, Butterfly and I.  We weave past the sparkling Christmas trees, down the escalator and out into the grey.  “…a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, la, la, de, daah….”

Space Junk

Tomorrow I get a prosthetic.  A strange fake thing that is suppose to look real, feel real, make me look normal. I hate it already and I don’t even have it.  I want to hurl it as far as my lame girl throw is able.  I want to see if the damn thing skips on water.  Can it knock a branch clean off a sturdy tree?  I want to know if it can smash a window, a lot of windows.  Maybe go through one window at the back of the house and keep right on going until it flies through the window at the other end of the house.  Fling the thing far away until it takes to orbiting the planet with the rest of the space junk.

Plastic nauseates me.  When girls grow up, we seem all very much alike until we mature a bit… and eventually part ways over plastic.

 

Some girls to the land of stuffed bras, fake nails, 6” heels, pasted lashes, hair spray stiff. The rest of us might try awhile to improve ourselves with the many aids, but finally hate the confinement so much we give in to the realization that we are one of the plain girls that’ll have to do.

I know folks with a missing foot or arm are thankful for the prosthetic that enables them to be who they are, and move about, but how does a fake breast help me at all?  I can’t wear it swimming.  I’ve read stories of those out for a swim seeing the embarrassing thing float by. Can’t run with it.  Can’t sleep better with it.  Just a spiteful reminder of what’s gone each time I put it on and take it off.

But tomorrow I get the prosthetic.  I can’t stop the flood of tears that surprise me.  My gut aches with the sobbing.  I’m so angry.  I can’t sop up the mess fast as it comes.  Strange, but deep down I feel like getting this fake breast tomorrow seals the deal.  Like it’s an agreement with the insurance agency that I’ll have my breast taken off and kept off permanently.

So that’s it.  Every personal medical crisis I’ve experienced in my life has been resolved over time.  Never before have I had a medical loss for good.

Not just the loss of my breast, forever gone, but the loss of how I do life.  Carefree and wind blown in my own comfortable skin.

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I’ll wear a prosthetic for the sake of everybody else.  People have the right to go out and about and not run into a one breasted woman.  I guess it’s final.  I do need one. Dresses will never fit right, nor coats nor bras without.  It’s not a replacement of what once was part of me.  It’s clothing filler.  That’s all.  And besides, it just might do on a dull afternoon as a discus.

Amelia

To Float Away

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My four year old is pretending again.  “She’s my mommy.” she says, referring to our sweet friend enjoying an end of the day swim with us.  “You’re the shark!!” My little chatty butterfly points to me.  I smile and feel the stab.  I love her pretend world.  How can her little innocent play feel real?  With the cancer diagnosis, the mastectomy, being told my genes have a high return for a whole variety of cancers, early and deadly – I’ve had to fight my thoughts.  My hyper-focused husband trying to manage the random task of raising our kids alone.  The impossibility of that.  Another Mommy raising our 10 year old tender powerhouse child,  our 4 year old butterfly, and our two older – independent but still needing a mom at times – kids who have just starting college.  There’s no way around it.  The kids will suffer. I’ve been feeling for a while now that bit by bit I’m floating away.  Far away to another place.

To one who has never seen the whites of the eyes of death, the rational goes something like this: “We all die sometime.  It’s just a matter of when.  It’s a waste of time and energy dwelling on it.”  Those words belong to folks who have not had their invincability yanked away.  When invincible is removed, there is the reality of the thing. What the family will have to deal with – what will be missing.  It’s ugly and raw when it’s real.

It would have been so kind of our foremother and father to never have tasted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  The way that concept is taught leads one to believe that the first bite delivered a mouthful of sweet goodness that instantly changed to the sour rot of evil.  I’m thinking, however, as days and then years strip away one security blanket after another, ache after heart breaking ache, that the slow stripping away is the gruesome process of fully knowing the difference between the two, no longer able to frame hideous evil as natural, but knowing evil as evil, period.

