I Can’t Drive 55

Oh wait. Yes I can.

So, I’m turning 55 this coming Friday and it’s been on my mind. It feels like a massive turning point, way more than 50 did. Don’t know why, but it’s interesting to let the thoughts and feelings about it flit in and out. I notice but don’t dwell. My spirit doesn’t feel 55. My body feels like Methuselah but with love, care, and attention I’m moving backwards to a younger me. Feeling blessed. Feeling tired. Loving the long summer we’re having and so far all of it before my birthday which almost never happens. Summer doesn’t usually start in the Pacific Northwest until July 5th. It is our corny joke.

Feeling grateful and yet still releasing some grief stuff. It hits me Sunday afternoons, probably because I’m rested up after a week of working hard and finally have had enough down time that I let down my defenses… And have a good cry and a nap and then burn wood or sew or do some more nothing. And I can read books again. Challenging books! I haven’t been able to really read in over a year thanks to chemo. I’m serious. My ability to read, to know the date, to put something on my calendar, to track just about anything disappeared for over a year. Ah. Beloved books.

Looking forward to 4 days off in a row, I really need it. Casey and I are going to see a Talking Heads tribute band on my birthday at the Tractor, dinner with mum the next day. You know you’ve found the man for you when you say you want a canning set for your birthday and he asks if you want water canning or pressure canning. I’m so in love….

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I’m very addicted to bluebirds of any type. Bluebirds of happiness. On my tattoo, in my artwork, my earrings, now my curtains. After 8 months (!) in my new home I’m finally making it a home. I was so exhausted when I moved in I didn’t do much to make my house a home. I discovered what a lame ass my landlady is. She should have replaced the carpet and had the bathroom cleaned but she was so greedy to get someone in for her own plans she took advantage of me. A fellow BTW (British Traditional Witch) took advantage of a friend and cancer patient. Yup. Harm none. Whatever witch.

Nothing much got done because I started packing when my third degree radiation burns were in full swing and I was exhausted and in pain and I knew I had to rest because I was starting work 3 weeks later. I got stuff unpacked and the basics made available but no nesting. I’ve been dating Casey now just over 6 months (!) and working 7(!) and am finally nesting. The photos above are the curtains I bought for my 55 birthday present for my bedroom. Expensive? Yes. And on sale too. Cheap eating this week for sure. But they will last the rest of my life. Hand embroidered wool on cotton, they are my dream curtains and I can’t wait for them to arrive. Little by little. A rug is next on the agenda. A nice rug for the bedroom.

Getting ready to purge a few things, add a few things, need to frame a few things.

Going to be teaching some wood burning demos and classes this fall and that’s exciting.

Hoping to get first or second place in a contest at work because it has a generous cash prize, plus making my bonus this month, back full time instead of part time, and the money I’ll get paid for the classes are going to help me pay off some medical bills, nest some more, and provide 4 days at a cabin at Mt. Rainier at the end of September. Plod plod plod as fast as I can, it’s no wonder we sleep most of the weekend.

Work is going well and I’m not breaking down every hour any more. Maybe once a week and that’s HUGE progress. When I get a little down Casey reminds me that I’m really moving forward. He’s such a good soul, such a good heart, good man. He’s so good to me and he can COOK! I know he’s in my life because while I battled cancer I finally discovered my own value, in my own heart, in my own soul. I finally realized I deserved a man like him. And the Universe responded.

So I look at my life right now and I see that I have a lot of love from many directions, a good CAREER, not just a job, a real MAN, a lovely home, and I know that this is my third chance at a good life, the second deadly disease I’ve recovered from, and to many people in other parts of the world I am rich and fortunate and wow, to be a free, white, 55 year old woman with her needs met, well, it’s rare and it’s appreciated and I worked fucking hard for all of it. And I thank my lucky stars every day.

Bless

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Cancerversary

One year ago today I got the call that changed my life forever. The Friday before Christmas. Last year it was Solstice.

“I’m sorry to tell you that you have cancer.”
“I know.”
“You WILL survive this.”
“Ok…. Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Ok.”

My boss was on my left and my favorite co-worker (now gone) on my right, keeping me in the light as I wrapped up that phone call.

It was months before I could really cry. I was so busy researching, running to doctors, getting cut and wounded in a major way, starting chemo, shaving my head, puking and wanting to puke for 7 months that the crying didn’t really start until I sprained my ankle. Which probably was a good thing because it STOPPED me in my tracks, that sprained ankle, and forced me not to recover too fast. To take things slowly, to ease back into my life.

I’m only now realizing what an ass kicking I’ve taken this year and not just from cancer. Many loved ones died this year, the move, I cry every time I drive by my old street and know that my mom and dad don’t live there any more. Nothing looks the same except work and I’m grateful for that one little bit of normalcy. So much loss, so many heavy hits.

