sarahsbeingfrank

Month: October, 2014

Monday’s Festivities

After only slightly limping up to the front desk at the cancer center and stating my name, the lady behind the desk put my wristband on and then double checked it. “I have something for you.” she said and walked away. She came back with a medium-ish bright red gift bag with a helium ballon tied to the top of it that brightly exclaimed Happy Birthday!  I looked out over the waiting room and every set of eyes was on me. Who in the hell gets gifts in the cancer center? And this was my second time!

I took the bag over by the windows and sat it on the sill, away from the eyes of the other patients. I opened the card that had some touching words written in it but no signature. Inside were some of my favorite things and again, I was brought to my knees.

I picked up all the stuff I’d brought with me; book, phone, fleece and now my quite obvious bag and found the closest chair, all eyes still on me. The nurse called my name. I gathered up all my stuff and walked toward him. He didn’t move. I said, “Are we going somewhere? Or are we going to have the party right here?” He twitched out of his stunned silence without answering me and turned and walked back to the poking corral.  I followed.

I sat all my stuff down and said, “What?  Not used to people celebrating birthdays at the cancer center?”

Him, looking down, avoiding my eyes, wrapping the tourniquet around my arm: “Um, no. This is a first for me.”

Me: “Yeah, me too.”

Him: “Well, congratulations.”

Me: “Thank you. I like to bring the party with me wherever I go.”  

After he took all the blood from me he needed, I went back to the rather full waiting room and sat in the only chair that didn’t have someone next to it. It happened to be under an air vent and my balloon bobbed, danced and noisily crinkled as if to rub everyone’s nose in it. In what, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe that I made it to another birthday?  Or that I had some folks that went out of their way to make this infusion a little easier, a little fun?  Or maybe an attempt to draw attention and embarrass me.

My name was called again and I gathered up my conspicuous package along with everything else. Again the nurse just stopped and looked at me like maybe I was lost.

Nurse: “Uh, celebrating your birthday?”  

Me: “I guess so.”  

Nurse: “Would you like me to hold it while I get your weight and vitals?”

Me: “Sure.”

Nurse: “Anything good in there?”

Me: “Just a few nudie mags and a couple packs of cigarettes.”

Nurse: Blank stare.

Friday was my birthday and I was able to spend time with several folks over a few days. The weather was beautiful and I relished my time outdoors.  I was able to connect with folks for a meal, coffee or a bike ride and have a few more things scheduled to drag it out. It’s a good excuse to make people spend time with you. My biggest problem this year is fitting all of them into my schedule. What a great problem to have.

A couple of side notes:

* All of my blood work was normal.  I’m quite healthy except for this nagging case of cancer.

* I hope my friends are always this bad at covering their tracks when they attempt to do things anonymously.

* For all of those that took a moment to wish me a happy birthday in some form, thank you.  I feel a huge amount of gratitude to have so many wonderful people in my life.  I was able to enjoy a lot of laughs and made some damn good memories.  I expect many more to come.

* I came across this article this morning and it gave me a big grin so I thought I’d share.  Only click if you like motorcycles and fun.

http://www.pipeburn.com/home/2014/10/29/dirty-sunday.html#.VFDb8Uuwjw4

And a couple of pics to show you I’m still kicking.

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Birthday dinner.

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Partying with the Keldermans.  I need a nap just thinking about it.

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Hiking Ledges.

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Breakfast with my guys.

 

Thanks for checking in.  The sun is shining and I’m going to go ride my bike.

Emotions Cycle When I Ride My Bike

I like to ride my bike.  It’s as simple as that.  The benefits are that it’s good for me – physically, mentally and emotionally.  I always come back from a ride a happier, more peaceful person.  I always have.  Now that I have incurable cancer, I view this as my therapy, which isn’t really much different than I did before.  Now it has a bit more significance.  Exercise is an important investment in the lifespan and quality of life of cancer patients…and everyone else.  I intend to do as much as I can for as long as I can.  But really, that’s no different than I viewed my life before.  Riding my bike isn’t the only thing I intend to do but that will be another post.

