The deleted post.

I just wrote a 1,200 word post, and accidentally deleted it.

I told you about how my gene mutation is more complicated than I thought.  How it puts me at risk for not only colon cancer, but also uterine, and cervical cancers.

I told you about how I might have to have a hysterectomy with possible removal of my ovaries.

I told you about early menopause.

I told you about how I want to scream, and break windows, and smash plates.

I told you about how awesome it was to have one of my blog posts picked up on popular parenting website. And I told you about how a few negative comments on that website, in a sea of positive response, left me sad. About how people were mad at me for saying that I don’t believe my cancer is unfair.  About how I wanted to write back to them and say this is MY cancer, I don’t think MY cancer is unfair for ME, in the scope of MY life.

I asked you why we focus on the one spec of dirt on the couch, the one zit on our face, the one patch of gray in our hair, the one bruised banana in the bunch? Why do the negative words cut us down sometimes more than the positive ones lift us up?

I asked you — what makes a woman a woman?

I asked you –if you cut off its branches, is a tree still a tree?

I told you that the forecast is for snow.  That it is getting harder to dream about spring.

I told you that I don’t want to go to the plastic surgeon, the geneticist, the echo appointment, to chemo #5, or chemo #6.  I don’t want to have a hysterectomy, or go into early menopause. I told you that I feel done.

I told you that I am bending in this storm.  That I’m praying for it to pass.  That I am tired of loosing leaves, and worrying about losing my branches.

I told you that I am praying for strong enough roots.

I used a lot of words. And said “fuck” quite a few times.

I told you that I was so stressed yesterday that instead of  taking a migraine pill, I took a sleeping pill — before dinner with my friends.

It was a sad post.  Perhaps a defensive one.  And then I clicked the wrong button and it was deleted.  That made me cry, too.

I am pissed about this.  About all of it.  I wish there was a plate smashing store.

Then at Walgreens today I saw a woman setting up the Easter baskets.  And strangely enough, it made me feel better.  Because I know that this storm will pass. I know that my roots are strong enough, and I have to believe that even if some of my branches are cut off — it just might provide a better view of what is in front of me, of what is out on that horizon.

And i couldn’t help but think of the book “The Giving Tree”.

Even if at the end of this, I am just a stump — I hope I am the type of stump that might offer someone rest.

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Both

sleddingWhen I was in middle school I was obsessed with drawing peace signs and ying-yangs. I’ve been thinking a lot about those ying-yangs lately.  The concept that light cannot exist without darkness, and darkness cannot exist without light.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I started envisioning myself as “easy-breezy-cancer-girl”.  You know the one that wears lipstick to chemo, and then goes for a quick run before whipping up dinner for her family.  The one that rocks a bald head, and starts wearing heals and hipster jeans.  The one who dares cancer to strip her of sexiness, and sassiness. The one that never misses a day of work due to fatigue, and who juices her organic vegetables and becomes a vegan.  The one who spews out positive slogans and embraces all the pink paraphernalia. Seriously.  This is what I dreamed up for myself.

And now, I’m disappointed.  Because I am not “easy-breezy-cancer-girl”. . . not even close.  Because I bite my lip on my way into chemo, and cry when I realize all over again that cancer is my reality.  Because I’m uncomfortable even in my most comfy pjs snuggled up with the warmest blanket.  Because I’m mad, and scared, and overwhelmed, and have yet to juice my vegetables.  Because I literally have a team of people helping me on any given day, and I still am wiped out.

I go to acupuncture once a week, force myself to drink organic fruit smoothies most days, use aromatherapy for my nausea instead of meds, do my best to go on walks when I can, drink more water than I ever have in my life, and challenge myself to make it to work when my body will allow it.  And still I feel disappointed with myself.

I realize this is flawed thinking.  And here is where the ying-yang comes in.

I am both.  I am part “easy-breezy-cancer-girl” and part “fucking hot mess”.  I am both.  I wear lip gloss to chemo and have statement earrings.  I also cry so much that snot piles up on my chin, and sometimes I punch my pillow while screaming “fuck”.  I am graceful.  And whatever the opposite of graceful is.  I am brave.  And I am terrified.

