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I have spent my life subscribing to the philosophy of Alfred Lord Tennyson;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all”

Telling myself this has gotten me through some very, very difficult times. I have espoused this same quote to my children, to people close to me  trying to make sense of the loss of a loved one and, also, to friends that were going through very difficult break-ups.

This Mother’s Day morning, I woke up and was hit with such a huge wave of sadness and despair. It’s Mother’s Day, I have no mother. She was taken from me at the way too young age of 66. I no longer have a grandmother, who really helped to raise me when my mother was sick with cancer for the first time. I was only an infant. This was my fourth year that I haven’t had either one of them on this day. I know it’s supposed to get easier and I suppose someday it will but, today, when I got up, it hurt like hell.

It’s really not fair to get a good gauge on how well I’m “moving on”. Back in January, I lost my cousin suddenly (the closest one to my age and, for that fact, probably my closest cousin).  We have been close my whole lie. We grew up together. Just a short day and a half later, my daddy passed away. He was a great man, dad and husband. Of course, I was devastated by both of these losses but, to be honest, I was not really able to grieve them properly. The reason for this is my beautiful cousin, Amy.

I call Amy my cousin because that’s what she was to me. She started dating my cousin, Neal, when they were in college so; I have known her for almost 30 years. We have spent countless hours together; at my house, at family weddings, wedding showers, baby showers, holidays, etc. Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer that had already advanced about two years ago.

Naturally, because of my history of breast cancer, I had a very active role in Amy’s life dealing wither her own diagnosis. I went with her to pick out her wig, before she started chemotherapy, spent hours upon hours talking to her and texting her and Neal; about treatment options, how they were feeling emotionally, how to treat each other and be there for each other during one of the hardest times that they will ever have in their lives, the best way to recover from the surgeries, and about just about every other thing you need to start fighting this devious disease.

Unfortunately for Amy, she had a diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer. One of the most aggressive and one of the hardest to treat. Amy, my love, had to treat almost constantly for the two years she battled. And battle she did. The treatments were brutal, as were the surgeries. She ended up with almost every side effect one can get from chemotherapy, including a very painful condition called neuropathy. When standard chemotherapy wasn’t working, we were all excited when she started a promising trial, only to find that that didn’t work, either. By the end, she was both emotionally and physically exhausted, in an extreme amount of pain, unable to breathe because the cancer had spread primarily to the lung and because of her very low immune system, brought on by the chemotherapy, was having problems with fluid in the lungs. Nothing about the entire ordeal was peaceful and there was no silver lining.

And, let’s not forget, in the midst of all of this, when she could barely walk across a room without needing oxygen, she lost her husband and her uncle (who she was very close to), within a day of each other. Being Amy, there she was, at both services and funerals, sitting with the utmost in grace and dignity, all the while most likely thinking that there was a very good chance that the next time she attended a funeral she would most likely be the one in the casket.

The hardest thing for me to witness during the whole awful week of deaths, funerals and tears was when we went to my cousin’s final resting spot at the Locust Valley Cemetery. I knew that just about a week earlier, Amy had picked this plot for herself – made all of the arrangements. I cannot imagine being 44 and knowing that I was so close to the end of my life that I had to make “final arrangements”. The very thought of it makes me shudder.

At Neal and my father’s services, quite a few people came up to me to tell me how great Amy looked. You see, Amy was a gorgeous woman by anyone’s standards, and even with the extreme pain and breathlessness she was experiencing, and being there to bury her beloved husband and an uncle she loved so very much, she still looked beautiful. I however, having known Amy for so long, could tell that she didn’t look like “herself” but, looked very, very sick.

So, my grief had, in a way, been put off. Placed on the back burner, if you will, due to the worry over Amy’s health, my steadfast promise to be there for her every step of the way, along with my participation in fundraisers for her treatment (which was not covered by insurance), etc.

Well, my beloved Amy passed away at 3:10 in the afternoon this Thursday. Now she is gone. When I woke up this morning it really hit me that they are all gone. I will never get another big bear hug from Neal (he was the best hugger), I will never be able to hear my father’s booming voice and I will never again see Amy’s beautiful smile and hear her lovely chuckle. Never. Ever. Never again. It is now a trifecta of grief and it hurts. It really hurts.

Even more tragic is the fact that my Aunt Angela loved Amy as her own. She was the daughter that she never had. They talked 2-3 times a day, every day. I used to make fun of them because they started to look alike and sound alike. They even had the same mannerisms. For all intents and purposes, my Aunt lost two children in the span of 4 months. Think about that for a minute. I cannot even imagine the pain and the absolute devastation of her heart. I speak with her every day. Every day she makes me so proud. Instead of lying in bed with the covers pulled all the way up, she is working, she is preparing for the birth of yet another grandchild this Wednesday and she is spending time with her family. She is crying – a lot, of course but, she is living. She is so incredibly strong. Then again, she is my mother’s sister. My mother happens to have been the strongest women I have ever known. I come from a long line of strong, courageous women.