When I ride, especially by myself, emotions cycle through me.  Seemingly out of nowhere, overwhelming sadness and grief will grip me.  It convulses my chest and reaches up through my throat and I gasp and yelp and my whole upper body contorts into what I would imagine looks like someone in intense, uncontrollable pain.  I shake a bit as it envelopes me, as it has it’s way with me.  I keep pedaling.  I give it it’s time for as long as it needs.  I give it space.  And then it’s gone.  It’s passed through me.  I let it have its way.  Then I’m back to absorbing my view and entertaining my random thoughts.  Pretty soon, I feel happiness.  Quite often I question myself.  Should I really be feeling happiness?  Am I allowed?  Am I crazy?  Have I forgotten what I’m dealing with?  Nope, everything’s still there.  I consciously give myself permission to feel happy, and I do.  I smile.  I look around.  I see the trees and the sky, maybe some critters.  I keep pedaling.  I’m happy.  It’s OK.  I feel fortunate.  I list to myself why I’m grateful.

Eventually, that passes, too.  I’m just sweating, pushing pedals, breathing hard.  That’s good; it’s my baseline.  Riding a bike gives me a sense of control over myself and my circumstances.  It helps me to regain some power, literally.  It’s given me some of the strength back in my leg.  It’s challenged me to push myself farther and faster with every ride.  That doesn’t always happen and that’s alright.  Sometimes just being out and moving under my own volition is the gift.  I appreciate that I can do it.  I know that given enough time, that will not be the case.

I learned when I had cancer the first time to allow my emotions to have their way.  Up until that point, I laughed a lot but I did not cry.  Ever.  One of my best friends was murdered.  Not one tear.  I lost a boyfriend that I was head-over-heels for in a car crash.  Stoic.  I felt the pain but had enough strength over my own emotions to shove them down, control them.  They probably bubbled up at the wrong time and in the wrong place.  I can’t think of a specific instance but I’m guessing a few people close to me could offer some suggestions.

Cancer ten years ago was tough on me in many ways; financially, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Emotionally, it cracked me open.  I got to the point that I couldn’t control my emotions and I found it absolutely terrifying.  Seemingly random times and places, I’d burst into tears.  Usually I was by myself but there were a number of times that I was with people.  At first I found it mortifying.  Then I decided to get over it.  I did some reading and research and realized I needed to just let this happen.  It felt embarrassing but at that point I was bald, looked and felt sick and what the hell was I feeling embarrassed about anyway?  It was just my ego bleeding.  Enough.  So, the emotions rolled.

I felt like a raw nerve.  All of my protective coating was gone and I was completely exposed.  I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.  Again, terrifying.  But I let it come.  Not only was I dealing with cancer treatment and a very uncertain future but grieving a relationship that had turned toxic during the course of all this.  I felt like I’d been taken out at the knees and every time I tried to get up, I was taken out again.  But, I kept attempting to get up and eventually I rebuilt myself, physically and emotionally.  I worked out diligently to gain control over my body and in turn, my circumstances.  Eventually anger was my fuel and I damn near turned myself into a linebacker for a few years.  I was physically strong and that provided me some security and it was a good outlet.  The heavy sadness that pushed my shoulders down every minute of every day, awake or asleep, eventually lifted.  As I was finishing treatment, I remember hearing that my barely ex-boyfriend was with someone else.  It was lunchtime.  I sat down and didn’t move until after sunset.  I had to go through the middle of all of that darkness.  If I wanted to come out the other side, there was no other way, no matter how much I hated it, no matter how painful it was.

There is no other side this time.  This is the hand I’m playing for the rest of my life.  I realize that but sometimes I have to bring the big picture down into the small picture.  I have to just take things day by day and at times, minute by minute or even appointment by appointment.  Thinking too far into the future is debilitating and honestly, presumptuous.  I understand that given enough time and the right space, my demise will be slow and excruciatingly painful.  But again, there are plenty of things that could get me before that happens.  I can’t predict the future and I don’t want to live it more than once.  So, I’ll take today and feel grateful that I feel good and that’s enough.  I don’t want to live it until it happens.  So I won’t. Today, I’m happy.  I got to ride my bike.

