Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Strength of Honesty

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in a beige overstuffed recliner from the 80's facing my on again off again therapist. I had just been given the one word definition of anxiety: Fear. After her textbook pause for effect, she posed the inevitable question: What is your biggest fear?

To help with context, let me give a brief synopsis of my current cause for anxiety. I have a big deadline on Friday. I have to make a decision as to whether or not I sign on for 28 treatments of radiation to my chest wall. I could give you all the fun facts as to why this decision has to be made. Perhaps I should, that way you could all (meaning, Janice) weigh in on what I should do and make my choice for me. But, that would be counter productive because no matter how much I wish it weren't true, I am the only one that can make this decision. I alone have to say 'yes' or 'no' and live with the consequences. I will however point out that my situation is not a simple one. There is no big flashing red arrow pointing me in a positive or negative direction. Some words that were used by the best and brightest in Kalamazoo were 'probability', '.5 mm', 'consider', 'statistics', 'percentage,' 'risks', 'gray' and my personal favorite 'maybe'. For the past 4 weeks, I have been using these comforting words to process my final decision. 

I know what my surgeon would do, I know what my friends would do, I know what my husband thinks we have agreed to do, I even know what Jesus would do, but I honestly don't know what I will do.

This morning I let my mind wander back to the dimly lit room with the big chair, my therapist, and an unanswered question. I was not able to come up with just one answer. For the last three months so many different fears had driven my existence. How was I to know which one was my biggest? Then, nearly all of my crazy irrational thoughts disappeared and only one remained. Perhaps, this was the one. The one that kept me from doing what seemed so obvious to so many. The one that kept me from walking in with confidence on Friday and saying, 'The risks don't out weigh the benefits so my answer is, no.'

I am afraid a small part of the cancer is still there, that it will show up again someday and that next time my family will lose me. 

I have let this post sit for a day after writing the above words. Could this fear possibly happen? There is a probability that statistically the percentage of risk in my gray situation could involve the above scenario. But, 24 hours later this fear doesn't seem to have the power that it once did. Perhaps, by taking the time to be honest with myself and recognizing what is driving my fear is all it takes to destroy the debilitating power they it can have on me. No doubt there will be more anxiety and fear, but choosing to be honest instead of strong in those moments might actually provide the real strength I need to free myself from them.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cliches and Unsolicited Advice

The beauty of my blog is that little to no thought goes into what I write. I wait until I have a moment and then just go ahead and dump the contents of my head onto a blank page. Not sure if this is standard blogging protocol, but based on my non existent readership, I'd say that this probably isn't the best way to go about things. Of course, this changes nothing and I will now dump my latest reflections.

I have been on this cancer journey for 3 months now. Unfortunately, it continues to throw me curve balls. After talking with and reading about people that have also been on this journey, I have come to the conclusion that these curve balls are just par for the course. It is just part of getting to travel this road. I will pause now and reflect upon the ridiculous number of cliches that I have just used to describe having cancer. Which leads me to my next thought, cancer is a really really uncomfortable thing to talk about. It makes people nervous. Those that don't have it, have no idea what to think about it and honestly find the whole idea very uncomfortable. Those that do have it are very aware of this since at some point they were in the 'don't have it' group, so they go out of their way to put a positive spin on everything and use words like 'journey' and 'road' to try and make everyone feel better. I am pretty sure that it doesn't work. No one is fooled by these ridiculous words. Cancer is not a journey or a road; it is a disease. And, since we are being honest here, it is a life threatening disease that doesn't always end well. I have this disease, and even though I don't plan on having it for long, I still have it. Even though I plan on fighting and doing what it takes to heal, I still have it. Even though I believe that God loves me and can heal my body, I still have it. Even if I choose to put a positive spin on it, I still have it.

What are we all supposed to do then? Being that I am not a licensed psychologist with a specialty in grief counseling, I can only give my humble opinion. Those of us with cancer need to be honest about our 'journey', and those without it need to come alongside and 'just be' available... a lot. Let us know that it is okay that we are overwhelmed and scared. That we don't have to always get it right, just so one day we can write a brilliant and inspirational memoir that, let's be honest, will only make others struggling with cancer feel like crap. Basically, just give us the space to breathe through this messy situation, knowing that some days we will be better at it than others. Don't forget that although you may soon become bored with this 'project', the person with the disease doesn't get that luxury and that they can't afford to go through this alone. I guess what I am trying to say is the person with cancer has to wake up each day and face a strange new existence; it would be nice if they had a few familiar faces waiting there on occasion.