This isn’t a dress rehearsal…

There were many ups and downs this week. The past three weeks away from work have been spent in hours of solitude, writing, doing some fun things, working on my mental health and having honest conversations with myself.

My rage has been turning me into a very negative person. I really heard it this week. There are trigger phrases that multiple people have said which cause me to viscerally react.

The face of chronic pain will be smiling, laughing and joking. That’s why I bristle when someone says, “You look fine.” What is chronic pain supposed to look like? Do people really think I’ll let them see me hobbling and crying? I will always “look fine” because I mask it from you.

  • What you don’t see and will never see is how I barely sleep.
  • What you don’t see is I need a cane to get out of bed most mornings.
  • What you don’t see is the nausea that hits in the morning and afternoon.
  • What you don’t see are the tears as I get in and out of the shower, praying I don’t fall.

I can’t stop being me and enjoying myself. How is that fair? I keep trying to tame myself because being ME takes a lot of energy. It’s strange that I wear myself out just acting natural.

I’ve always been a proponent of therapy. This isn’t new for me. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was in high school. The difficult part is finding the right therapist. The fact is a regular therapist won’t work. I need one specialized in chronic illness, who is trained to handle and recognize those added stressors.

My therapist at Emory Palliative Care told me I am coping well. I guess I feel like I should be doing more. Is that the over-achiever in me?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

  • Made the first step in putting my health FIRST.
  • Made a list of things I want to do that feed my soul creatively.
  • Started journaling and writing more frequently.
  • Unplugging from social media and spending time wrapped in silence.
  • Going to some survivorship programs.
  • Having honest conversations with myself and asking what I WANT.
  • Trying to figure out my limitations.

I’ve also had people asking me if I’m “enjoying this rest.” This time away isn’t a vacation. I’m still highly stressed because my short-term disability hasn’t been approved yet. These constant hurdles to try and take care of myself is causing additional stress. It actually exacerbates my pain, which is not good. I will only rest once I know my bills will be paid.

I bring up being single a lot because it affects so much of my care.

I realized last evening that my biggest fear in my adult life already happened – diagnosed with cancer while single and having to work. The pressure to keep a roof over my head, mounting medical bills, regular bills, upcoming surgery, doctor appointments and medication truly wears on me. I really thought by this age I would’ve met “the one” and have a partner to help ease the pressure.

Getting cancer took away precious time that I’ll never get back. That’s a tough pill to swallow. I’ve literally lost three years of my life to intense stress and fighting to stay alive.

I constantly hear how “stress can kill,” yet no one has solutions of how to keep it low when you’re single.

The toughest challenge I have now is coping and living with chemo induced fibromyalgia. None of my doctors prepared me for the possibility of chronic pain. That’s why I’m in a rage. I kept going to different doctors and specialists until one finally heard me and gave me that diagnosis.

I’m devastated. I need more purpose to get me out of bed each day. I need to find a way to turn my advocacy, blogging and speaking into a career.

I’ve heard from many warriors to “not let cancer define you.” Well, it HAS defined me. I am no longer who I was physically. It has taken so much from me. It HAS changed me.

I may laugh a lot on the surface, but if you look closely, you’ll see the pain and grief. I know that’s why I toggle between rage and negativity. I’ve never dealt with this kind of pain and grief on a daily basis.

My soul is so weary. I long for the day when everything works out and I CAN truly rest and rejuvenate. I want to be able to float instead of struggling to keep my head above water. I deserve to feel free and supported.

So, this isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is real life. I’m giving the performance of a lifetime.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

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Must shatter to discover the woman I need to be

I was in my Unspoken Ink writing class last night with my Lacuna Loft warriors. Below was one of the prompts, which ties perfectly into what I am experiencing right now.

{We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in} Ernest Hemingway

•Bouke de Vries, Peacock I•

Broken is too benign a term. I’m currently shattered. I’ve been giving away too much of light without much in return. I was no longer running on empty or even fumes. I officially stopped running last week.

You know that saying, “Growth and change comes from discomfort. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable if you want to be extraordinary.” Well, that’s my current stage.

I grow tired of being told I’m so strong. I’ve had to be strong my whole life. I’ve always been an outsider and never really fit in anywhere except when on stage. There’s nothing better than being in the spotlight whether it’s actually performing or giving a speech.

