I want the next two weeks to hurry by. And yet I hate myself for rushing my life like that. Time has become an odd creature around these parts; half wishing it were here to stay, half watching over my shoulder for someone to steal it away.
I want to feel pure, unfiltered joy again. Joy without a lurking shadow. Joy in just sheer existence of it. Joy for simply being. Joy for joy’s sake instead of joy ‘in the circumstances’. I’m tired of the circumstances. Circumstances that no one invited. Circumstances, be damned.
I want to not have “cancer survivor” built into my story. I don’t want to be one of those people that folks say- “Oh, you know Elizabeth. She’s a nice girl. Did you hear she had cancer?”
I want to be surrounded by people that really, truly care about me. Now that no one is watching- I want people around that simply love me for me.
I want to scream at the top of my lungs, allow myself to fall apart. But every time I feel the tears crest the rim of my eyes, threatening to cascade down my cheeks, I force myself to stop. Perhaps it’s because of timing. Perhaps it’s because I’m scared that if they start- they won’t ever stop.
I want to be fixed. Whole again. But the past few days I can’t help but feel annoyed. I’m not mad- far from it in fact. I’m just annoyed with people that complain about nothingness. If I have to put a smile on my face and make the world a happy place while my insides feel like they are in tiny shattered pieces, then so should you.
I want so many things- to no longer feel all alone, to be a strong champion like I so wish I was, to take this new challenge gracefully and with my head held high. More than anything- I just want to put this period behind me. With time comes closure and acceptance- of this I’m well aware.
I hope it arrives sooner than later.
on my personal psychotherapy session
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already heard about my first experience at the Psychologist yesterday.
Rather typically, I went in with exceedingly high hopes that I would make a connection with the Doc. That we would have a deep chat about my recent loss(es). That I’d get a good, solid cry out of the visit and then I could properly continue with my process of grieving, coping, and moving forward.
Well, let’s just say that didn’t happen. The Doctor wanted to talk more about my childhood than my recent situation. I felt almost like she was trying to unearth some deep-seeded resentment in my life that stemmed from a traumatic experience as a kid [hint: there is none; & my childhood was the happiest].
She diagnosed me with nothing. No seriously- no coping disorder. No regressive panic episodes. Nothing. She advised me to practice meditation and put some essential oils on my pillowcase at bedtime to help me relax. She then took my payment and wished me well. Shocking to absolutely no one, I left annoyed.
I started to write an overtly critical piece here about my visit with The Doc. However, my tune sure has changed as I realize that in NOT helping me the way I expected and wanted her to, maybe she’s really helping me more than I initially realized. Strange indeed but maybe I’ve been ready to handle this all along- and I just needed the reassurance from someone else that I’m totally capable of doing this on my own.
I guess what I expected to my visit with The Doc was that she would just let me talk and work out my problem with her. I think I just wanted someone to listen. But I get it now. That I don’t need to learn to talk things out with others. No, that isn’t my problem at all. What I need more is to talk about these things with myself. To spend time listening to ME and what I need instead of getting caught up in the tightrope of how others think I should be dealing with this.
Sometimes the most deeply rooted problem, I realize, is in the fact that I want things IMMEDIATELY. I want to be done with this, I want to move on with my life, I want to be allowed to get pregnant again, I don’t want the constant reminder everyday thankyouverymuch. My immediacy complex [self diagnosed] isn’t allowing me to take this bite by bite and digest what’s happened in my life. And instead of rushing through this to put it behind me- it’s okay to wallow here for a while [I’m giving myself permission, guys] before moving on to the next step. Closure.
Which leaves me here. I know don’t need to be “fixed”- there’s really nothing astronomically wrong with me. I know that I live a very blessed life and that the situations I’ve had thrown my way- while they could have been much worse- are just plain shitty. I realize all of that. I just want to be allowed to fall apart every now and then. I don’t WANT to always be happy, spunky, positive Elizabeth. Sometimes, without explanation, I just want to be allowed to have a terrible day.
I’ve found such peace and closure writing here in this space. But at the same time, I must remember that this blog is a public place and that not everyone in this world was born with a kind heart and a gentle spirit. I hope I can- with your help- continue healing through letting go; moving forward and writing about my journey along the way. As I said last week, it continues to amaze me the kinds of opportunities and the wonderful people that have come into my life because of this little blog.
Needless to say, I don’t think another trip to see The Doc is in the cards for me. But I have learned a valuable lesson here…
that having faith in yourself is the first step in starting your next journey.
Ps- maybe I will try dabbing lavender essential oil on my pillowcase afterall!
back to the grind // a lifetime of welcome mondays
For the past 8 something Mondays, my life has revolved around a chemo chair in Chapel Hill.
For the past 8 something Mondays I’ve been doe-eyed and hopeful as I pulled into the circular drive and walked up to Clinic C, donned my purple hospital band, checked my vitals, and chatted with my favorite nurses. [for the record- I prefer Barbara and Angela]
And for 8 months of Mondays I’ve been tied to weekly tests and trips to the doctor.