Butterfly’s innocent pretend words sit heavy on my chest as I float on back across the pool.  I glance upward.  I’m surprised to see high above me the ceiling is mirror.

There I am, floating body, floating away.  Tight throat, tears slipping into the chlorinated blue around.  Letting-go bruises deep.  Bruises that throb.  I float there, thinking how I despise not feeling safe the way I once did.  I hate myself for being stuck in this floundering place of uncertainty. The pain turns my thoughts sideways and twisted.  “The kids will be better off”.  I’m thinking I will never be able to give them what they need, even if I live a long life, I will never feel safe again, impossible managing the day to day in a state of floating away.  I flail, wanting loose from the heaviness, this march toward goodbyes.  I want to run.  Run wild. Run and swim and fly far and strong.  I think of how I love to move.  Think how confining death will be.  Still.  Immovable. Anger burning.  I’ll never be able to talk Adored Man into letting my ashes float upon the water where at least the pieces of me will be moving.  More gut retching.

The side of the pool supports my aching head.  Irritated, I think myself to be ridiculous, breast removal almost 3 months behind me.  No chemo, no radiation, clean margins.  Pathetic drama and stupid.  I hate myself.  Treated water washes the reddened face.  I pull myself together and cross over, back to the other side of the pool.  To our friends and kids in time to hear chatty butterfly say “Mom, you are a very nice shark.”  She senses everything.  I hate myself even more.  “God, I need your help”.  I start to fake laugh and chat through tight throat.

We manage through our evening swim.  I return to the room with kids in tow, get the evening duties rapped up, say our good-nights.  As I wind down on my bed, I open the Bible to the random text of the night.  Psalms 88. Oh Lord, God of my salvation, I have cried out day and night before you.  Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry.  For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to the grave.  I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a ‘woman’ who has no strength, Adrift among the dead…You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the depths.  Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you have afflicted me with all your waves.

Did that just say waves??  OH MY GOD.  He sees me.  Jaw slides out of palm, a tired profile down onto the cool white sheet.  Still.  A shiver runs through.

I put the verse within range of my site. …“Lord, I have called daily upon you; I have stretched out my hands to you. Will you work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise you? Shall your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or your faithfulness in the place of destruction? Shall your wonders be known in the dark? And your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?  But to you I have cried out, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer comes before you.  Lord, why do you cast off my soul? Why do you hide your face from me? I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer your terrors; I am distraught.  Your fierce wrath has gone over me; your terrors have cut me off.  They come around me all day long like water; they engulfed me altogether….”

Some would not find this text comforting.  I do.  A man after God’s own heart is in the black place I’m in.  There is no happy ending.  It’s the dark throbbing heart of all of us trapped on this death laden planet.  His journal is not painted rosy to make tolerable.  It’s written exactly how things are.  No tidy rapping it up.  David does not suggest one should look on the bright side, count blessings.  He does not remind himself or us that others have it much worse, to forgive and forget, to deal with it.  The chapter is not missing a thing, because it’s the path of deep and lasting healing.  In the book Pilgrims Progress, Pilgrim takes a path to the Celestial City.  The only path to the City takes him through The Slew of Despond, the sloppy mud hole where sin and the consequences of evil can suck us under if not for help sent by God for each of us who pass through this dark place.  “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Those are words of Jesus Christ.  God himself passed through this blank swamp.

Research backs up what the Bible models.  In order for a person to heal from trauma or loss of any kind there are steps that must be taken.  One of the steps is depression – i.e. hopelessness.  Short cuts create emotional wounds that in time become toxic cesspools.  Wounds that block the healing process for years, permeating multiple layers of a person’s wellbeing.

I close my eyes.  The image of me floating away lingers.  God reached me tonight, by sharing with me a scripture of dispear.  He has painted a different picture, helping  reframe this hopeless struggle.  I’m drifting away, but on a Sea called Grief and Loss.  I’m still here.  Experiencing once again another tearing away of the security blanket called invincible.  Another bite of sour evil.  And feeling it.