 

My Life In Photos And Some Words, Too

My last post stirred up a lot of folks. I received concerned phone calls and messages. People were wondering if my mental state had taken a turn for the ditch and for some, that was their first notification of what was going on with me. It took me a little by surprise. My mental state is about the same as it has been since the first few days, after acceptance and I did our awkward, forced, clumsy dance. These are the thoughts that have been with me the whole time. They aren’t new, I just poked them out on my phone one morning while waiting for one of my appointments. Yes, Death is on my mind. Sometimes in the back of it, sometimes in the front, sometimes following me like a tethered ballon, bonking into me when I hit the brakes without warning. It doesn’t stop me. It motivates me. Hopefully it shoves me in good directions. Hopefully I let it.  There’s a lot of fun to be had, a lot of kindness to share, a lot of new things to learn, understand and a lot of corners to take at speed. I don’t feel sorry for myself. I figure out what I’m grateful for, what’s going to be good for me and those around me and then try to let that guide my thoughts and actions. Some days are easier than others. Being surrounded by good folks makes it such a better existence and I’m fortunate to have a great supply of them. I hope I don’t burn any of them out.  It’s not always going to be this easy.

What’s next, treatment-wise?  Status quo until I go back to Mayo in November to see both teams of doctors, medical oncology and orthopedic surgical oncology, and have fresh scans to see what’s going on inside me.  Decisions to be made at that point for what my treatment, and my life, look like going forward.  For now.

I haven’t felt like writing much, sharing much.  I can be a loner and will periodically shut everyone out but at the prodding of some concerned, well-meaning folks, I’ve decided to compromise and provide a view of my life in pictures for the last few weeks.  I have many messages to which I have not replied.  Sometimes I don’t know what to say and sometimes the emotions they bring up are more than I want to deal with all the time.  I choose to compartmentalize in an effort to maintain my sanity, my happiness. Again, at times life comes at me like a tidal wave and I can only process it through a straw.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing from you but don’t take it personally if It takes me a while to respond.  Thank you for understanding and thank you for your ongoing love and support.

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Sarahs and Jills.  Friends for decades.

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Rocking Middle East lounge wear to pick up our third musketeer from Abu Dhabi.

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Our mothers still worry when we get together.  I have no idea what Dr. K is doing with her hand.

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Dr. K saw this rainbow over the prison and it reminded her of me.  I thought it fitting, too.

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My 8 week post-surgery photo.  I love that my friends don’t hesitate when I say “give me your camera, I need to go to the bathroom and take a picture”.

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I’m not sure if it was his day to watch me or my day to watch him.

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Sitting on Jones’ lap whether she likes it or not.

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Cornered!

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Look at me showing off my leg over my top tube!  Just like a normal person!

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I walked into this room but my family seems to remain unchanged.

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Riding my bike below the dam.

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Riding my bike on top of the dam.

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Sometimes I just stop and look at the gifts around me.

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Marina.  No need for any gas, thanks.

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Patio!

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Getting shot, again, and in my own house!  I pulled my pants down but she insisted on giving it to me in my arm.  What fun is that?  I WILL wear her down.

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So many rules.  How can I be expected to remember all of them?

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Getting coffee and noticed this above her head. Uh, what?

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Beauty, love, strength and fun, personified.  I call them friends.

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Yeah, I can still rock the hula hoop with rods in my femur and hip.

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Fire, stars and friends to cuddle with.

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She didn’t even push me down!  This time…

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A friend left this card, along with a care package, for me at my last infusion at the cancer center.  I couldn’t stop laughing ESPECIALLY when I realized how wrong it felt to be laughing hysterically in a room full of somber cancer patients waiting to receive chemotherapy.  I’ll let you guess what the inside says.

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Friends, food, fire and stars.  Simple, beautiful, grateful.