This Monday- today- is for none of those things.
No shots. No trips to Chapel Hill. No feelings of anxiety; of gripping, white-knuckled fear as I sit and wait for results that I pray will be what I want to hear. No more personal pep talks about being and thinking positive.
Because- while they work 99% of the time, there are moments where you just want to be allowed to fall a-fucking-part.
Instead, this is the first Monday of the rest of my life.
A Monday where I get to- once again- lace up my Mizuno’s for a great run. One where I have the energy and drive to pump out a healthy(ish) dinner. One Monday where I’m able to tackle emails and to-do lists. One where I don’t have to bother addressing “how I feel” before I… well, do anything. One where I am thankful and hopeful and proud of my journey.
Just an ordinary, old Monday. I quite like the way that sounds.
the million dollar question- & how I’m [really] feeling
Editors note: I am very well aware that not all of you want to read about my journey with Gestational Trophoblastic Disease. If you are one of those folks, feel free to skip over this post. But- being that information on GTD is vague and hard to come by and as the subsequent emails I’ve gotten since I shared my story last week have indicated, there are ladies out there looking for a voice. I only hope I can help along their journey.
I’m often asked how I feel. “How are you coping? How are you feeling?” are common questions around these parts. While this might have irritated me in the past [why so many questions!], I’ve come to realize that people are generally concerned; they want reassurance that I’m okay.
Aside from the mental challenges this diagnosis has forced upon me, I’ve also had to deal with 7 weeks of chemo (though its a milder, single strand form of chemo, Mexotrethate ain’t a walk in the park).
So, here’s how I feel (in bullets- because I’m OCD like that):
- I’m exhausted. It’s like I’ve been pregnant for close to 8 months. And we aren’t talking the oh-so-fun second trimester pregnant. We’re talking the downright exhaustion during the first trimester when your body just can’t seem to keep up with you. I’m usually the girl that bounds out of bed at the first bleep of my alarm every morning. These days, I’ve taken to apologizing for my tardiness because I just can’t seem to get it together.
- Speaking of “feeling like I’m pregnant”- I have only wanted to eat carbs, carbs, and more carbs for the last month. And you know what? I’ve finally listened to my body. If it wants carrot cake and a cinnamon roll for breakfast then that’s what it gets. Waging a battle against cancer is a tough thing for a body to undertake and I guess that’s just been my way of treating myself for being tough. Cookies for me. I will also credit my now lightning fast metabolism (apparently fighting off bad cells also burns calories) for allowing me to still zip up my pants during said carbfest.
- I wake up every morning with a sore throat. You know- that sore throat that usually signals the onset of a major cold? Yeah, that one. For close to 6 weeks now. I discovered last week [convenient of me- to finally read the side effects of my drug 6 weeks into treatment] that a sore throat is quite common with chemo treatments. Sweet. Now go away.
- Speaking of side effects… trouble catching your breath is not a fun one to have [throat constrictions FTW!]. Don’t mind me- I’ll be the brunette wheezing her way through her lunchtime errands this afternoon. Don’t worry thought- I’m not contagious.
- I’m literally a human pin cushion. 2 weekly shots, excessive blood draws, blah blah blah. The day after Christmas, when my blood levels spiked a tiny bit, my oncologist briefly considered introducing a different drug [Act D]. Said chemo is administered via PICC line @ UNC [though you can have it give intravenously]. For those that don’t understand my extreme fear of needles and/or things touching my heart, this was not something I wanted to hear. Apparently my body kicked it up a notch because the next week my levels went from 231 to 7. [thank you, Baby Jesus] Also, I have notoriously great veins [this from my nurses] and yet, last week, both major veins in my arms went out on me. Literally- they rolled over and died. We had to siphon my blood work out of my arm. Lovely.
- I miss all the basic things I was accustomed to before my treatments started. Because I’m so tired all the time, my cooking and my workouts have sort of fallen by the wayside. I’m very VERY ready to just get back to my boring old routine [exhibit A here].
Aside from that [and the day after Christmas when I was the sickest I can ever remember being] I’m just dandy. And the greatest part [the best feeling in all the world] is knowing that this is has all been temporary.
I know it sounds crazy to some of you, but every Monday morning (when I have been going for treatment) I am reassured how incredibly lucky I am. I waltz in, have my arm pricked, wait for my shots, and them sent on my merry way. The other ladies in the “Chemo Room” aren’t quite as lucky. Their prognosis isn’t as good. Their chemo treatments take 3-4 hours to administer. If this is the worst hand I’m dealt- then I can handle this obstacle in my life like a champ.
Truth be told, y’all- I held off telling you all about my tumor for so long because I didn’t want you to feel sorry for me. I don’t want pity. I want everyone to realize how valuable good health is. I want you to take your well-being seriously [listen to your body; go to the doctor if you’re sick; EXERCISE!]. I want you all to live healthy, happy lives. Because through all of the “unfair” stuff that can happen in your life
[as my Momma always tells me]
it could always ALWAYS be so much worse.