“Mom!!, Mommy, Mommy, I’m telling you something.  The Butterfly’s voice gets louder and higher.  “I have to go to the bathrooooom!!”  Slipping out of bed, I smile.  Ya, I’m still her Mommy.

Amelia

What Breast Cancer Can Not Destroy

Summer and Fall 2013 005

I’ve taken a trip to hide.  My husband has business here intermittently, and having just had my breast removed because of cancer, he was not inclined to have us separated.  Me either, for that matter. There is a period of time after surgery where no fake part can be used to get out and about, because the wound is just too raw, and reconstruction immediately is not an option for me due to other health conditions.  I’d be looking like a freak, all bound in an ace, one still with me, and the other giant nothingness where something use to be.

Days have passed… weeks.  I’ve decided that though my breast is gone, some things have not changed. I’m not hiding anymore.  When I can ware the fake pad, I will.  When it’s too painful, I won’t.  When it slides to the middle of my chest and you stare at me…. , than stare on.  Some things one cannot prevent unless one changes ones life to sitting idly by, making sure ones faulsie does not shift from it’s designated location.  To live, in my skin, is to move.  Therefore there will be awkward moments of things not in their place.  So be it.

I still have my family, the same as they’ve always been…. crazy, fun, loud and eccentric as all get out.

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I still have God.  Praise, anger, gratitude, rage… when I sob so deep in my gut I break blood vessels in my face, He is still and close and listens.  I can feel his smile on me sometimes, even when I blather on and on.  He loves me as is. I let that soak into me.  I need it right now.

I can still sing… I wasn’t sure how much would change as the breast sits over-top my lung, and thought maybe it would hallow out the sound, or weaken it.  No, all’s intact there.

My husband still finds me beautiful.  When you love someone this long, there is so much more to beauty than dimensions and contour.  His love and attraction gives me confidence to get about and live life, even now in a state where I can’t use some pretend thing to make myself look “normal”.  Sometimes hard things rip a couple apart.  Sometimes trauma heals broken places.  We promised each other before surgery we would not waste this horror, but would make sure the pain became fertilizer for growth and love.  God has helped us keep our promise to each other.  We are still a couple with ups and downs… but feel safer with each other, less defensive.  The love is real and blows about our hearts as we silently wonder how long we have each other.

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Jazz is still as amazing as ever, a good standard still fills up the pours in my soul.

This is still My Father’s World. The beauty on the hills around me the past 3 weeks has, at times, overwhelmed me.  Last weekend we got to 10,000 feet, it took a lot of huffing and puffing, but we did it.  Up there I can almost touch God, there where the clouds hover beside, pink our cheeks and frizzle hair with dew.

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Jury is still out on swimming.  I can’t yet, as the wound has not healed.  It has not stopped me from getting in the pool waist-high, and doing a kind of 46-year-old version of a ballet warm up, hanging on to the side with one hand, toe front, than swooping under and behind all the way back, out of the water, then front again… trying to keep myself from turning into mush.  I still feel the excitement stepping into the pool room, smelling the water.

I remember, a number of years back, the first time I discovered my connection to God and water.  I was trying for the 100th time to make my way through the Bible, found myself waylaid at Genesis 1:2 “The Earth was without Form; and void.  And darkness was on the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God hovered over the water.”  I realized at that moment that so much of what hurts us now…. giant voids all around and so much darkness, that Gods Spirit still hovers over, wanting to immerse us, heal us, and fill in the void that aches us.  Since then, I have discovered that swimming heals anxiety, have experienced the tonic of running in the rain, fresh grated ginger tea, a hot shower, ice on a twisted ankle, and standing on the bank of frigged mountain river, I watch as one child, another year, another child, and then again, our oldest three choose death to self and life to Christ in Baptism.  I still experience God near the water, and can’t wait to return to all the healing opportunities of my ugly blue swim cap, goggles and the crawl that has coaxed me out of bed and to the pool 5 a.m. BBC (Before Breast Cancer).