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This photo was taken 3 weeks after surgery when visiting work. I had just colored my hair fresh and was putting on a happy face. So many people have told me this past year that I’m always pleasant, kind, smiling. Which kind of blows me away because I’ve also felt cranky and pissed off and very snarly. Clearly my relative thinks I’m only ever angry. But it’s just not true. Most of the time my outlook is positive. But it’s also a mask. A mask I wear to fool you and to fool me. Because if I admitted how sad I am I don’t know what I’d do sometimes.

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Here I am today, almost a year later. Still going to the hospital. Still sitting around for hours while they try once again to access my FUCKING port. I’m going to be here much longer today than I thought and I’m at least grateful the snow has melted. My nose is red, I’ve been crying while I talk to the counselor (she took this photo). I hate showing this photo, I hate looking sick. But she was right, I need to keep this in my mind when I push too hard. I had to cancel my personal trainer session. Again. Because I don’t know when I’ll be out of here. Ugh. I’m rethinking this gym thing. I don’t think I’m ready, for the work or the energy of the place. I think I’d rather take medium sized walks, slow walks, look around me, have some quiet. Maybe with a friend. I might just eat the sessions I bought because the pressure to use them is so unwelcome and so exhausting. Pressure, even the tiniest bit, is too much unless, like with surgery or chemo or moving, you just HAVE to JUMP.

I am reaching out a bit more. I’m trying to let the people who drain me slowly go, quietly unfriending some, just staying quiet. Not at work. That’s crazy noisy and not a little fun but it’s very draining and yesterday I hit that cursed wall. Mind confusion really fucked me up. My brain can only hold so much. An hour is about all I can do so even if we’re having fun and it stretches into 4 or 5 hours, I’m ruined for the week. It’s no one’s fault, I did enjoy the time. I’m just really facing reality about my new normal. I’ve made promises in the joy of the moment that I am not going to be able to keep. Great. That’s just GREAT. Forgive me. I’m sorry. I love you. Thank you.

I am reaching out so don’t worry, I’m not completely hiding. I’m also reaching out to folks I don’t know too well but whose quiet nature draws me because it feels so easy, so light, so familiar in a long lost way. They add to my spoons.

I feel like this post is a bit scattered and all over the place but that’s my brain right now. My brain on drugs. Drugs you’d never want to take because they fry the shit out you.

I resolve to be kind to myself in 2014 and to learn to say NO NO NO when I got nothing to give.  And YES YES YES to the things that soothe my soul. 2014, like 2013, is going to also be all about me and cancer but on the healing side of it. I’m looking for quiet moments, shared quiet moments. Lazy at home wood burning creating sleeping reading movie watching cooking sharing peace. We had snow last night and I always hear the earth sigh through the quiet before the melt. The sigh of contentment. I’m content to slowly parse my new life, to just let it BE. Let it be, seeking words of wisdom, let it be.

I love you so much, all of you. I wish you peace and joy and love and abundant good things. May 2014 be a banner year for us all.

Bless.

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Cancer, Rage, And The Elephant In The Room

I certainly have no need to post my life’s drama on FB. It’s an adolescent, vain excuse for communication, especially on serious matters. Some folks, however, just can’t help but broadcast their life stories to anyone who will listen, and God forbid they would disagree. But anger and rage are and always have been your default modes. I especially can’t stand self-serving cancer dramas, after watching someone like (Name Withheld) die from breast cancer with so much class and dignity and privacy, never a harsh word to anyone, or anger about her condition. Broadcasting it simply empowers the illness, not unlike the media inundating the public with stories about yet another mass American shooting. And really, not that many people give a shit, deep down, because people get cancer and survive cancer and die from it everyday. It’s an old story no matter who tells it.

I received this from a family member the other day. They were in a lot of pain and evidently my attempt to help and console was interpreted as an attempt to harm. I’m really sorry they feel this way. Sort of. This is just an example of the poison they’ve tried to feed me for over four decades. I used to eat that shit up. It began when I was young and very impressionable. It has taken me YEARS to let go of the words that have been said to me, to change my beliefs about myself that were partially formed by this person’s hatred and poison towards me. Where were my protectors? In Denial. Evidently it IS a river in Egypt.

Did I buy it this time? No. It’s poison of the worst kind and in no way does it reflect who I am. But it sure does reflect who they are. Did it hurt me? Fuck yes. OW. Have I lost sleep over it? I confess I have and last night was no exception. Not because it’s true but simply because they really intended to harm me and that hurt. And I’m losing other people because they are “on their side” of the battle zone. Collateral damages. Will I get over it? Yeah, I will, but there will probably always be a residual pang twang when their name comes up in conversation. I don’t intend to speak with them again but you never know. Things can, and do, change. All the time. But for now my answer is “when hell freezes over and my ass releases pure gold.”

