“My Boys Need Me More”

May 18 2015

Took a hiatus from journaling while Julie [a long-term friend] was here and over the weekend. It was lovely having someone who I share such a long history with visit during this time. The ordeal she is going through with a divorce seems much more traumatic and painful than cancer. No matter how hard we try or how much we want it, we can’t make other people change.

I can blast cancer cells away with poison and radiation. I can have some measure of control over my mental health and ability to cope with having this disease. If I could, I would wave a magic wand and give Matt the fortitude to pursue his writing seriously, to win a small victory with his victory garden idea, and to confront the demons that make him wake up screaming in the night. Just because I know myself better than anyone else doesn’t mean I have myself figured out. How could I possibly figure anyone else out?

I am feeling good and whole and closer to being the person I aspire to be than I ever have. I am proud of myself for building my confidence to speak out and speak up despite feeling intellectually inferior to others in the room. I am proud of being open and honest and letting go of trying to impress other people with my intelligence and knowledge. I am proud to show people how much I care about my work without worrying that I will seem like an emotional, weak woman who doesn’t understand the way the world works. I’m proud of who I’m becoming.

May 19 2015 

Life goes on. Back at work and feeling responsible for whether things move and happen when my life has so fundamentally changed is hard. I am reminded of when I went back to work after Damien was born. Everyone was going about their business and not much had changed, but for me, everything was different. Having a child, unlike anything else in life, makes you start living for someone else. The cancer can’t take me because my boys need me more. I don’t even think I have cancer anymore. The surgery cut it out and any remnants that may be left have taken a beating from the chemo and radiation. I know the standard six- month course of treatment is necessary to wipe away any last vestiges, but I am barely into my first week of the course and have a long road ahead. I am tired just thinking about it. I wish there were a way to know if any cancer cells remain or not. A simple test, like for HiV or pregnancy that I could do at home to let me know if I am cancer free or not. We all crave certainty and easy answers. This, yet another lesson in learning to live with the uncomfortable reality that nothing in life can be reduced to a simple positive or negative. 

May 20 2015

I’m scared. Looking at the long treatment needed ahead and feeling like I have been lucky thus far has me scared. I guess it is because I may have just started to feel side effects of the chemoradiation. In trying to answer the question how I feel, I keep getting an image of Madeline Kahn in my head from a comedy whose name I can’t recall singing “I’m tired. I’m so very tired and uninspired.” What I do remember is that she plays a prostitute singing about her profession but I completely identify with the sentiment. I joined a telebriefing earlier on the UK’s possible withdrawal from the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] and don’t think I heard more than a few words because I was researching FOLFOX [a combination of chemotherapy drugs] on the internet and falling asleep at the same time,

I am also feeling disappointed and alone. Matt made a lovely dinner last night of fried rice with bean sprouts, spinach and roast pork, most of which I could not eat. It took one look at the nutricionist’s food list to see that. He obviously felt terrible, but the disappointment lies in feeling that nothing has changed in how he gets to his life while everything revolves around cancer for me. I want him to understand what I am going through beyond asking how I feel. I’m reminded of when I was in labor with Damien and he was eating a sandwich. I was just as hungry but wasn’t allowed to eat. I need him to be more sensitive than that.

May 21 2015 

Thinking about other people and their problems not only makes you a better person, it makes you happier. My heart aches for Ed and Mona and their boys for what they are going through. [A divorce.] It was yet another reminder not to take what I have with Matt for granted. Cancer sucks, but if I had to choose, cancer would beat out divorce any day for what I would prefer to go through. I spent much of the past two days focused on me and the cancer, scaring the shit out of myself. Roman [a friend] was with us yesterday and I talked to Ed today and now feel much better about my situation, less frustrated with Matt and appreciative that I am able to do important work that I am passionate about.

Often, when I would have to identify the source of tension or anxiety in my body, I would situate it right in my gut, as feeling like I had a gnarly twisted knot in my belly. Turns out, that was pretty close to where my physical problem resided. By removing a piece of my gut and now having my insides turned out, I have a chance to bring those tensions and stress to the surface and really take a good look at them. Facing cancer and its brutal treatment in a matter-of-fact way does not take courage – I feel I have no alternative.

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