I can still RUN!!!!!  Found myself some Brooks.. my old ones were hanging by a thread.  The ones I just bought are mostly PINK.  What’s with PINK AND PURPLE RUNNERS THIS SEASON??… Oh well…. I ran, ace baggage and all, in red rock along a dirt road not far from Arches National Park. OK, just a walk/run under 2 miles, but it made me smile to know I can do this!

Have not tried to bike yet.  Should be OK, am just having to be OK with looking strange as nothing stays in place when truly active.  I saw a to-die-for baby aqua blue road bike I coveted at REI the other day.  It’s important to openly talk about ones temptations:)  And as I’m writing this, I’m thinking if I have a most strikingly beautiful bike, maybe the sideways station of my presentation will not be noticed.  OK, I’m justifying.  I’ll be fine with the ole stand-by:)

Cancer has slowed me down some.  “In our intact bodies we Live, and Move and Have Our Being” – NOT!  I hang on tight to Him in whom I live and move and have my being…no matter what is going on with my body.

In some ways breast cancer has changed me.  The feeling that life will be long.  Confidence that I will get to raise my children.  With the breast cancer diagnosis came information about a couple mutated genes that given the predictions could put me into a fetal position permanently.  I won’t pretend I haven’t soaked my pillow over and over, the future looming and heavy, but I regularly have to release to God my desire to raise our kids to adulthood, and be involved in our future grandchildrens lives.  These things are up to God.  He will decide.

Cancer is nasty.  Some people refer to reconstruction as “A Boob Job” and “A Tummy Tuck”.  I’ve been told loosing a breast is no worse than loosing a tooth, that I should be thankful for…and a long list of horrors are presented that are “much worse than loosing a breast.  What good are they, anyway?” I’ve heard things from people about loosing my sexual power by loosing a breast, and how sorry they are for me.  Some women may feel that way, but I don’t have the foggiest idea what that would be about.  No hard feelings.  These words come from people I love, and who love me.  They just don’t know what they are talking about.  Of course there are the words and actions, kind and wonderful.  Hundreds of them, thousands maybe.  In moments of black, however, they stand at a distance, hard to recall, and too far from me.

My breasts took a lot of getting use to as I was one of those freak girls who had to ware a bra in 2nd grade, was shy, and didn’t want attention for physical reasons in any way.  Missing a breast is just as embarrassing, people notice me for physical reasons.  Awkward.

The reality of loosing a breast is complicated…takes some getting use to.  Try imagining that every day when you dress, you put on your left sock first… and suddenly your left foot is gone.  The routine you once had is not possible, don’t quite know how to start your day. 

A week after surgery, I gathered all the strength in me and had a look, first time, at the wound.  The shock was horrific.  Looked as if a rabid animal had ripped breast from chest wall.  Revoltion, hot tears, the punishment I deserved for having been fondled at 8 by Land Lord of Apartments.  The words ringing in my ears, round and round in my head they condemned me “It’s interesting that you were the one molested when the others weren’t.”  The implication obvious… I had done something to cause the molestation that time, and the time when Youth Pastor molested me at 12, in car, along side road, on the way to babysit children so he and wife could go out for date, removing his pants and asking me if I’d ever seen man turned on before.  I deserved the cancer, the tearing shred, heavy chunk of black flesh atop scab.  Bones projecting from up to collarbone and down to nothingness.  I deserve shame.  That’s what I get. 

The words of people I’d tell secret to, in prayers preaching to forgive and forget.  Even since the cancer, in prayers, and to my face, telling me with hearty laugh “You know you did this to yourself, don’t you.  You have no one to blame but you.” The laugh resumes and walks away and burns hot. 

Things not thought of in so long become vivid color, words and actions with the viewing of the hideous chest, the hole.

I have observed nothing so violent before, although experienced birth four times, six miscarriages, a burst appendix. Nothing, including cancer, however, is nasty enough to rip away the “me” made in Gods Image.  That dignity, no ravage can touch.  I’m still the same me I’ve always been.  I’m done hiding.  If the void in me makes you uncomfortable, I suggest you find yourself some water.  I know I’m going to.

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Amelia Ponder