The person who died from breast cancer was never told she was dying according to this person so I’m not impressed by her dignity but appalled by the nerve of her family to lie to her. (If it’s true. This person is a pathological liar.) Evidently she was not told by her doctor and not by her family who insisted that she not be told of her reality. We don’t do shit like that in my world. How fucking dare you think that breast cancer patients should shut up and bear it and not be told their situation. And that that defines dignity! Fucking medieval I tell you. And fuck you too.

This person can say in one minute that they love me and in the next that I’m unlovable. I think they are one of the most damaged people I know. Of course a person full of secrets and their own rage and anger would think hiding their feelings is the right and proper thing to do. And most days I have a great deal of empathy for them. And a hell of a lot of empathy for their family because living with this person is not easy. But the family bears it all in silence. Gawd. Save me from THAT hell. I’d rather have cancer. At least I know what I’m fighting and I have a shot at moving on and away. Oh wait…. Crap. Still got that shot though. I’m here for the long haul if I have any say in the matter.

There is one thing they said, however, that holds a grain of truth. While it is not my default and it doesn’t define me, I am quite comfortable expressing my anger. That is true. Watch me roar. It makes some folks a bit nervous to be around me because this is a society where true feelings aren’t really valued, we have good and bad feelings instead of simply feelings. That tide is changing. But in no way am I defined by my anger. In many ways I’ve held it in check during this journey because I feared that if I REALLY let it out, you all would run and run fast. Make no mistake, I’m fucking pissed about the cancer. Not in a “poor me” kind of way, but in a “I had plans you fucking rat bastard” kind of way.

I’m working on the rage I have inside me that’s been inside me a very long time. I don’t believe I was born angry but I do believe I was born damaged (another story for another time) and that damage left me open to events and circumstances which, because they were left untreated and unacknowledged, created a lot of rage. I do see it and I am working on it but I insist on expressing it. I also believe that anger, if expressed appropriately, is a catalyst to great personal growth and even, dare I day it, world change.

I’ve also had moments of doubt about posting my cancer journey on Facebook. I could have posted it here on my blog (well my old one if you want to get technical and I know some of you do so let’s nip that comment fest in the bud) but chose Facebook because it was set to private and only friends and family could see it. This is very unlike me. But the format of Facebook was preferable as well. Sound bites, quickie thoughts. It was an easy way to accomplish several goals.

  • It allowed me to inform everyone all at once of what was going on. No more numerous phone calls and emails. I thought it would make my life easier. In hindsight it did not. Folks thought offering advice was okay, folks thought public pity and sympathy was okay (take note of that when commenting), folks thought that their opinions about cancer and how to deal with it was ok. I ended up having to respond WAY too often, explain too often, and I ended up losing some friends because their boundaries were skewed and they refused to honor my requests. Sometimes I exploded in rage at feeling powerless. So yes, I left myself open and sometimes it really fucked me up. But over all the support I received was mind blowing. It wasn’t dishonest, it was loving, sincere, and really, really humbling. A lot of you gave a shit and a lot more. The fundraising party was one of the best experiences of my life. I discovered I had WAY more friends than I thought. Too many to keep up with truth be told. It was exhausting but also very invigorating, very validating, and a god send when I couldn’t do anything but Facebook and Pinterest on my phone. Thank god for my phone and social media. It got me through some very dark days. I’d do it again but with a little more acceptance and foresight that some people will say some weird and cruel and irritating stuff.
  • Facebook gave me a forum to spread the truth about cancer as I saw it. I really feel that the media lies to us about cancer. It lies to women (and men) and makes them think that if they get mammograms they are safe. You are not, not necessarily. There was truth about food, sleep, sex, cosmetics and other skin and hair products, surgery, scars, burns, self exams, recovering, pain, loss, the big business of cancer and the pink ribbon campaign, and amongst all that heavy, HEAVY shit, that there is also joy and humor and frivolity. And love. Always love. Did I unburden myself in a semi public forum? Yes, yes I did. And I’d do it again. I believe that this person only knew about it, however, because they used their family’s friend status with me to spy on me.

    Do you think me so low?

    My lord, you creep along the ground.

  • I met other, awesome, cancer survivors. We shared milestones, tears, information, love and strength. Experience, strength, and hope. Can you dig it? I can. I’ve made some friends where I never expected to, when I needed them most, just in the nick of time.
  • I’m a writer. I know some folks think that writing about their lives is frightening and or stupid and wonder how I could do it. I can’t not do it. I was born a story teller and the only story I know is my own. It’s what I do.

That’s enough for now. I had to get that out of me. I can’t let things like this poison me, or stay inside, eating at me like, wait for it, cancer. That shit can kill you! I’ll probably never eat squash or sweet potatoes or other certain cancer fighting foods but I can make sure I don’t let my anger seethe within me and kill slowly. I am going to let it out in the healthiest way I know how. By telling my story.

Brightest blessings and TTFN,
Cyn

P.S. This is someone I love. A lot. They’ll probably never forgive me for writing this so I understand I’m burning a bridge but I must take care of me from now on. Your mileage may vary.