And, of course, I was thinking of Amy’s mother today. She lost her little girl. Although she has a son, she does not have another little girl. Amy and Neal were not able to have children and, so, there is not even a little piece of Amy in the form of a grandchild for Amy’s mother to cling to and give her hope. The pain she is feeling is enormous. The huge hole in her heart as a result of Amy’s death will never be filled. My heart aches for her, in a primitive, real and raw way. I pray to God that somehow she is able to find some joy in the rest of her life. After watching her poor daughter suffer and pass away before her eyes will, no doubt, make this very difficult.

As painful as it was for me upon waking this morning, I can’t imagine the pain either of these lovely ladies felt when they opened their eyes. How does one feel when they wake up on Mother’s Day after just losing a child/children? There are no words in the English language to describe it. The really aren’t.

I was looking through some old photo albums for older pictures of Amy so that I could use them to post a status update about her passing. The digital pictures I have are all of Amy in her thirties and early forties, for the most part. I wanted to find some of her with her big eighties hair, with my babies, when she was in her twenties. I was successful in finding what I was looking for. While going through the albums, I came across the pictures from each Christmas spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  There are scores of us, sitting around three tables that had to be pushed together to fit us all. Looking at these pictures, a thought struck me like a bullet through the heart. Six of these beautiful souls were now gone from this earth. They were here, the asked us to pass the gravy, they handed out the presents they had gotten for everyone, they loved, they laughed, they cried, they felt joy and happiness and sadness and they had hopes and dreams for their futures. With the exception of my grandparents, who were in their eighties when they passed, they were far too young to leave us. They had so much more life to live, so many more laughs to have, so many more tears to shed. And, no matter how hard I try, I am having a hard time making sense of it all. There are days that I really feel my faith being tested, like today.

But in looking at the pictures of us all around the table(s), I also saw the faces of all of the wonderful people I still have in my life. Would I give up the love of even one of them so that I will not have to suffer if I lose them?

The answer is a big, resounding NO.

Tragic things will always occur in life. Of that we can be sure. Tragic things will happen no matter how many people I love and accept love from. And, when those tragic things happen, it will be the people I love whose arms I will run to. It will be those people I will cry with and pour my heart out to.

And, it are these people I love – my family and friends – who inspire me, who make me laugh until my stomach hurts and tears are running down my cheeks. They are who I will share my hopes, dreams and fears with. Without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I even dare say that without them, it is possible I wouldn’t still be on this earth. Their constant support and love are what helped me through my heath ordeals.  Like the song said, they loved me through it.

So, at the end of this Mother’s Day, which was so incredibly difficult for not only me, my aunt, Amy’s mother and the far too many women I know who spent their days without a mother, a grandmother, their children, and a woman who was like a mother to them, I say I am so very sorry for your loss and I wish their was something – anything – I could do to take even a small amount of your pain away. 

At the end of this Mother’s Day, my biggest hope is that you spent a beautiful day with your mother, the mother of your children, your grandmother, your aunts, your God Mothers and your God Children. But, not only do I hope that you spent the day with them, I hope that you took in every moment, that you hugged them and kissed them and that you told them how much you loved them. Because tragic things happen, and the truth is you never know what life will throw at you – they could be gone sooner than you think. If you didn’t do that today, it’s not too late. Tomorrow is another day. Just make sure that you do it because remember;

“Tis better to have loved and lost then to never have loved at all.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

xoxo

 

Ten years ago, at this very moment, my life was forever changed. Changed by a little lump. It wasn’t more than the size of a pebble. I remember the moment I found it. As I was adjusting my bra (I had been feeding my four month old baby), my fingers grazed over it. My stomach lurched. For most breastfeeding moms, the first thought would have most likely been a clogged milk duct. I, however, had a reason to be concerned. My mother had breast cancer when I was in college.

Al was outside, working on putting up a new fence with his brother and a friend. The next day was Father’s day. I debated saying anything to him. Until they were finished and Al came inside and showered, I had felt it at least a hundred more times. Trying not to get frantic, I gave Michael, who was only three at the time, a bath and put him to bed. The baby was down for the night. When Al got out of the shower, I showed him. Made him feel it. I could see in his face that look that I would come to know so well. Desperate to make me feel comforted, he would smile and tell me he thought it was fine. But, the smile was tight. It did not reach his eyes. I could tell he was scared. And, so was I.

