Birthdays, Breast Cancer, & This Time of the Year

As October winds down, I am feeling relief. Relief that this month is done.

Every year since I had breast cancer (I was diagnosed February 2010), this month has been a bit hard for me. I don’t like pink, never have and never will. I feel kind support for those who walk for breast cancer, who shout about being a survivor, however I am not one of those people. I have found nothing to be grateful for, for having been through the experience of a breast cancer diagnosis. Mostly I find I have residual anger, residual PTSD, and residual everything surrounding this diagnosis. I am grateful to be alive and I would like to see this event take its place in the far reaches of my memory. As you might tell, I am still working on it.

Each year at this time I worry a little bit. Is my mammogram going to be normal? Will my surgeon and oncologist find anything? Is that weird pain in my hip cancer? Ay Yi Yi Yi.

Jim

Jim, my husband, died from cancer 6 years ago on October 17. Shall I mention that this is the day after my birthday? He went into the hospital the day before his 60th birthday (October 10) and died the day after mine. Well there is something to get through. I have not enjoyed celebrating my birthday in big bang up way. I like to be quiet now and contemplative.

I describe those three and half years between my diagnosis and his death, like a deck of cards. They were thrown up in the air the day of my diagnosis. Just as I was beginning to pick up the cards, boom, the next event happened and the cards flew into the air again. I have been slowly picking up the cards ever since. I still can’t find some of them, ergo, I remain living in my RV and drive to the next destination hoping to find another card. This has been an adventure, a painful process, a lonely one too, times of great fun and exploration and everything in between.

Here is what I am appreciative today.

  • My kind and wonderful friends from all over the world who call, email, text and contact me through social media. When I need someone to talk to, out of the blue one of these friends will call. They have saved my day, my life, my moment more often than I acknowledge.
  • I am financially comfortable. I could buy a cute and fancy RV and move in. I can afford the repairs (they don’t come often), the gas and everything that supports this nomadic lifestyle.
  • I am alive and able to go on grand adventures, both small and large.
  • Elsie the cat-what would I do without her? She is one of the most adaptable and loving companions I could have. We are into our fourth year of adventures together. She remains a delight.
  • I am glad to be able to see the sunrises and sunsets. Each day I wake, is another day to be grateful for everything.
  • The doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturist, massage therapist, myofascial release practitioner, and all those other health care workers on the broad holistic spectrum that keep me tuned up and moving.
  • My friends and acquaintances that offer me a bed in their home, whether it is a visit or house sitting. Sometimes I need a respite from my little living space.
  • I appreciate everyone waiting and giving me room to figure out what is next? No-one else is judging me. I need to stop judging and being hard on myself. You know that saying, “It is all about the journey, not the destination”-I still need to learn this.

    Jim & I flying to Baja for a week on a deserted beach.

There are three days left in this month. I don’t count them down anymore. I feel I have made progress in acknowledging this month and not feeling quite as sad or out of sorts. One of my friends asked me this month, how I felt about the “whole Jim thing”. Well there is a loaded question. Each moment of the day the answer could be different. I believe I have come to a softer acceptance of this month, of the events that transpired six years ago and I still miss by dearest and best friend. Jim saw things in me that no one else has ever seen and I will always miss this about his love for me and mine for him.

I bid farewell to October, thankfully doing a bit more than just getting through the month. I embrace and welcome November. I embrace and welcome each day I wake up in the morning and am able to figure out what small adventure I will take myself on that day.

Today I am grateful for all of my friends, acquaintances and all of the followers of my blog,  who send me messages of support and encouragement. Today I am grateful for people.

o-ORIGIN-OF-OK-facebookEverything is OK!!!! I decided to make sure you all know this before I go further into this post.

Two weeks ago I had an appointment with my dental hygienist. I always tell her she better not find anything, when she does a thorough inspection of my mouth. This time, however, she found something on the back of my throat that was enough of a concern that she had the dentist come in and look at it.

I immediately felt a wave of disbelief and fear run through me. Jim died of complications from salivary gland cancer. Even though I would like to believe that would not affect me, well it does. The dentist suggested I watch it. Immediately I called my primary physician. After a visit with this doctor I had to make an appointment with the ENT (ears, nose and throat) doctor.

My appointment was for May 10th. Oh great, I began to have sleepless nights worrying about what this might be. With the help of my psychiatrist, (yes I am on an antidepressant), my appointment was moved up to this past Wednesday.

The ENT Dr told me that he was almost 100% sure that it was tonsil stones but he could not give me  a total thumbs up. I had them biopsy it, painful but doable. Yesterday, Saturday, he called to tell me that the biopsy was all clear. It was a regrowth of tonsil tissue. YAY!!!!!!!!! I am so relieved.

ENT chair

ENT chair

It is interesting to see my reactions to this whole and thankfully short episode in my life. I think I am doing much better with coping and dealing with the grief that surrounds Jim’s death. When I walked into the ENT office and saw the chair in the middle of the room it immediately reminded me of the many times Jim, my husband, sat in that chair. I burst into tears, looked at my friend Phyllis, and said “I don’t want to do this”. I did not expect this reaction from myself. I was surprised at my reaction and relieved that I had a good friend with me to give me a hug when I most needed it.

I hope that the crying effect of Jim’s death will lessen over time. I am always caught by surprise when it happens. Don’t get me wrong, I do not spend my days sobbing in my house, yet in the moments such as this one, when it happens, well it just catches me without warning and I am surprised. I know is part of grief but I really hope it continues to lessen over time.

People are kind. The nurse, patiently waited while I had my few second episode. Then she went on to brief me on the upcoming visit with the doctor. I appreciate that kind act of waiting, because that is what it is. I have experienced this many times since my diagnosis with breast cancer, to Jim’s cancer and then death. That few moments of waiting while I pull myself together is a blessing and a kindness and I appreciate it. Waiting feels like a kind hug or pat on the back and is filled with respect.

 

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Waiting

My last post also addressed the issue of waiting. It is a waiting of another sort. Waiting for my leg to heal, waiting to put the house on the market, waiting until I can figure out my life without Jim and waiting some more. I think this kind of waiting is also a kindness that I can give myself. It too can be a waiting filled with caring. Caring for myself, caring for my situation and being patient until I am fully back up to speed with life. Once I am fully recovered, which gets closer each day, I hope I will continue to carry this lesson in waiting forward with me.

Today I am thankful. Thankful for my health. Thankful for others that continue to love and support me. Thankful for good friends. Thankful for those professionals who support and help me along this path in my life’s journey. And…because it is Mother’s Day, thankful for all the mothers out there in the world who help their children to wait with grace and be thankful.

Today I am so very thankful for my state of health.