Have you ever looked at the calendar and thought, “How the hell is it mid-July?” That was the revelation I had the other day when I was looking at the calendar on my phone trying to see what’s coming up in the next couple weeks. It seems like, just yesterday, I was headed to Key West to greet my sister and the Key to Keys team as they reached the Southernmost Point. Where did the time go? There were days that seemed to drag on and others that went by in a flash.
You’re probably wondering where I have been all this time and if I had been writing - secretly creating a stockpile of blog posts to unleash all at once. I have been writing on and off in a journal I got at Kripalu when I was there for a weekend with my sister back in May. Kripalu is a yoga retreat center in Massachusetts. We attended a workshop that was lead by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, she wrote the mega hit Eat, Pray, Love. We had no idea what was in store for us. I signed up on a whim after my sister suggested I go with her. I had always been curious about Kripalu and what it had to offer. It was an amazing workshop and we did a lot of writing. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed the workshop. Don’t worry, you’ll hear about it more one day soon.
If you have seen me recently you will notice one major change. My hair is back to being completely brown. If you didn’t know my story you would have no idea that I have terminal cancer and am still on active chemo. I think that’s what makes it hard for people to understand. How can someone who looks so healthy on the outside be so sick on the inside? I’ve had countless people comment on how good I look or how healthy I appear to them. Just as we all have known from the beginning, I don’t fit the cookie cutter description of a cancer patient. If anything, I look like a cancer patient in disguise - except at the end of the day I can’t hang up my cape like most people. I sometimes wish I could wear a shirt that says, “I am suppressing my emotions to make everyone else feel comfortable.”
Back in mid-April I was put on a medication to help slow down my migraine headaches. I was told I would be in a fog for a little while but eventually that would go away. Well a couple weeks went by and the fog wasn’t getting any better. I wasn’t feeling like myself and knew things weren’t right. I had an appointment to see my oncologist and he mentioned that I wasn’t acting like myself. At this point we hadn’t known each other too long but it was enough of a difference that he wanted me off that medication. I came off the medication fully expecting to return back to normal and feel fine. Unfortunately it was just enough to tip the scale and knock everything out. In translation, all the stuff I had been suppressing was finally starting to unravel.
I’ve been part of this cancer rodeo for almost four years now. For the majority of it I kept my head down, did what I was told and just moved forward. I never looked back or really thought about all the stuff I went through. I genuinely thought I was ok with everything. I accepted my treatment plans in the beginning and was compliant -minus the whole don’t ride when you don’t feel well thing. We all know I’d be lying if I told you every time I rode I felt like a majestic unicorn frolicking through the field jumping over rainbows. As I have gotten further down the road I am finding that it is getting harder to be ok with everything.
I actually stopped writing because it was bringing up these deep emotions that I didn’t know were inside of me. When I started writing everything down it became real. It was no longer a distant memory that I was trying to forget. It was as if my subconscious was finally trying to break through and communicate with me. My body was finally telling my mind that it was no longer ok with everything. Instead of going with the flow I was fighting the current. I started waking up in the mornings panicked for no reason. I’d have a pit in my stomach and all of a sudden a simple task felt like climbing mountains. I started to retreat from people, places, and things I loved to do. I came up with excuses in my mind as to why I shouldn’t do something. I knew it was bad when there were days I wasn’t even sure I wanted to ride. I had spent so much time moving forward and saying I’d deal with it later that it eventually caught up with me and said, “your later is now.”
I recently was driving and listening to an audiobook in my car when the author said something that really struck a chord with me. She said that she realized she was surviving and not thriving in her life. It felt like I had just walked into a glass door. Finally someone put into words exactly how I was feeling. I had become comfortable in my routine to a fault. Doing the same motions each day and not even noticing that time was marching on whether I was in the moment experiencing it or not. It’s been the perpetual schedule of not being able to plan much the week of chemo then desperately trying to fit in everything I want to do when I feel good during my weeks off. I was just trying to survive my cancer rather than thriving despite it.
Recently the weight of everything has been hitting me hard. I hear about what other people my age are doing and how they have moved on with their lives. I often feel like that middle aged son who still lives at home with his parents in their basement constantly playing video games. Not that there is anything wrong with that, we all have our own paths to walk. I have been catching myself lately worrying and thinking about the future rather than staying in the present moment. My mind will wander off thinking about something I need to be doing tomorrow or next week or some worry I have that has nothing to do with what is going on around me. I think we all do that.
Some days are a hell of a lot easier than others. I’ll find myself feeling fine then all of a sudden a tidal wave will wash over me and cloud my judgment making me feel as if I am grasping for air. We all have days when we have setbacks or things just aren’t going our way. What we have to remember is that it’s just a bad day and not a bad life. One of my good friends once told me that some days we just have to ride the wave.