Of course, it was a Saturday so, I could do nothing until Monday morning. I did my best to keep a positive attitude the next day. I spent Father’s Day at my mother’s with my grandfather, my father and Al.  I let my mother and my sisters feel the lump and said reassuring things that I didn’t really believe. Things like “I’m sure it’s nothing.” “It’s probably a clogged milk duct”. “It feels like it moves around so, I bet it’s a cyst.” The truth is, that day seemed to move at a snail’s pace. All I could think about was calling my doctor in the morning and all I could do was pray that he would tell me that it was, indeed, nothing to worry about. That it WAS one of those benign things that I tried to convince everyone else it was. Honestly, though, I never had a good feeling about it. Not when I found the lump. Not the next day when I tried to put on a happy face for Father’s Day and not Monday morning when I called the doctor and made the appointment to come in later that day.

When I went to the appointment, I tried and summon up some hope. I smiled and chatted and talked about how the kids were doing. I thought to myself that it was doubly sad to have to be here for something like this when I had just been here four months earlier for my last check up before Jack was born.

After examining me,  I was told that although it was most likely a cyst, I should follow up with a sonogram.  My heart sank. This was not the “It’s nothing – just a clogged milk duct” kind of response I was hoping for.

The rest is history. In a flurry of doctor visits, tests, anesthesia, surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and medication, I went through the BIG C experience.

I recently found an old item I submitted for the Young Survivor’s Coalition and it made me so sad. I was so naïve. In denial, really.  Here is an excerpt.

So, here I am – my surgeries have healed beautifully. I have already finished with the A/C chemo with no real side effects to speak of except the loss of my hair, which will grow back. I’ve made it through 2 of the 4 taxotere chemos. Then, six weeks of radiation (ten minutes a day – Monday through Friday) and then the good old Tamoxifen and Lupron.

I’m winning!!! All diagnostic tests are showing that the cancer has not spread anywhere else – I feel good that I am doing all of this treatment to prevent it from ever getting me again!!!!

My children are fine, my husband is doing really well, and honestly, I feel great!!! Oh, sure, I have my moments but, all in all, I feel like I will beat this thing and I never before looked at life as openly and felt it as beautifully, as I feel it now!!

Docs even tell me that studies are saying great things about getting pregnant after breast cancer so, hopefully when this treatment is over, I can even go down that road (you know the old story – 2 boys- I have to try one more time for the girl!!!)

This excerpt brings back all of the memories of trying so hard to stay positive. It was devastating for me to lose my hair. The taxoteres were extremely difficult for me and caused me a lot of pain. The radiation was exhausting and caused burns on my chest and neck. The “good old” tamoxafin caused me to gain fifteen pounds in three months and the lupron put me into immediate menopause. As far as the pregnancy thing goes, that was probably the hardest. I had planned on having three children and so, to be told by my doctor that it would be dangerous for me, when we finally did talk, was especially hard.

And, at this time, I had not even had the reconstructive surgery that almost killed me, or any of the twelve or so surgeries (I’ve lost count) that were required to heal me from that disaster.

So, as this day approached, I thought that it would be a day that was celebratory. The painful truth is, though, that like anything else having to do with this disease, what you expect is not always what you get.

Instead of feeling that way, I am feeling uneasy, sad, and melancholy. And, that makes me feel guilty. That makes me feel ungrateful. I know that the further away I am from the initial diagnosis, the less the chances are that I will have a recurrence. I know that everything I wished for with regard to being here to see the kids hit their milestones has come true. I know that I could be dead, let’s face it, and I am still here.

I also know that my entire thirties was spent dealing with disease, and surgeries, and loss. I know that I will never, ever, no matter how far from the diagnosis I am, feel completely at ease again. I will never lie down at night completely at peace. There will always be a small part of me that worries that there is something going on in my body that I am unaware of. That could take me out. That could take a mother away from my kids, a wife away from my husband, a sister away from her sisters, a daughter away from her parents.

My physical pain is also a daily reminder of what I have gone through. No matter how I try, I always mourn a little for the physical parts of me that were lost, or changed, forever.

And so, here I sit on the very day ten years ago that my life was changed. And, while it is true that I have not been feeling celebratory, as I expected, I am glad I made this entry.

I did it because I thought it was serve the very purpose that it is serving. By sharing this all with you, I am starting to feel lighter. And, I am remembering some very important things.

I also grew a successful business in my thirties. I am partially responsible for employing twenty or so employees, supplying them with health benefits and a nice place to go and make a living every day.

I watched my children go from babies to little people in my thirties. Wonderful people who surprise and delight me every single day.  At least, when they are not driving me crazy. I don’t take them for granted.

I have gone on vacations, thrown parties, opened my house to family and friends. I have an awesome Mustang and a beautiful new pool. I believe in spending the money I earn and in not putting off experiences because it’s “not the right time”.

