I’ve been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. It’s definitely something I’ve struggled with in the past and something I continue to grapple with today. I’ve had my fair share of being wronged in my life but if a person legitimately apologizes or reaches out to make amends, I’m generally amenable to a fault. I find the person I have the most trouble truly forgiving is myself…and that’s the person you really need to forgive at the end of the day. As much as you may hate yourself sometimes, you’re all you’ve got. We come into this world alone and we leave it alone. If you can’t even forgive yourself then how can you ever expect to forgive someone else? Sometimes you love the wrong people. Sometimes you make the wrong decision. Sometimes you trust someone you shouldn’t. Sometimes the people you think will be in your life forever disappear without a trace. Sometimes we fall and we stay down longer than we intend to. Sometimes you mistake evil for good. Sometimes you wish you’d done something differently. Sometimes we just plain fuck up. But we have to just keep on truckin’. I know that I am always striving for perfection and that I often hold myself up to impossibly high standards. I also know that these are both recipes for disappointment. No one is harder on me than I am on myself. I have compassion and love for all of the people in my life, even strangers garner more empathy from me than I can muster for myself. It can be really hard to start the process of true forgiveness, but it’s ultimately a road worth taking. If we can treat ourselves the way we would treat a beloved relative or a treasured friend we would all be much better off in our own minds and spirits. We tend to forget that we are fallible, erroneous and fragile. We don’t know everything and we don’t always make the best choices. We can let it weigh heavy on our hearts and minds or we can simply forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and try again. Bad things happen in life, it’s just inevitable. Be it because we are being punished by some higher power or because life is just a random series of occurrences and some of them are bound to be shitty. I honestly don’t know where I stand as far as the why, but I trust that forgiveness is a factor in the healing of our self-inflicted wounds.
So here we are, nearly 13 weeks after the surgery. It’s crazy how fast time has been flying on the one hand, but on the other, things seem to be moving at a crawl. I’ve been on what I’ve aptly dubbed as “house arrest” for what is beginning to feel like a small eternity. It’s just me, my cats, my unyielding thoughts and my crutches day after day in a sea of books, television, my loyal peeps/family and the occasional jaunt to a medical facility. Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at life through a pinhole, craving the freedom and independence of escape but also feeling the fear of what lies in wait. I’ve been cooped up for so long I’ve become like a caged animal, afraid to leave captivity but feeling my base instinct telling me I am meant to roam free. There are days like today where I just feel full on anxiety wrapping it’s evil clutches around my guts, unsure of how I can truly relax. I have to remind myself that while this feels somewhat like purgatory, hell is miles behind me. That there has been a marked progression in my circumstance from where I was all those weeks ago. I can now crutch short distances without a wheelchair. I can cook myself meals, albeit with an annoying level of difficulty. I no longer need help bathing. I don’t need the support bars over my toilet to use the bathroom. I can sleep in my bed alone without being deathly afraid. I can sit here and type this post without crying out in agony from sitting. They are small victories but they are victories none the less.
People are always talking about taking things one day at a time and saying that one should always live their life in the present moment. I’ve always had extreme difficulty doing this and have definitely struggled with the concept of both throughout my tumultuous journey. The only thing I know is that the past is too painful and the future is too frighteningly uncertain. So I will do my best to just rest here in the present. As Emily Dickinson so poignantly wrote over 60 years ago; Forever is composed of nows.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in an actual, legitimate relationship. Unfortunately, I’ve had more hurt and disappointment than love and happiness over the last three years. Many a night have I cried myself to sleep, hoping that circumstances could be different. That my prince was just waiting for his perfect moment to ride gallantly into my life and save me from the evil that has plagued me. To wake me from this seemingly endless nightmare and bring me back to life. At this point, after everything I’ve been through, I feel like I need love now more than I ever have. Some days I can literally feel the open space deep within my chest, empty and hollow. Other days it’s a constant gnawing, an unsatiated hunger that leaves me cold. I have a desperate longing for the touch of a man, to feel his love wash over me and take away this melancholy that haunts me so. To feel the warmth and safety of strong arms wrapped around me, fingers intertwined. To lay my head on his chest and breathe in the scent of his skin while he runs his hands through my hair. To be truly loved, desired, needed, wanted, all of it. To belong to them. To finally be something to someone. To be beautiful to them. To have my heart truly be received by a kind soul. To feel the pain of what I’ve been through slip away with each gentle kiss, with every lasting embrace. To look into someones eyes and see their passion reflected back into mine. To simply exist with each other, healing together in love. To feel that hopeful spark of happily ever after. It’s a stupid dream, really. It seems to be the dream of a naive child and not that of an educated woman, but at the end of the day it’s the dream I wish and hope with all of my heart will come true.
It’s occurred to me that I haven’t mentioned a very important detail that was made known to me over a month ago. At my first post-surgical appointment, my surgeon and my oncologist informed me that I am now officially cancer-free. I was handed a 4-page pathology report that was made after analyzing the tumor, bone, muscle and other bits that were removed from me during the operation. It was mostly scientific mumbo-jumbo that a non-medical professional such as myself could not decipher, but the third paragraph told me everything I have been wanting desperately to hear; No tumor seen.
