The funny thing about finding out you have stage 4 metastatic cancer is the first thought that comes into your head is usually something completely ridiculous but also revealing of what matters most to you. In December 2015, when I was re-diagnosed, I thought I only had a few months to live...maybe just a year. Cancer had metastasized to my bones. I could barely walk. My first thought... I've never taken my kids to Disneyland. I just want to take them to Disneyland before I die.
Today we celebrated my 37th birthday with my family (two days early). Maybe it's just the birthday blues but I've been consumed with morbid thoughts. When you're thinking of your life in terms of birthdays, it's hard not to wonder how many are left. Right now I'm living. I'm thriving. These cancer killing pills I take every day are doing their job...without them, I die.
The domino effect... Morbid thoughts lead to feelings of loneliness. My first bout with cancer... I was married and pregnant. Through my entire year of treatment my ex-husband only attended one chemo appointment with me...yet, through the first half I was not alone. I had my little man, growing in my womb, battling cancer with me. I had my sister attending all my appointments with me, taking time off of work to sit with me through chemo. The diagnosis of cancer was just one of the many nails in the coffin for my marriage. Now I'm single and alone. Most of the time I'm good with that because men are more trouble than they're worth (unless you happen to meet that man who is worth the trouble). But I have my moments...those moments where I just desire to be with someone who can hold me when I'm down...someone who will just say...I'm with you in this.
The escape...avoidance...filling my time....distractions...friends...music...dancing...acting stupid...just living. Fifty percent of the time, I have my kids. The other fifty percent of the time is spent escaping my reality.
My attempt at resolving my loneliness... A couple weeks ago my friend talked me into doing a dating app again. I downloaded it on a Monday and deleted it by Friday. On Wednesday I had my first date. I refer to him as "the Egyptian". He's a handsome realtor who lives in Santa Barbara. We met for a beer. It went well but by the end of the date he was asking me if I was interested in being "exclusive". Red flag. The date only lasted two hours because I intentionally planned something with my friends afterwards so I would have an out. Next guy...the "wine guy"... He asked to meet at a restaurant for a glass of wine. I had my kids that day and went to the pool then dropped them off with their dad and had to meet him immediately after. I was wearing yoga pants, a tank top, and converse. I showed up at the restaurant and he was wearing a suit. It made me giggle. I find awkward moments mostly comical but the awkward moments with this guy just made me feel awkward. He didn't seem to mind my attire and he stared at me in this very uncomfortable way. I found myself talking about all my worst qualities and life experiences. I excused myself to the restroom and when I came back I didn't sit down, I simply asked, "Are you ready?" He walked me to my car and I drove away, not looking back. The third guy... "The wrestler". He's a professional wrestler. He was so sweet and such a gentleman (and very muscular). We went out to play pool. I'm not a good pool player at all. Anyone with any kind of hand eye coordination and an understanding of pool should be able to beat me easily. The first two games were close. I won both. The third game, I scratched on the 8 ball, so he won. The fourth game I won, leaving 6 of his balls still on the table. We started talking about other games we're good at. I told him I'm terrible at connect four. We ended up playing connect four on an app on my phone. I won the first game then started to feel bad and decided to let him win. We now needed to go best three out of five. There were opportunities for him to win and he didn't even see them. It was like playing against myself to not win and make sure I left opportunities for him to win without being too obvious. The date was over. I had the dating app on my phone for four days and then I deleted it...never again...
There was some good that came out of my four day long dating app experience. It confirmed the fact that I am attracted to a man's mind and personality more so than their looks. But it also did harm. It caused me to look at myself and my standards (which is actually more beneficial than harmful). I am so cautious with allowing myself to feel...or maybe just admitting to myself that I do...a friend who lives too far away...a guy who is close by but emotionally unavailable... Maybe I just have a thing for guys who aren't available. It's safe to feel something for someone when you know it can't go anywhere... Yet, I'm alone and sometimes I just don't want to be alone.
My birthday is on Wednesday. I will drop my kids with their dad then go sit on the beach and have my alone time. I will continue to be alone because I won't settle ever again.
Monday, March 28, 2016
I drove over to my Monday morning workout and the introvert in me couldn't get out of the car. The idea of being around people was just something I couldn't even entertain. I drove away. I needed to be alone. So, I drove down the coast to a hiking trail. I put my ear buds in, turned on my music, and began my climb up the mountain.
It's not a very long hike but it's grueling because the first half mile is just a straight up climb to 1200 ft elevation. There's something about this kind of physical exertion that gets my mind going, finding an analogy to life. I observed my own efforts pushing up the mountain. I watched the other hikers.
I started climbing this mountain with no other hikers in sight. I pushed myself hard, immediately feeling the burn. Pushing myself until I was out of breath, passing other hikers. Knowing what I wanted was to just get further than I did the last time I did this hike.