I have been there for other people going through cancer and have tried to counsel them the best I could. I have tried to give them hope and support and just be a shoulder to cry on. I did this despite it bringing up painful memories for me. I did it with my full heart.

I am tougher than I ever knew I was and my heart is bigger than I ever knew it was.

I have laughed more than I have cried, I have gained more than I have lost. I have loved more than I have hated and I have appreciated more than I have resented. I have learned that life is hard but, I have continued in my belief that it is worth it.

And so, my friends, I am now feeling a little more like celebrating. Who knows? Maybe in ten years from now I will read this and think that I was naïve and in denial But, bottom line is, I truly believe that my ability to turn my negative thoughts into positive ones is what got me this far – along with the love of my family and friends (a big thank you to you all) and a huge dose of faith.

I am wishing myself a Happy Survivor Birthday. Ten Years. I bet you know what my Birthday wish is!

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It’s been a long time. It is not that I have felt particularly uninspired. To the contrary, I have so many thoughts and feelings rolling around in my head and heart that the question is always “where to start?”.

I will need you to bear with me with this entry as it will be more of a stream of consciousness than a coherent, well put together document. I just feel like if I don’t write something soon, I may have a permanent block and be unable to put pen to paper and start again.

I keep hearing the words “sweet and salty” in my head over and over. I am starting to liken it to my life.

Take the last few weeks. There were a few things that were just so wonderful.  My dad had a procedure to shrink a benign tumor in his brain and that went very, very well. My youngest son turned ten and we had a wonderful party at the house filled with friends and family and lots of love. I got the wonderful news about a little girl who is in remission from cancer who just had her semi- annual “round” of testing and remains cancer free and my little inspiration Mikey Armand is celebrating yet another birthday. On top of that,  one of my the people closest to me had a biopsy (gasp)and it was benign, my nephew Gavin did wonderfully at his well check and finally (to my sister’s relief and delight) cut his first tooth and I am getting a new built in swimming pool.  My older, hormonal son is driving me a little less crazy, and my sister and I took a trip to Orlando, where I was able to see my favorite band in the world under the stars with one of my favorite people in the world and a warm breeze blowing. I saw old friends and partied like a rock star. I rode the rides, lounged by the pool, and was able to have a few drinks with an old friend and was able to help comfort another old friend who was going through a difficult anniversary. These things are sweet. They fill my heart with love and joy.

But, one thing that is salty can change everything in an instant. We had another scare. A scary number. Anticipation of a scary scan. Tears, tremors, racing thoughts and the sorrow that comes with seeing someone you love feel scared and helpless. It will be ok. We have spoken to the doctor. It will be ok. Annoying, stressful and aggravating but, ok. I am more grateful than anyone could ever know.

I am feeling sorry for myself, though. I just can’t help it. I feel like we get a little more salty than we should. Even some of the things that ended up on my sweet list were really salties that turned out ok. I am so tired of being scared, or being emotionally uneasy, of being continually unsure.

For those of you who don’t know, I also co own a business. It is not easy. No matter what is going on, I have to make a payroll, the rent has to get paid, our clients need reports, and meeting and any number of other things from me. I can’t say “well, things are stressful because my family is having more than its share of health issues”. I have to get the job done.

I can’t tell you how many times I propped laptops up on pillows over my drains after surgeries so that I could take care of some work thing that needed to be done.  When I had chemo, I planned them on Thursdays. I gave myself Friday, Saturday and Sunday to rest and then, come hell or high water, I was back in that office on Monday, mouth sores, bald head and all the rest.

I also have to deal with two active boys. It is getting harder and harder to hide from them when something is going on. They know now when I am upset and can put two and two together that is might be from work, from a doctor’s appointment I had that day, etc.

I am doing my best to make sure that I am handling it in a way so that they don’t need that much therapy. I guess it will be like presidents. They say you can’t tell how well a job they did for years after they are out of office.

I really do appreciate when people get in touch and tell me how strong I am and how much of an inspiration I have been. I really do. The thing is, as anyone who has had to live with ongoing uncertainty about life and health, I don’t always feel that way.

I once went to a psychiatrist after I was diagnosed to see if I needed to have ongoing assistance in dealing with what I was about to face. She did a pretty detailed session with me and although I was trying to be as honest as I could, in her final analysis, she had my number.