Everyone was very excited by this news; my family, my friends, my doctors, they all had one thing in common in their reaction to the diagnosis; They seemed to feel a genuine sense of relief. I was definitely pleased to hear that the cancer was gone but it wasn’t like when I found out the first time around. There were no tears of joy, no feelings of accomplishment nor the satisfaction of completion. Deep down I know it’s because I’m absolutely terrified that it could happen again. I remember the doctors being so sure that I would never have a recurrence after the initial sarcoma because I had reacted so well to the chemotherapy and they got good margins during the surgery and they managed to get the entire tumor, etc. I had clear PET scans for months after my celebratory party at the hospital and I thought that I was truly in the clear. It was all over…until it wasn’t. I didn’t even get to a year of being cancer-free, just 8 months. Ironically, I had a clear PET 4 weeks before I started to feel pain in my hip, pain that I was sure was due to the rigorous physical therapy I was doing at that time after my third surgery. But as it turns out, it wasn’t the PT and a tumor had managed to grow inside my pelvis in a matter of a month.
I know I’m lucky. I know it’s a miracle I have been able to live through any of this at all, but there’s a part of me that feels like it’s not over and a fear that it will never be over. I don’t feel safe. I don’t feel like it’s time to celebrate and tempt fate. The fact is no one knows if this is really the end of cancer for me. I’m sure this is a common feeling among survivors who have had a recurrence. The fear of the unknown is almost suffocating sometimes. At this point in time, I have another 5 weeks of being homebound and non-weight bearing. After that I have to begin PT so I can learn how to walk again for the fourth time in my life. Maybe when I get through all of that and start to feel like a person again I’ll start to feel more of a sense of relief. I’m sure I will, but for now I just need to keep that little voice in the back of my mind quiet so I can move forward and live my life.
Today I’m feeling like I’m going to burst. Like there is something inside of me that needs to be released but there’s no way out. I can literally feel a blockage. Something pushing down hard, keeping everything inside. There’s a dam built up high deep within, holding back the floodgate. I’ve tried to cry a few times but it never came to fruition. I wish I could reach inside my chest and pull out all of the weight I feel pushing me under, but I can’t. The heaviness swallows me up whole and all I can do is let it. I have so many thoughts and emotions no one can touch, no one can see. No one ever will. Things I would never want anyone to know. I long to be relaxed, to be loose, to be carefree and content. To cast off the stone that weighs me down and to fly. To trade pain for ecstasy, fear for valor, despair for hope. This ache is too much to bear today. Every day is different when you are being held captive by your own body. A body I once loved and showed proudly to the world is now the same body I want to hide and keep locked away. I wish someone could just come and kiss this all away like it’s been nothing but a bad dream. But it’s just me. I’m alone. And as much as I wish it could be, life isn’t a fairy tale.
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. For whatever reason I haven’t been able to just sit and let the contents of my mind flow outward. I’ve been trying to keep it all in. Sometimes I’m afraid that if I really get in touch with what it is I’m feeling/thinking, I will completely lose it. Like I will start crying and just never stop. I have to say, holding things in hasn’t helped me any. It’s only wound me up that much tighter.
I’m utterly exhausted. I am now an insomniac. I can’t think of the last time I really slept soundly. My personal best is 4 hours straight without waking up, but most nights I awaken every 2 hours. On particularly troublesome nights, I am up every 45 minutes to an hour. There’s always a time before dawn where I am just wide awake, changing positions restlessly for at least an hour, sometimes 3, trying desperately to fall back asleep. I do somehow manage to have dreams while I’m in these brief slumbers and they run the gamut from fairly happy to dark and disturbing. I don’t think I’ve had a full, undisturbed 8 hours of rest since 2012. Although when I was on Gemzar, I was so tired I felt like I couldn’t keep my eyes open for more than ten minutes. I felt complete exhaustion from the moment I woke up in the morning, like I hadn’t slept for days.
What I wouldn’t give to sleep through the night. At this point, I’m used to looking in the mirror and seeing dark half-moon circles under my eyes and fine lines that never used to be there before. Even when I take an Ativan, I still awaken 2 hours after I close my eyes. I used to be a champion sleeper. I could go 12 hours straight if I wanted to. Sleep has always been an escape for me. When I didn’t feel like facing the world, I could just lay down and be someplace else in my mind. A couple of weeks back, I had a dream that my friend and I were walking in the woods up a very steep grassy hill. We were going towards a light, a sunset so bright and colorful, it could take your breath away. Pinks, oranges, purples and golds all swirled together into this almost blinding light. When we finally reached the top of the hill, we discovered that it was a cliff. At the bottom of this cliff about a mile down, there was an ocean and a road. I tested the ground before us with a stick and it went straight through the earth. She told me she was scared and we held hands. I said to her that I wasn’t ready yet and we slowly walked backwards away from the edge. Then I woke up.
I’m not ready yet…
I had to pay another visit to the cardiologist this week. My oncologist is looking for someone to tell him exactly how strong of a drug he can use on me without giving me a heart attack (always a good thing to know), so I had a pow wow with a specialist. Prolonged QT syndrome isn’t just some bullshit inconvenience that prevents me from ingesting certain medications, turns out it can occur anytime and it can be fatal. In fact, the cardiologist was so concerned about tracking the rhythms of my heart during my recovery that he decided I needed to be fitted with a recording device. This pen cap sized piece of modern technology knows when my heart is too slow or fast, is experiencing arrhythmia or any other maladies. Yesterday morning they implanted a loop recorder into my chest just under the skin and I was told I would likely need to take beta blockers for the rest of my life. It seems I officially have a heart problem. How, after being perfectly healthy for almost 31 years on this planet with a fully functional heart, did I suddenly end up here? I wonder if this thing can detect heartbreak?