And this is okay.  The ying-yang says so.  We get to be both.  What a sweet truth.  We get to be both!

I can be the mom that takes her kids sledding despite her chemo-coma, and the mom that turns her kids over to the TV and I-pad.  The one that slices up organic apples, and the one that stops for donuts.  The one who patiently helps them get on their snow gear for the third time, and the one that starts yelling and throwing snow boots.  I am both.

When I was at one of my lowest points this last round of chemo, a friend of mine sent a text saying “all you have to do is survive.”

It was like music to my ears.

On my worst days, all I have to do is survive.

And on my best days, I will thrive.

And there will be both. And I will do both.

And I will bend without breaking. A tree in the wind.

The Night Before Chemo

Ugh. Number 4 awaits me.

I dread needles in my port, blood draws, and waiting for white blood cell counts.  I dread breast exams, symptom lists with the doctors, and my view from the chemo chair.  I dread the drugs that slowly drip into my body making me sluggish and slow.

I dread the days to come.  The discomfort that creeps into every cell, the sadness that steals my spark.

Chemo sucks. Like, really –sucks.

But then again, it is kicking my cancer’s ass.

And then there is you.

The collective you.  You who brings me dinner and leaves it at my doorstep.  You who hand writes me poetry, makes me blankets, fills my inbox with positive quotes, sends my kiddos Legos, rubs my feet, cleans my fridge, buys me healing crystals, makes me lotions, listens to me cry, sends me comics, does my laundry, cleans my house, buys me lunch, earrings, scarves, groceries, and coffee.  The collective you who thinks of me, and prays for me.

I picture those thoughts and prayers like fallen leaves swirling around me — a constant, tornado of love.

It might seem small to you, what you’ve done.  You might just think my name and wish me well.  But I feel it.  Like sunshine on my face.  I feel it.  Your wishes, your prayers, your love.  Like sunshine on my face.

And I know-  this could be worse.  A thousand times worse.  Knowing this keeps my sadness in check.  Some days I think, “it is just breast cancer.”  It could be worse. Maybe it doesn’t matter what mountain you are climbing, we are all still climbing.  Still moving up.  Moving forward towards the sun, towards spring.  Cancer is my mountain.

My post-chemo days will humble me.  They will bring me to my knees, and they will remind me that I am sick.  But I will keep climbing with you at my side, and when I have enough strength to look up- I will see the view.  The earth at the end stages of winter.  The trees and their shadows in the sun. The swirling leaves of love.  The open path that awaits me.

36 years, 36 lessons.

photo-5 My birthday was yesterday.  I turned 36.  Despite the overwhelming love I received all day long in a variety of ways- at the core of me I felt a subtle sadness. It is not how I anticipated feeling at 36.  I have a sneaking suspicion it has something to do with the fact that I have cancer.  Here are my 36 life lessons:

  1. Usually you will find what you are looking for. If you are looking for a sliver of green, a sign of hope, you will find one. And if you are looking for a fight, you will find that too. If you are looking to see goodness in the world, you will notice the man holding the door, the woman that waves you ahead, the teenager that picks up your fallen keys. And if you are looking for darkness, you will find that too. Try to look for the light.
  2. Don’t be afraid to talk about poop. Generally people think it is funny, and your candor will allow others to be candid. Everybody poops.
  3. Go camping. Put up a tent, throw stones in a river, tell stories by a fire.
  4. When you are rejected, accept it. Tell people about it. Don’t hide it — don’t blame it on anything or anyone – including yourself. Just get up and move on.
  5. Sing. In the car. In the shower. In the kitchen. To yourself. To your kids. Singing and joy are woven together.
  6. Don’t use drugs or alcohol to fix anything.
  7. Don’t fight sadness. Embrace it. Let it wash over you and take you to where you need to be.
  8. Travel.
  9. Listen to yourself. This requires time for reflection. If you are a parent this requires scheduling time to reflect, which seems impossible. Do it anyway.
  10. Sleep. If you are a parent this requires you wait until your kids are old enough not to need you at various points in the night. We still aren’t there yet.
  11. Rock your babies. Hold them, sing to them, pace the floor with them.  We never let our boys cry it out. Our first slept all  night at 8 weeks. Andy (3.5) still doesn’t. I used to think we were failures for running to him every time he cried. Now that I have cancer, I don’t regret one cuddle, one rock, one extra story, or song. And I don’t regret the countless nights he has slept between us. Like last night. His hair smells so sweet, and he whispers that he loves me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve lost my sanity and wanted to smash plates against the wall some nights trying to get him to sleep. But I know there will be a day when he doesn’t need us any more and I will wish he did. (I will get back to you on this life lesson if he is 9 and still in our bed).
  12. Don’t lie. It complicates things.
  13. Never forget to tell your husband/wife/partner why you love them. Don’t assume they know. This includes reminding them how attractive they are. If you don’t tell them, who will? Your voice is the one that matters.
  14. Go skinny-dipping at least once.
  15. Go sledding in trash bags sprayed with Pam at least once.
  16. Stay up all night at least once.
  17. All the nice things you think about people in your head—say them out loud. At the risk of being creepy. At the risk of being sappy. At the risk of being cliche’. At the risk of being hurt. Say them out loud. What good are they if you don’t?
  18. Listen to music. You will find that joy and pain are universal. Music reminds us- we are not alone.
  19. Try not to worry too much about money. And realize that if you can say: “try not to worry too much about money” you’ve always had enough not to worry. Be aware of that privilege.
  20. Look behind you. Who needs help? Who needs a hand? Who needs a smile?
  21. Do not judge those behind you. You do not know their story. You do not know what they were born into. People can only “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” if someone has taught them how to use those said bootstraps, and if someone hasn’t used the bootstraps to hurt them, tie them up, or hold them back. What are bootstraps anyway? Be useful– use your hands to pull them up.
  22. Recycle.
  23. Learn how to cook family recipes. There is something so healing in eating what your mom, and your mom’s mom made. There is ritual and tradition in food. We need all three to be healthy.
  24. Nourish your body. If you are healthy do everything in your power to stay healthy. Move your body in a way that makes you happy. Fill it with food that is actually food. But sometimes eat Cheetos.
  25. Nourish your relationships. Even when you don’t have your health, you will have your people. Call even when you don’t have time. Write even when you don’t have words. Have lunch when you should be cleaning your house. When you are falling, your people will catch you.
  26. Be a generous tipper.
  27. Look people in the eye and say “hello”.
  28. Meet your neighbors. Memorize their names. If they can’t rake their leaves – you rake their leaves.
  29. Be gentle with your kids. Remember that if you are yelling at them for yelling – then you are the one out of line. (Hard to actually remember when you are yelling.)
  30. Don’t forget how to swing, skip, blow bubbles, finger paint, build a fort, or make a play doh cookie. Do all of these things with your kids. Even when you should be doing laundry.
  31. But then sometimes you really need to do the laundry. Don’t feel guilty if you turn the TV on for them and tune them out. You are human. Wild Krats is very important programming. It is also okay if you watch a few episodes of Parenthood instead of doing the laundry.
  32. Be nice to teenagers. Trust me. They have plenty of people in their lives telling them all the reasons they are not good enough. Tell them how valuable they are. Tell them they are good enough.
  33. Don’t spend time looking in the mirror studying your flaws. Don’t buy too many miracle products that will undo these flaws. One day you might be bald from chemo, and you will redefine a bad hair day. You will realize that no one has stayed in your life because of your looks, they have stayed because of how you make them feel.
  34. Own your mistakes. Say sorry. Even if you are the boss. Say it publicly, “I’m sorry. That was my bad. Let’s figure out how to fix it.” Everyone will respect you for it. There is no expectation for perfection.
  35. Be vulnerable. Tell your story often and openly. It is scary. Do it anyway. Open yourself up knowing you might get hurt. If you get hurt, embrace the pain – let it wash over you. Then be done with it. When your branches are bare you will find truth and beauty.
  36. Believe in something bigger than yourself. If you haven’t found this power yet, stop looking. You don’t have to look. You don’t have to be in any certain building, or read any certain book. It is there in the absence of the search. In the space between everything else. In the pauses and the deep breaths. I know this without knowing it. I feel it.