Without quoting, she said something to the effect that I did not need psychiatric assistance (whew), that I would be fine with just counseling, if I felt like I needed to talk to someone while I was going through treatment (which I did) and then, she went on to tell me that I was well adjusted and that I tended to “bullshit” about things that made me uncomfortable or that made me feel vulnerable. I remember I got insulted. That I told her that if there is one thing I was not, it was dishonest. She explained that she did not mean it negatively. What she meant was that I tended to actually talk myself out of the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability I felt, in order to keep myself feeling strong. It was actually a good defense mechanism. In other words, I would convince myself (bullshit myself, as she said it), that I was not really scared, not really helpless, not really hopeless.

But, even with that being said, it is only because I have those feelings that I have to talk myself out of them. And, there is nothing worse for a control freak than to feel completely out of control. My dear friend Joan and I, with whom  I went from Kindergarten to my senior year with, were reminiscing on Facebook the other day. I asked her if she remembered when we would put on plays in elementary school. She told me that she did remember. She remembered that I made Xeroxed copies of the entire play and then, picked who would play what part. I then highlighted each person’s lines and gave them to them.  I showed my husband. “See? “ I said. “I was always a control freak!”. It’s a wonder I had any friends at all!

But, I do have friends. A lot of them. And a wonderful family. And that is sweet, no matter how you slice it. We will get through this current situation intact and even a little bit stronger . I have learned that, too. And, in a couple of weeks I will be at a wedding for someone I went to school with, and I will dance, and I will laugh and I will sing and I will enjoy the sweet time.  And, if those feelings of impending doom come upon me, I will bullshit myself into feeling strong and in control. It seems to be working for me so far.

So sweet and salty.  While I have been writing this I realize that I really am an optimist. I could have said sweet and sour!

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My sister has her twenty year high school reunion tonight. I am happy for her.

I remember before mine, I was so apprehensive. I had gone through so much since the last time I had seen most of the people I knew would be there.

These are some of the thoughts that I was having in the days leading up to the reunion;

Conversation may not come as easy to me as they did the last time you saw me. I will be wondering if  you know or not? If you don’t , should I tell you when you ask me what has been going on in my life? Or is that depressing? If I tell you, will your eyes automatically track to where my surgeries have been? Will we both be uncomfortable?

My body may look different from the last time you saw me. I have had many surgeries and they have altered my body in lots of ways.

I have some scars, that I can’t hide, that weren’t there the last time you saw me.

I may not be as thin as I was the last time you saw me. I have been on and off steroids and am on Tamoxifen, which causes weight gain.

Since the last time you saw me, I may not be able to hold a note as long when I sing, or walk or dance as long without resting, because the radiation I had also affected one of my lungs.

I may look more tired than the last time you saw me. I may look older than some of you here. Sometimes, I can’t sleep through the night, because my thoughts race about things like recurrence, and death, and leaving my kids without a mother.  On the nights when my mind is not racing, if the weather is right, I may be up all night because my scars ache beyond belief.

I may cry more easily than you remember. Most of my reserve of “toughness” has been used up. My lip quivers much more easily these days.

I might get uncomfortable if you compliment me. I probably won’t believe it. I may just think that you are trying to be nice and make me feel better. I might think that you just feel sorry for me.

Despite all of these thoughts leading up to the reunion, I decided to go anyway. I also decided that, if I was to go, I would be “all in”. I would just be me, with all of my new strengths and weaknesses.

Because, believe me, I am stronger than I was the last time you saw me.

I am more empathetic, a better mother, a better wife and a better friend since the last time you saw me.

I appreciate life more than the last time you saw me. I value every second of it.

I went to my reunion. It was one of the best nights of my life. I realized that people loved me for me, and not for what I looked like, or how many friends I had, or how many awards I won or solos I sang. I left there feeling even more special than before. I have learned that I like the person I have become since the last time you saw me.

It’s so funny the way that my experiences have a way of sneaking up on me when I least expect them to. There is a new song by “The Band Perry” called “If I Die Young”. It’s a really pretty, if somewhat maudlin, song. Anyway, I was enjoying a ride in my convertible, it was a beautiful night and I was really liking the melody. Being musical, I am able to pretty much sing the chorus after hearing it once and then, the line “The sharp knife of a short life, well I’ve had just enough time” and I am crying in my car.

I wonder if it will ever go away, the fear that lies just underneath the surface?  It has been nine years now, without recurrence (knock on wood, please) and, although it is easier as it is not always at the front of my consciousness, it is clearly still there and able to affect me deeply.

I don’t want to die young. I haven’t had enough time. I have too much living yet to do. I don’t want my kids to have no mother, or my husband to be a widow. I can’t imagine my parents and my sisters and the pain that they would go through. I don’t know that they could bear it. I don’t think that they could bear it.

My wish, always, is that I can come to a place that is peaceful after having gone through these crazy years of uncertainty, pain and fearfulness. I don’t know. The last surgery was October but, then, that nasty infection got me in April and lasted until the end of July. Antibiotics, thrush, lovely……

So, I start over. I give myself a new date of NOW for starting my life without all of this crap.  Try to think of it as if I just got delayed by a few months. Ok, so, October was supposed to be the beginning of the new, healthy, life and now it is August.

