One Second from Disaster

Why is it that some people seem to live a charmed life.  Nothing bad ever happens to them—they sail through life with nothing major going wrong.

Why is it that some people seem to live a charmed life.  Nothing bad ever happens to them—they sail through life with nothing major going wrong. That is my one question—why?

I get up in the morning with a vague feeling of anxiety that almost never leaves me. I am not one to feel sorry for myself and hate being on the pity pot. Yet I feel jealous of women with their big cleavages and think about what if they got this damn disease. How about all those women with their big manes of hair, so confident that nothing can touch them. Well, this fucking disease doesn’t care about that and this life is a mine field. You can be going along, all smug, posting your “best life” on Facebook, when suddenly your life as you know it comes to a screeching halt. That is how it is—we are all one second away from disaster.

When my friend Janet got the news that she had MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome) the disease which ultimately killed her, she called it the “train wreck.” That describes it exactly –a feeling of disbelief and confusion. Any faith that you thought you had is shaken. “How could this be?” you ask yourself, knowing that you are not invincible and the grim reaper has come to your doorstep.

Having had the big C 34 years ago, for some strange reason I felt that was it. I was sure that I would never get cancer ever again—that my turn had come and I came through it.  But that’s not the way things work in the world. So, I put my big girl brave face out there and made it my mission to fight this. I was determined to remain positive and I actually did. On the days I had an infusion for 3 hours I actually was in good spirits. I tried to analyze why that was so and I can only surmise that I felt cared for and loved. My friend would come over, bring me lunch, and we would chat. I guess you would say I did not suffer from many chemo side effects so I was lucky (or blessed depending upon where you come from).

I counted down the chemo cycles (I had 6) and posted pictures of me getting the infusion. People responded and I felt loved again. But a strange thing happened after the last cycle—I felt let down and depressed. One would think I would feel wonderful and relieved but I was just the opposite. I didn’t know what to do with myself and I simply felt abandoned. I was no longer special and my purpose in life, which turned out to be just getting through the chemo, was gone. I felt that I lost my purpose. I have been struggling to get that back and I am having a hard time. People don’t understand how I feel—they think I should be happy, happy, and grateful. I am grateful it is over but I am left with the residual fear of having this return. I think crazy thoughts and get into my own head that I somehow have metastatic cancer and I will surely die of this. I have a mammogram next month and my head tells me that I have cancer in the other breast now.  I speak to other cancer survivors and many of them feel like me, so maybe I’m not unique, but I still can’t shake these feelings.

Logically, I know that we must “live in the day” and not the past or future because you miss the beauty of the moment. Yet I catch myself thinking about 10 years down the road sometimes and it is frightening. I engage in the “what ifs” which only increases my anxiety because the future is fraught with those nasty mine fields.

I know this is not exactly a very inspirational piece but this is how I feel. I have kept this inside of myself and whenever someone asks me how I feel, I simply say, “Fine” or “OK” when I really want to say, “I am fucking depressed and anxious”. But nobody wants to hear that—all they want to hear is that you are good so they can feel good too.

Gratitude

Every so often, I find myself getting impatient with someone ambling across the street with a cane. It’s so easy to forget that less than a year and a half ago, that was me. Sometimes when I quickly get up from a seat, and stride very briskly to the other side of the room for something, I find it amazing. Unlike most people who are not impaired, I am acutely aware of how well I simply “walk” and never take it for granted. I know that just plain “walking” without losing balance, fear of falling, or having to hang onto the walls is a gift. Sometimes I become aware that my feet, belly, legs, and back are no longer numb and tingling. I look at my right leg, which was withered as if I had polio, and see a nice, plump muscular leg again. I know that not having my crutch parked beside my bed for help in the middle of the night, is something I never thought I would experience again. Just like anything, it is human nature to not appreciate what you have until you lose it. Things that I thought I would never do again, such as running (a run/walk now) I am doing. I was a prisoner to my disability, never being able to just pick up and go, and I will be forever grateful for that miracle bestowed upon me. OK, if I had not persevered and kept insisting that something was wrong with me, and not just accepted a life of an invalid, I would not have had that “miracle.” So, it all went together and my tenacity was in itself, divine intervention, I believe. When I remember to practice gratitude and appreciation for how I was literally given my life back from the brink, I have a better day. When I focus on the same old petty, annoying, neurotic insecurities (which I will probably never totally lose) I am lost. I know that I have been given a daily reprieve and there are no guarantees in life, but for now, my life is infinitely better than it was, and I cannot forget that.

Forgetting

As time goes by I am forgetting to be grateful. I have been in a state of flux and depression lately because I am putting too much emphasis on getting accolades. I wrote Being Your Own Cheerleader, but I have been having a hard time following my own advice. I think every human being needs some sort of recognition for what they do, even for seemingly small things. It is amazing how one kind or positive remark from someone can do wonders to carry me for a few days. But it just seems that when I write and write, and have no comments, I begin to doubt myself and all those negative tapes start playing in my head, that I am not good enough, and what’s the point, etc. Then my friend Jane, who has been in and out of the hospital since November, with complications of MS, calls and the amount of gratitude I feel comes flooding back. That is when I remember that back in March 2013, I was literally given another chance at life. Immediately after that surgery I was actually happy, because I didn’t take for granted simple things such as walking across the room without a cane. Now, over thirteen months later, I sometimes forget how horrific my life was and how amazing my life is now. I could compare myself to other people who have more money, a relationship, more friends, and feel insecure and small. But, when I compare myself to my friend who struggles with simple tasks such as just walking, cleaning, loss of autonomy, having to depend on people to drive her to appointments, I am filled with gratitude. When I think along those lines, and don’t let myself drift back into negativity, my day and life goes better.