Friday, February 4, 2011
Pulling Out the Pink Sash
Have I told you I am writing a book? I have been putting pen to paper for quite some time now. Every time I think I am done, ready to put my pen down, put the paper away, something else comes to mind. In fact something else just did! Oh I have been “done” for some 6 months now but just in the last 3 days I have added 20 more pages!
What I am learning as I share my own, personal cancer story is this: chemo brain does not do a body good! Yes you heard me; I am telling you right now, my brain has slowed down. This is actually one of the reasons why I have not posted as vigorously as I did before. For every entry I add, it is days and days of pulling words out of my brain. Think about pulling a what do you call it, from out of what would you say it is? This is about as maddening as it gets for me on a daily basis but it gets done because I am a stubborn, very determined, breast cancer fighting machine. I still pull out and tie my pink sash on BUT this all happens very slowly sometimes. I would not be completely honest with you if I did not say I didn’t have to struggle with finding my words from time to time.
It’s not so much that I don’t know the words I want to use; it’s more about placing them where they need to go, where I can easily reach them, pulling them out of my brain. I can see each word visually in my mind, I can even feel them on my tongue, it’s not just my brain who does not want to let them go, to let them exit, it's the whole process which shuts down from time to time on me. In other words my brain has the key but refuses to unlock the door, all my thoughts, my words and indeed my heart are kept as prisoner some days and it kills me! I so want to share my thoughts, to express how I feel and why, but there is this nasty little monster called Chemo Brain, which fights to hold me back! This bugger can even keep me from engaging in a conversation, especially if I am unable to take it slowly. But I am not alone, and I am determined not to let cancer take my voice from me! This is my story, not hers. Cancer does not get a say in how I share her brutality with the world!
Going back this last week , re-reading and of course adding more layers to my story has shown me many wonderful, and yes a few painful moments in my story I had forgotten about. I have seen parts of my life with a whole new set of eyes as I have relived each and every one placing them on paper. I saw moments when anger flashed into my life, hurt, pain, disbelief and agony, times I had no control over what was happening to my body or why events were set into motion. But I also saw many more moments of joy, laughter and hope bouncing around like a bouncy ball up and down.
Life is unpredictable, and most of the time so are the people who come in and out of our lives. Sometimes they come in strong, ready to help you with the back and forth tug of war going on in your life. Others may just sit back and watch, waiting to see who the winner will be while others simply leave you holding the slack. But this is life! This is how the world turns and this is how we learn to be strong, to hold onto hope and to keep faith tucked away in our hearts.
Personally I have found I am stronger than I ever thought I could be, at the same time I know I am just human and because of this fact I cannot be strong, every minute of every day. It’s just not possible, I am not perfect and I wouldn’t want to be. How tragic it would be to miss out on all life has to offer me because I could not accept my weakness. I laugh, I cry and I feel pain even if sometimes this thorn is not present for everyone to see.
When I have been able I have put my own needs aside, scrambled to take on the burdens of those I love, but the truth is this: I am simply a human being, who through extraordinary circumstances has been given the gift of hope. But this hope can only stretch so far; there are times when I have to retreat, to re-group, to re fill my canteen with precious hope infused water so I can get back out there to be the rock I know I need to be. The thing about living with cancer is it’s not so much about how much you can endure but how far you can make your endurance last.
Living with cancer is not just a simple, clearly marked stamp on a piece of paper, no, living with cancer is a whole, big file of stamped papers, all needing your attention at the same time. This is why I have to retreat sometimes, why I need to rest, to drink from the well of hope again before I can come charging back to the battlefield.
There is an old song, I loved a child. In this song the singer sang of winning battles, being wounded in the fight, needing to rest and be held in the arms of God, well this song still rings true today in my life. I am a warrior but I am just one person. BUT this is the thing: together, we are strong, together we have each other’s back and together we share our hope with one another, inspiring each other to get back up on our feet even if we have to carry one another.
Living with cancer even years after recovery, can be very difficult especially if you are living with such after effects as chemo brain or joint and nerve damage. Just because the doctors have sounded the all clear does not mean your body is ready to jump back into the deep end of life. The truth is this simple: your body has physical aged years beyond what your actual two digits say on your birth certificate. Take it from me; this is an accurate synopsis of the Big C! Some of you may ask what the big deal is all about, it’s just cancer, and they have treatments for cancer now right? Yes, but cancer cannot be cured, and for those of us living in the shadow of the Big C we know this better than anyone else. Life is incredibly bumpy, with or without a cancer diagnosis, chemo brain or not life is difficult. See this is this is where we must all work together to help insure we reach the finish line hand and hand, not miles apart. How do we accomplish this by having compassion and understanding for one another, this is truly the key to our success on this journey we call life!
Why these particular two elements? Well, just because many of us our strong and have always been able to throw things off, take on our own burdens and those of everyone else does not mean we can continue to be once cancer has pounded on our door! Sometimes it is just simply about putting yourself in someone’s shoes, reaching out with a helping hand, and actually trying on someone else’s boots for a day. If we all just took the time to realize, even if we are pulling out the pink sash, life is not as simple as black and white but instead filled with tons of gray more of our lights would shine. These gray areas are part of the uncharted waters we all fear but we must help navigate with through love, compassion, understanding and a gentle strength if we are to ever finish this story we are writing on the pages of life.