For those of you that don’t follow me on Twitter, you may not have heard my good news…
yesterday, my blood work came back negative. Meaning? My tumor is gone! My treatments have worked! That chapter can finally be closed!
Of course, amid the excitement, I think I managed at least one solid ugly cry in the middle of UNC Hospital. What can you expect- I am the girl that’s hugged every nurse within arms reach at least once in the last 2 weeks [I’m emotional, y’all. That’s just how I roll.]
I’m ecstatic- really I am. But I’m also having a hard time grasping what we have here. That all the emotions, the feeling, the ups and the downs that have come to define my life for the past 5 months have all been swept off the table, put into a cardboard box, and set on a shelf. Much as I’m ready for all of this to be DONE, it’s unimaginably hard to just let go of everything at once; to wipe your hands of it all. To turn around…. and simply walk away. Just for the record- I blame the hormones for this; I haven’t been so even keeled since mid-May.
Thank you all again for your love, support, endless stream of positive reinforcement, and Internet shout-outs. Y’all have given me more strength and hope than I knew my little spirit could muster. So, thank you [from the bottom of my heart] for rooting me [us] on! I truly know how blessed I am to stand on the other side of this. What a beautiful life, indeed.
“To whom much is given, much is required.” ((quote found via Maggy))
I sit here, typing with my heart pounding out of my chest and an unfamiliar ringing in my ears. I realize with every peck of my keyboard that the words I’m dictating onto the computer screen before me are about to float out into the real world. Then they become live and once they do, I can’t take them back. That this- more than anything I’ve ever written- makes me vulnerable. And that’s scary; being open and honest is terrifying.
But that doesn’t change this. That doesn’t change my situation or my illness or my perspective.
In November I was diagnosed with a tumor.
There- I said it. And at 29 years old, my world was rocked. Was flipped upside down. Was rattled to the core. And yet, here I am. I’m okay. I will be okay. I have no choice. There are people counting on me. After all, when we found out that I was sick, Blake immediately turned to me and said: “You will be okay. You have to be. I need you to put the angel on the tree at Christmas.”
I guess I should start with a backstory. Remember me mentioning the “potentially serious health issues” after we lost the baby? Yeah, well- it happened. What I have is called Non-Metastatic Gestational Trophoblastic Disease. A mouthful, no? The easiest way to describe this is to say that a tumor developed in my uterus.
Treatment for this [oh, the fun part] is chemotherapy. Thankfully, it’s not the big, scary chemo that most Cancer patients face. My drugs are a single strand version of chemo given via injection and don’t have the same nasty side effects others do. (ie- hair loss, major nausea, etc). Luckily this thing (effing tumor) is 100% treatable- it’s just the process that’s mind numbingly, painstakingly tedious.
So there you have it. When I mentioned my breath of fresh air on Monday (and my “7” via Instagram)- I was referring to my HCG count [how the docs track the effectiveness of my treatment] which had fallen from 231 to 7 (in less than one week). A celebration of sorts ensued in the chemo room. & that purple bracelet I’m rocking- my hospital band.
I know some of you asked if I was pregnant again. Unfortunately no, I’m not. And the sad part about this disease [and subsequent treatments] is that we must wait a full year before trying for another Baby H. The chemo strips my body of all folic acid and we have to be 100% sure that all toxins are out of my body before we even think about venturing down “Route Baby” again. Because after all of this, we realize now more than ever what a blessing a happy, healthy baby is. And I know that when our time comes, we will be the best parents. This whole ordeal will make us love that precious child so much more.
I told my Momma H last night [as she was delivering a pile of goodies for the 6th week in a row- bless her soul] that I finally feel like I can let go. Of all of it. I was pushed right into worrying about my health right after the loss that I haven’t had time to focus on just what I’ve been forced to cope with. Losing a child and the subsequent cancer that followed is tough shit; more than enough to deal with on their own and doubly difficult when dealt together. I pray every night that we stay “in the clear” [as my nurse deemed us Monday at my appointment] and that my HCG levels fall negative [5 or less] very soon.
My results on Monday were just the way I wanted to end 2012- with a little bit of closure and so much hope. 2013— I just know you are going to be a great year! Thank you all for your well wishes, your thoughts, and your prayers. Let’s cross our fingers that with a couple more treatments this chapter will forever be sealed
making way for fonder memories.
a breath of fresh air, a pleasant surprise, our worries kicked out the window
for those of you that have stood by me, rooted for me, cheered with me, shared tears and high-fives with me along this race…
to the ones that have sent texts, emails, notes of support, little surprises (y’all know who YOU are), prayers and have lent shoulders…
to this online family that has become my pillar of strength and support
my (our) light at the end of the tunnel is finally so, so close
relief- after 4 long months- is finally here
ten thousand pounds off my shoulders
the health and happiness we intend to grasp with all our might
for that- and for each and every one of you- I am forever grateful.
from the bottom of my heart
I call THAT one hell of a way to close out 2012
2013— I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us all!!!