And, I did have a wonderful summer, which is what screws my head up even more. When will I heal? Why can a song lyric bring me so easily to tears?

I had a great time last night with old friends. I laughed a lot. Am I crazy that I go from happiness to dread so quickly and without warning?

People often tell me that I have a “great attitude”. Do I really or is it a façade? Am I genuine?

People also tell me that I am strong. Am I? Or am I just in denial? Am I just pretending that everything is ok so that I don’t have to face the fact that I might not be?

I am pissed that that song made me cry. By projecting strength, I feel powerful. Feeling powerful helps me to feel like I can continue to triumph over the blows I am dealt. When I feel weak, I feel vulnerable. I am scared. I feel alone . I am a child.

I have to remember is that such is life. I will take some steps forward but, invariably they will be followed by some backward steps. I am not perfect. I am not invincible. I am human.

So, I will not listen to the song, as pretty as it might be. I will listen to another new song that I heard the other day that pretty much sums up what I’m trying to convey here, what my attitude is in order for me to stay strong and brave. I smiled when I listened to this one.

Here are some of the lyrics:

“I don’t know if I’ll make it but watch how good I’ll fake it
  It’s all right, all right, tonight, tonight”

In faking it, I am defeating it. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

The other day, some talking head psychologist was opining on the Casey Anthony verdict.  She said something that really resonated with me, and got me thinking.

Someone asked her how Casey’s mother and father would ever be able to go on and have any kind of normal or happy life. Their granddaughter is gone forever, their daughter has been on death row for three years, they were accused of horrible things during the trial, and now, hove to live with the fact that their daughter, despite the verdict, most likely did commit the most heinous of crimes.

Well, this psychologist said something that made so much sense and that I will now try and apply to may own life. I won’t get the wording just right but, it was something like this;

When a trauma occurs, it leaves a hole in your life that does not go away – ever.  I think so many of us live our lives, after trauma, thinking “oh, one day I will wake up and it will be all better”.  It won’t. Not ALL better, at least. Any kind of trauma; a miscarriage, the death of a loved one (no matter how it occurs or at what age), a health problem, dealing with finding out that your child is sick or disabled, leaves a hole in your life.  You look back and there it is, an abyss.  You wish you were on the other side of it. The side before the event that changed everything.

Ok, now think about this. Instead of spending (wasting) your life wishing you were on the other side of the hole, or wishing the hole would magically fill back up, imagine building bridges over that hole with new and happy experiences.  Each happy experience is a strut, or a nail or a cable.

Build bridges over the trauma with experiences you create, that you control.

Isn’t that a wonderful thought? I know where my trauma holes are and they run wide and deep. Try as I might, I cannot fill them back up so, instead of wishing I could, I will work on creating happy and beautiful experiences to build bridges over them.

Sure, I will have to pass over those bridges from time to time and sometimes, if I look down, I will probably still be scared and melancholy but, I will still look down. For, as much as those experiences hurt, they taught me very valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t ever want to forget.

Go out and build some bridges. Little by little, those holes will be covered, even if they can’t be filled. Covered by happy stuff.

Someone died a couple of weeks ago. He was here, working and living his life, and then he wasn’t. I had spoken to him about a month ago, and just gotten an e-mail from him a few days before he passed. I had no idea that he would die.  I mean, I knew one day it would happen but, not that day.

It messed me up. He was someone who I had gotten closer to recently, when he was diagnosed with cancer.  I knew him through work and had always liked him but, didn’t know all that much about his personal life; his likes, dislikes, what his home looked like, what kind of music he liked. I knew just that he was married and had children and we were in the same industry.

When he told me that he had cancer, I tried to help. I told him that he would get through it, that he would come out “on the other side”. His treatments were especially brutal, and I know that he was exhausted and emotionally drained. His sister actually wrote a comment on this very blog while he was having his last treatment. She was kind enough to tell me that my blog had helped to give him a “boost’ before treatment.

He was diagnosed in September. That was in January. His last treatment, he wrote to me in an e-mail. He was so excited and I could picture the smile on his face.

He e-mailed me in March that his scans looked good.  He had a follow-up scan scheduled for May but, he was positive. He thought he had beaten this thing.

And then, I got the word a couple of weeks ago that he passed. I had no clue. Again, I had gotten an e-mail from him a few days before and he did not mention that he was sick. I found out later that the cancer had, indeed, come back and that he had undergone more horrendous treatment, only to get an infection and pass away.