I passed a group of hikers that were taking their time. They were taking it slow. As I worked my way up that mountain I had to stop to catch my breath a couple times. I looked back and could see that group I had passed. I watched them struggle. I watched them second guessing themselves and their ability to make it to the top, despite the fact that all of them appeared to be in better physical shape than I am. As I made it to the top of the mountain, I turned around and looked down the trail. That group of hikers had given up. They were finding their way back down the trail. They quit. They took their time, overthinking it, wondering if it was worth it. They couldn't just commit and persevere through the discomfort.
My legs were burning. I was out of breath. A few times I had to take a quick break to look ahead, refocus, and recommit to getting there but I was at the top of the mountain. I pushed myself hard, sometimes jogging up the hardest parts because I knew I needed to just push through. If I slowed down I might give up too. Standing at the top of the mountain, I realized my beginning goal had been to just make it past the place I had given up last time. I pushed hard and didn't even notice I had passed that place by. I have grown. I am stronger. My focus was no longer on where I've been. I was focused on where I'm going.
The top of the mountain...this is where the trail became flat. This is where the breathtaking view made that struggle up the mountain feel worth it. I was able to relax and just enjoy the rest of the hike. The hard work was done. I persevered and surpassed my goal.
As I stood there taking in the beauty, I began to think about how sharing that with someone could have enhanced the experience. I didn't need anyone there to encourage me. I didn't need anyone there to make it enjoyable. Experiencing life with someone is not something I need. It's something I want. But what if that person you want to share the experience with isn't capable of pushing hard up the mountain? What if they need to take it slow? What if they can't commit to making it to the top?
I love the view at the top of the mountain but does the view really matter that much? The journey up the mountain is really what it was all about.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Yesterday was one of those days. I went in for my one week post-op check up after having my ovaries removed. Some random doctor was filling in for my doctor. He walked in, sat down, and said, "They found cancer in your ovaries. I'm very sorry". I responded, "Such is my life".
Shock set in. I felt nothing. Then my mind started spinning. What does this mean? The fact that my cancer had only metastasized to my bones was what gave me hope for still having a long life. Am I going to die before my children grow up? I am going to die. What now? How will they treat this? Will I have to lose my hair again? How long do I have?
I called and left a message for my oncologist. "Please call me back about the pathology results."
I went home, climbed into bed, and fought back tears. Trying to be okay for the sake of my children who were sitting on my bedroom floor watching a movie.
A couple hours passed by and I finally got a call back from my oncologist. This changes nothing. What they actually found were just microscopic metastatic breast cancer cells in one ovary. The ovaries looked normal and there were no masses or tumors. Apparently this is very common. My treatment and prognosis remain the same. He still expects me to live for a very long time.
I cried from relief. Then I was both physically and emotionally exhausted. The emotional roller coaster, even though only a couple hours long, is traumatic. It left me feeling fragile. It left me feeling alone.
I woke up this morning feeling heavy hearted...feeling down. I went to workout with my sisters. I walked in and my sister asked if I was feeling relieved. My eyes began to fill with tears. I am emotional. My facade has been broken. The fear left me emotional and vulnerable. At any moment I might break down. At any moment the tears might begin to flow.
Working out helped. Today was a boxing day. I was hitting that bag hard and it felt good. This shit can't knock me down and keep me down.
Tonight, after I drop my kids off at their dad's, I will go down to my beach. I will sit and watch the waves and drink a beer. I will sit there alone and let myself process the roller coaster of emotions. I will be good.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Four years ago I found out I was pregnant. My fourth child. I knew before I had even missed a period. I was excited. I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life. I was running and doing yoga four to five times a week. I felt amazing. I decided to have a home birth. Two of my three previous births were done completely natural. This one would be easy. I found a midwife who started coming to my home to do my check ups. On her second visit she asked me how I was doing. I told her I was having anxiety. I felt like something bad was going to happen. She asked about it. I told her I knew it sounded crazy but I was worried I was going to have cancer during my pregnancy. Two weeks later I found the lump in my breast.
Intuition is a powerful thing when we listen. More often than not, it is too hard to differentiate between fear and intuition. As I have gone through the trials the last four years have presented me with, I have learned so much about myself and fear. I have had to learn how to accept whatever life throws at me. (Just stating for the record that I have yet to learn how to not fear being vulnerable. That's a whole different issue.)
Three months ago, as I was waiting for the results of the PET scan that would tell me for sure if cancer was yet again trying to kill me, I went in to my doctor's office. They took my blood pressure. 210/102. I knew the news was bad. The anxiety was so intense that I could barely breath. Two weeks ago, I had another PET scan. I went in to get the results. They took my blood pressure. 111/59. The results were good. The treatment is working. My body is reacting just as it should. I am winning and I can feel it.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
I've been trying to play it cool and failing miserably. The deal breaker guy broke my heart. I've tried to act like it wasn't a big deal but the truth is that for the first time I let myself be completely vulnerable and it felt so good. He initiated it all. He made me feel safe. He told me he was taking it seriously. He called me his girlfriend. He told my friends he wanted to make me his life partner. He made me feel.
