Monday, March 28, 2016

Conquering Mountains

Today I woke up in the middle of a bad dream that was so vivid and haunting.  I couldn't get it out of my head. It left me feeling completely unsettled.  

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

The Roller Coaster

Life has often left me feeling defeated.  Then I remember that I am in control of my life.  I might not be able to control the circumstances of my life but I can control how I handle those circumstances.  

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.