And, so, I don’t know how to feel. I cried. I got scared. If his could come back, so could mine, right? I felt guilty for even thinking about myself when it was someone else who died. I felt that thing they call “survivor’s guilt” – why did he die while I got to live? Being honest, and that is what I am here, for better or for worse, I think that’s bullshit. I don’t feel guilty that I lived. I feel extremely blessed and grateful and in awe and other feelings that I don’t even know how to put into words.  And, I felt extreme sadness for his wife and for his kids and for his friends. And, I felt angry when I heard someone say he “lost his battle” with cancer. That’s bullshit, too! I refuse to give that horrible black hole of a disease any sort of victory.

I was glad, though, that he read my blog and it made him feel good and hopeful. I was glad that every time we spoke I asked him how he was and told he to hang in there and to stay positive and to not give up. I hope that he enjoyed the “space between” his good scan and his crappy one, even though that time was short. I hope that he hugged his wife more and told his kids more often that he loved them.

I hope you do the same, even if you are healthy as a horse.  ESPECIALLY if you are healthy as a horse.

Someone died a couple of weeks ago. I’ll miss him. I hope he is not hurting anymore.

And, life goes on……..

So, I’m not ever sure what round I’m in anymore but, I was knocked down again. Hard.

I should know better by now but, I was almost starting to convince myself that I was “better”. My last surgery was in October. I took it easy for a reasonable amount of time. I have been eating good, exercising, trying to stay relatively stress free. I dared to hope that my life could finally, after all of these long nine years, get back to some kind of normalcy.

Until Wednesday, May 4, 2011. That is when, I was told by the fates once again, that I should never start to feel safe, that I should never take just living my life without fear and trepidation for granted.

I went to work that morning and started to feel funny around lunch time. It’s almost like I’m there but, not there. It’s like I am floating somewhere outside of my body. Nothing hurts – yet. Then, here we go; am I being paranoid? Is my mind, with its post traumatic stress, playing tricks on me? Am I just a little run down? When you have continual health issues, these are the kinds of things that can make you crazy. You lose the barometer on what is just a small, insignificant “normal issue and what can be an issue that can potentially kill you.

I leave work early, rest for a bit and then, do what I have to. I pick up one kid from school, one from the bus stop. I make lunches, help with homework, sign tests, referee Xbox battles. Finally, I tell the kids I am going to lie down and promptly fall asleep.

I am awakened an hour or so later by my husband, with his hand on my forehead. He immediately takes my temperature, as I am burning up. It’s high. Almost 103 degrees. We start with the Motrin/Tylenol combination. Al checks my back and there it is, the telltale blotches that taunt me.. They are red, they are hot, they are the infection, rearing it’s ugly head once again.

I am devastated. I am beside myself. All I can do is start the elephant antibiotics I have to keep in the house, cry and pray.

I head to the doctor the next morning. I am told what I already know; that it is the recurrent infection, that there is no way to know what brought it on (an open cut, being run down, on the verge of getting sick, too much exercise – it’s anyone’s guess). I was given two separate antibiotics to alternate and a narcotic for the pain, which has now become excruciating. I am sent home to REST.

I am so tired – I don’t want to REST. I want to work, go to eat with girlfriends, make dinner, get my nails done, go to the gym, play with my kids, walk my dog. I want to LIVE, not just exist.

I turn to my trusty Facebook, which is where I can reach, in one fell swoop, about 95% of the people I love. I ask for prayers, I vent my frustration.

One antibiotic gives me a constant, dull and throbbing headache. The other gives me stomach pains and cramps. The fever makes me feel weepy and whiny and sad. I don’t understand why. I really don’t.

I am good, though. I get up to get the kids off to school every day but, then, once they are gone I do rest.  I watch TV, I read, I sleep. After a couple of days, I check my Facebook and my spirits are lifted by my wonderful family and friends;  their prayers, encouragements, words of love.  Xs and Os.  I also get cards, phone calls, beautiful flowers, a “friend ornament and loving e-mails and texts. My best friend calls me every single day and makes me smile. It is this outpouring of love that sees me through these dark times.

My fever finally broke after eleven days and I started to feel like myself again. I went to my follow-up appointments, had my blood drawn, finished my medications and went back to work.

I guess my point is, my mind was at some pretty dark places during those two weeks. I railed at God, I cried, I felt pretty hopeless and dejected.

It was the power of all of the love that I received that helped me get through. So, lean on your family and friends. Let people know that you are hurting. Let them know you need help, even if it’s just a Starbucks coffee or a quick phone call.

And, most of all, I’ll say it again. No matter how bleak things seem, you can get through it. My mental outlook now is completely different than it was just two weeks ago, when I was lying in that bed with that fever and pain. Even in the worst of times, when it seems like things will never be ok again, remember this – they will. You will laugh again, you will feel joy, you will bring happiness to others.