Truth be told, I feel pathetic for caring so much after such a short period of time. We weren't together long enough for me to feel this strongly. It goes against all logic but how can I explain my heart? I can't.
After his sweet confessions of how intense he felt for me, I expressed concern about how quickly things were moving. I questioned him. This can be a fatal error. I assume this is where I went wrong. The next day he needed space. That was the end. We never had a real conversation after that. We spoke briefly twice when I ran into him while out with friends. The first time I saw him, he said the reason he couldn't do it is because of my crazy ex (which is kinda funny because he doesn't even have a clue how much conflict there actually is there). The second time I told him I hoped we could still be friends and maybe we could grab a coffee sometime. I texted him a couple days later and asked if he wanted to grab that coffee. He blew me off.
I met a new guy. He's telling me he wants to be my boyfriend. He's saying all the right things. He looks good on paper. He's sweet and attentive. I keep telling him to stop using the word boyfriend. It's too much too fast. It makes me want to run.
This whole dating thing is too...confusing. This perfect on paper guy...who's to say he won't do the same thing? He likes me but how long will that actually last? I started thinking about the deal breaker guy. I started to get pissed....like really really pissed off. He said all these things to me and let me feel safe. Then he was gone. Was it even real? If my friends hadn't seen, I wouldn't believe my own take on it. Logic wins anyhow. He couldn't have felt the way he said he did and just turn it off like that. He couldn't feel the way he said he did and just want nothing to do with me anymore. I've been played? Does it even matter? Not really...except for the fact that now I don't trust quite as easily. Now I'm afraid to let myself feel. Now I don't want to see his face ever again. I am angry.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Deadpool. A movie based on a comic. Full of action. Bloody at points that made me cringe. The movie ended and I giggled. A love story. A bloody and messed up love story.
Anyone who follows my blog knows about the guy I was dating...the deal breaker guy. He's the guy that just made sense. It felt right. The connection was instant. The connection was real. The first time he hugged me, I turned toward him to kiss him because it just felt right. Then I caught myself and stopped. It came so naturally. But then he decided that my baggage is too much. And it's over despite the fact that I don't want it to be over.
I've been on dates with four guys since then. The first guy... We went on a date and I just felt a heaviness the entire time. I felt sad. I felt disappointed. He was nice. He was handsome. I felt nothing.
The second guy... Thirty minutes into the date I figured out that he's a white supremacist. It lasted long enough for me to say goodbye.
The third guy... A vegan. I don't mean to be judgmental but men eat meat. He is also a germaphobe. He tried to act like he isn't but I read people. I know. I want a man.
The fourth guy... We went to see deadpool together yesterday. He lives an hour and a half away...
Experiencing a real and legit connection doesn't happen often. When it fails, it's devastating. It makes it hard to settle. It's hard to let go.
The thing is...I've realized...I have a story. My life is a story. It's messy story. But anyone who chooses to be part of this story is lucky...it's a good story. A bloody and messed up love story. I'm no longer worried about if my story is too much. My story is epic. My story is worthy.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to dance. I have no shame. I will make a complete fool of myself dancing and laughing. I feel the music and I must dance. I dance to the point where I'm dripping with sweat and my cheeks are flushed. I dance so hard that I am sore the next day.
For the past three months I haven't been able to dance. The pain has been the most intense pain I've experienced. I walk down the street and try to walk without a limp. I act like the pain isn't there. I couldn't dance. Physically, I've just been going through the motions, trying to just be normal. But I've been missing the bounce in my step. I went out with friends and had to stand back and watch them dance. I watched them let the music take over. I watched them living in the moment. I was an observer. For so long I also lived my life like this...watching others really live...standing in the background in pain...not allowing myself to feel. I was married for 14 years and I said so many times...I don't know what happened to me but this is not who I am. I used to be fun. I used to love to laugh. I used to love to dance. Over the past two years, I have found myself again. I found my love of laughter. I've let go of everything that got in the way of letting myself feel the music. Now this is how I choose to live my life. I'm not going to let anything get in the way of allowing me to feel. I am going to take chances. I am going to live life without regret. I am going to feel the pain. I am going to feel the joy. I am going to allow myself to feel deeply. I've made the choice to feel and now everything is a new experience. Whether it's laying on the beach feeling the sun on my skin and allowing the peacefulness to flow through me, or driving down the freeway with all my windows down, feeling the wind on my face while my music is turned up as loud as it will go, or putting myself out there in a relationship and sharing my heart and not holding back. I feel. Allowing myself to feel is empowering but also sometimes scary.
The other day, for the first time in months, I experienced no pain in my hip. The cancer killing pills are doing their job. I can dance. Since then, I've found myself dancing when I didn't even realize I was doing it. Dancing is good for my soul and my desire to dance tells me all is well with my soul.