16. The Power of Our Pack

Before I get started, I want to go back to etymology for a moment.  I found a new term that I should have used in the post about losing my bum… called “platter butt.”  A butt so flat you could serve on it.  I thoroughly enjoyed coming across that, and for some fun, see if you can loosely drop it into a conversation this week.  There is also an obvious low-hanging joke about an Australian platypus here, but I think I’ll leave well enough alone.  You’re welcome.

The reason I came across platter butt was that I was thinking about how treatment this week handed me my ass on a platter.  Totally kicked me hard in my soft squishy bits.  As I lay awake after treatment on Monday night processing all those cancer-kicking chemicals, I was thinking about how you really can look at most situations in two ways.  I had a moment or two where I started to go down the rabbit-hole of, “Ugh, I wish I could sleep.  I need to heal, I need sleep to be able to heal…” etc., which I quickly switched to, “I’m totally awake right now! I’m going to get up so my restlessness stops bugging Dave, eat a bowl of cereal (or two) before I’m not allowed to have carbs anymore and think about whatever I want to.  Screw fasting for tonight.  I’m going to check out Instagram and see what beautiful pics people have posted, maybe make a mental plan of what my blog post this week might be, and go back to bed when I’m tired.”  So I did just that, and then slept in.  I felt seedy all day Tuesday and worse on Wednesday when I had my post-treatment fluids.  I kept thinking that perhaps this is my body’s way of reinforcing that I really do need a break from chemo.  And how lucky that it’s just what I have!  It’s also a good reminder that treatment can be tough, and how important it is to be very kind to yourself while it feels that way.  It brings to mind that quote by Brené Brown, “The dark does not destroy the light: it defines it.  It's our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”  That contrast is what helps me to acknowledge and really embrace the good times, in spite of current challenges.

I know that I’ve said it countless times before, but I have the best friends and family.  The reason that it’s top of mind this week is that the sanctuary that is our wolf pack gives me strength and stamina when my back’s against the lounge and I’m unable to do what I normally do.  All of the visits and conversations gives me good fodder for my imagination, because I do retreat internally when I’m staring up at the ceiling and can’t read or watch tv.  In particular, I was reminiscing about a fun conversation that I had with my sister about hygge (pronounced hue-guh), texting with a girlfriend about leg warmers and cherry blossoms and anticipating finally being able to catch up with a few friends, which I did yesterday and loved it.

Throughout this journey, I have felt so loved and supported.  I can’t help but pinch myself every so often at my good fortune.  In my first post, I used this analogy to describe it: “a steadfast buoy in an ocean that while sometimes unsteady at its surface, provides a deep calm just a few feet below.  Whether I’m grounded underneath the waves, or caught at the rough surface, that sanctuary is ever present and always within reach.”  When I have these moments of clarity, I usually take a minute to thank my lucky stars and to also think about those who aren’t so lucky, those facing hardship (in whatever version it presents itself) without such love and support.  I am, and will always be one of the lucky ones, whether or not I’m caught at the rough surface.

Here are some of these connections over the last two weeks:

  • Talked to my sister almost every day since she’s been off work
  • Connected with my father and had a long conversation with my brother
  • Skyped with my other brother and his family in Auckland at Easter, making sure my niece and nephew still believe in the Easter Bunny, because no one should never ever look a chocolate-bearing gift rabbit in the mouth, no matter how old you are
  • My in-laws often call me, and make a special effort to connect with me every single time I have treatment, and I adore these check-ins
  • Walked with my lovely neighbor-friend and her dachshund every day, watching that cute little puppy-butt go up and down our street makes my day
  • Talked with my neighbor who connected me to his girlfriend on an integrative therapy I’ve been researching
  • Skyped with a dear girlfriend in Australia, recounting all of the things I learned at the detox retreat in Phoenix.  We had a little cry together, because we both felt that the best gift of the retreat was time, and that we will indeed have lots of time together
  • Great friends from Colorado visited for a few days with their children and we had a gorgeous time together.  On the day they were departing to continue their adventures in Monterey, both kids said they wanted to stay with me instead, and I totally concurred!  Dave and I are lucky enough to be part of their family, and it really feels like it
  • I saw both gal pals in my meditation cohort for lunch, and while we don’t get to spend a lot of physical time together, we have a heart connection
  • I saw two friends separately who I met in my meditation facilitation group, one from NYC who visited me at home while in town, one after her facilitation of the mindfulness class.  Can I just say, “Wow”?!
  • I dropped in to visit my fitness class at work for the first time since diagnosis.  This was the place I spent twice a week right up to that fateful trip to the ER squatting, lunging, sprinting, and laughing with a group of wholesome beautiful people.  They are my work family, full of positivity… we are invincible together! I can’t tell you the level of love and support that has been bestowed on me by this group. Simply amazing...
  • Had a lovely conversation with my boss, who took time out to connect with me after my retreat, in the midst of one of the busiest work times of the year.  The main point I believe was to make sure I was enjoying life while dealing with “the cancer,” and the answer is a resounding “YES!”
  • Friends when on vacation took time to pick me out a t-shirt, that perfectly gives cancer the f-bomb
  • I receive texts and calls from my book club posse and other friends, who continually offer love and support
  • I saw my chiropractor for bear hugs and adjustments, my acupuncturist for sweet treatments and words of encouragement, had an EVOX session that was really powerful and connecting, saw my enlightened hairstylist for a further crop, had a One-Brain session with my partner in happiness
  • A soul sister is visiting me this weekend, whom I haven’t seen since diagnosis.  I’m so very excited to see her, and it’s highly likely that we’ll get into some mischief together

That’s quite a lot, right?!  My point is that building a community around you and your family takes effort, sometimes when we don’t feel that we have the time or energy.  Take it from me, the introspective one, that it’s worth it’s weight in gold… and worth the effort. The quality of these connections with people who love Dave and I and who understand us, who’ve rallied around us from has made all the difference in the world in how we’re able to face all of this.

There is a fine balance between self-care and putting others first, and I know you already know exactly how I feel about it.  This period is a bit of an anomaly, it’s not usually so jam-packed… and I don’t mind one bit!  The result has been a warm filling of my heart, especially in all those places that hurt from chemo.  These connections afford me better perspective, and in the end, always propel me forward.  I know that these symptoms are short-lived that sometime soon will be a distant memory.  Like this weird one: I’ve lost two-thirds of the hair on my body: scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, arms, nether region, legs.  Except I’ve grown peach fuzz on my cheeks.  It was so funny when I discovered it, and you know how I’m going to respond when you ask me how I am… well, just peachy, of course!

So, as I close out this chemo chapter, I take this moment to pause, to take a deep breath and think about how far we’ve come together.  From initial diagnosis and the fear of that uncertainty, to standing here now, so firmly rooted in knowing that I will absolutely kick this cancer to kingdom come -- however I get there and however long it might take.  My job is to continue to release control of the outcome and stay as present on the trail as possible.  From one of my favorite books, “Cutting for Stone,” where a character is quoting Macbeth, I really have learned “to screw [my] courage to the sticking-place!”  Woof!  

Your love and support is very special and so valuable to Dave and I.  From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.