It’s such a cliché but, bears repeating; “it’s not over until it’s over”.

So, before the final 10 count, I got my ass up to fight another round.

So can you.

I sat down to read my People magazine the other day, all cozy with the fireplace going, and a hot cup of tea. I was so comfortable with the warm pjs on and my dog at my feet. I was all ready for some mindless entertainment.

As I flipped the pages, I read about which celebrity took their kids to the park, where Brangelina was spending their Spring Break, who had divorced, had a baby, was getting married/divorced.  Then, I turned the page and my heart skipped a beat.

There before me was a picture of a woman with no limbs. No arms, no legs, no hands, no feet.  I knew I should probably turn the page and not read the article since, I could clearly see the word “infection” sprinkled throughout but, like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t look away.

This woman had just given birth to her third child. All seemed to be well. The usual after birth pictures were taken and there was one in the magazine of her holding her newborn, a look of pride and happiness on her face.

A few hours later, everything changed. She became ill with a virulent strain of Staph (you might have heard it called the “flesh eating disease”) and within hours, she was in a coma. Her husband was told that the only hope of saving her was to amputate both of her arms and her legs.  Her poor husband. To have to make a decision like that. I can’t even imagine.

He chose to try to save her and cried at her bedside, praying that she would forgive him.

Well, I was glad that I read on because, when I turned the page, there was the woman, eating dinner with her family, being lifted into the family van for some outing, and laying with her new daughter, beaming with joy.

I am constantly amazed and encouraged and inspired by the human spirit. I constantly find ways to realize how very lucky I am, even when things are really, really hard. When the pain is bad, when my scars ache and my clothes don’t fit right and my energy is low and even when  I can’t hold notes as long as I used to when I sing  because the radiation has affected my lungs. I am lucky.

I may have lost a lot but, I have my arms and my legs. I may hurt when I walk long distances but, I can walk unassisted.

I couldn’t lift my babies for a few months but, I healed and could lift them again.

Once again I am reminded to remember the things that I DO have, and not concentrate on the things that I have lost.

It’s all in how you look at it, and what the circumstances are when you are thinking about it. I can safely say, after reading that article, that I am lucky. Very lucky. Or, maybe blessed is a better word.

Happy Easter everyone.

I made a pact with myself to be honest in this blog. Although I try to write when I am feeling inspirational and I generally try to write about things that could possibly help people, this blog is not that.  It annoys me when I read other people’s blogs (or fb status updates for that matter) and they are just ALWAYS happy, ALWAYS positive, ALWAYS up. I don’t buy it.

Everyone has bad days and I’m having a bad week, friends….

I am sitting here crying and am so frustrated.

I know that I should be so grateful to be here and I really am but, I’m also so frustrated by my inability to stop sweating what, in relative terms, is small stuff.

Just this week, I was worried about something medical (what else is new) but, that turned out to be ok. I was worried about a friend but, she turned out to be ok. I am frustrated by someone who I love who is unable to love me back or treat me or my family with the respect and love that we deserve. The kids are driving me crazy, work is stressful and hectic and my dad has been sick.

Tax time sucks this year. I am so over being penalized because I work super hard and make a nice living. I feel resentful of people who abuse the system and cause everyone else’s taxes to skyrocket. I probably could have been on disability since 2002 and yet, I get up and go to work every day. After surgery I work from home.

I am feeling overwhelmed, overworked and completely stressed out.

I am hurting big time because of this God awful weather and am trying to get by without having to resort to my pain pills.

I started a running/walking program and, have been unable to really get into it because of the constant cold and rainy weather.

I am frustrated because I am not as able as I used to be to shrug things off. I feel like now, it takes all of my energy just to deal with the issues I face being a survivor and anything else piled on just feels like it weighs me down until I am almost laid out on the floor.

There is not enough time in the day to do everything I have to do. Sometimes, I feel like a mouse on a wheel……

I don’t have as much patience as I should with my husband or my kids. I struggle to leave my work stress at work and I am constantly battling against my OCD. Does it really make a difference if there is a dish in the sink when I go to sleep? Or that the closet door is open a crack? Would the world end if the kids beds were unmade before school? No one is even home all day?

And, for any type of survivor, for anyone who has made it through a life threatening situation and is alright, feeling the way I am feeling right now produces guilt, as well. It’s like women who have postpartum depression or even the “baby blues”. You feel so guilty that you are sad because you have this beautiful infant who you wanted and prayed for. You feel like an ingrate.

So, on top of all of the other stresses and sadness and frustration, I am feeling guilty. I am ready to just lay with my dog and give it up to God tonight.

Tomorrow is another day…….

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