That’s where my true light within starts to shine.

I’ve literally been a swag MEG trying to fit into a round hole. I didn’t take the risks I should’ve taken after college.

Then I get cancer. I pushed through it with humor, but deep down, I was losing myself. How do I grapple with almost dying?

Jump ahead three years later, I’ve been slammed with hit after hit of infections, chemo induced neuropathy, chemo induced fibromyalgia, shingles, severe dehydration, vertigo and now pneumonia. Getting pneumonia was the last straw. I knew I had to make some serious changes, or I would die.

I had to allow myself to completely shatter. I must understand the woman I am now.

I’m chronically single.

I’m childless.

I’m in chronic pain.

I’m grieving.

I’m angry.

I’m depressed.

I’m traumatized.

Somehow, through all this, the winds of resilience keep pushing me forward. There is a glimmer of hope shining in the distance. It’s not totally bleak.

I took a major step that I’ve been scared and uncomfortable to do for some time. I told my boss that I needed to take a two-month leave of absence to work on my health. I still shake thinking about that call on Monday. It was difficult to ask for what I need but had to be done.

I’ve never shattered in such a visceral way on so many levels at once. This is new to me. It’s painful and ugly. I do believe it’s the chronic pain that shoved me over the edge.

I often get asked how I feel. Those who have been through cancer get asked this question a lot and struggle with how honest we should be when answering. I want to scream to stop asking me how I’m feeling! Then I feel like a bitch for snapping.

Don’t people see there is no real relief from chronic pain? The level of it might be less than even the hour before, more tolerable, but IT NEVER LEAVES. I’m literally in pain every blasted day. It wears on me, especially since I am single. I don’t have a husband, boyfriend or kids to help clean, cook or even bring me a glass of water because I’m finally in a good position and know moving will hurt like hell.

That’s my “new not so normal,” and it sucks. I beat cancer and this is how my body decides to react? I’m NOT thriving. If anything, being naturally me, who is always a tad extra, wears me out.

I still get that “survivor envy” of others who seem to be physically excelling where I literally can’t. The CBD oil with THC only helps manage the pain but doesn’t completely take it away. I want to run marathons, relays, climb mountains, etc. I want to feel physically strong again.

I miss my 34-year-old body. That’s the last time I felt strong and was fit. I push through my pain every blasted day just by getting out of the bed and into the shower. As someone who used to perform musical theatre, ballet, salsa and swing dance, I need to get movement back into my life.

Then I remember the severe neuropathy especially in my feet. No amount of acupuncture or supplements or meds will help. The damage is permanent. How can I be dancer without feeling my feet?

So, I’ve shattered and discovering ways to put my pieces back together. I plan on going to some local survivorship programs to work on coping with the permanent damage caused by my cancer treatments. I also need to feed my creative soul again. I refuse to die on a bed of regrets when I have all this talent that sits behind a desk day-after-day.

I’m meant to be on stage. I am determined to figure out how to make this happen. After all, I’m not dead yet. It’s time to stop acting like I’m dead, and somehow claw my way back into the land of the living.

So, I’ve allowed the winds of resilience to fully take hold and push me forward. Time to heal my body and get to know it so I can start pursuing what I was always too scared to do.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

Power of PTSD: Part I

From the moment I see the familiar buildings of where I had my treatments, consultations, and follow-ups, I immediately get hot, shaky with nerves and want to burst into tears. Then I park. I haven’t even opened my car door and already filled with so much emotion.

I haven’t written in spell because I’ve had many doctor appointments and needed to absorb all the information being thrown at me. I have a new oncologist, had a horrible experience with a new dermatologist and recently met with my amazing plastic surgeon in the past three weeks.

I’m now on my 4th and hopefully final oncologist. I decided to go back to Piedmont Cancer Institute and left Emory Winship Cancer Institute. I also went back to having a male oncologist rather than female, especially after the horrible experience with the female oncologist at Emory.

I refused to accept what the Emory oncologist was telling me. She said since I’m allergic to Tamoxifen, Evista, Lupron injections and Arimidex, there was nothing else she could do. I’ve felt so angry, scared and just horrified that an oncologist would say that and then ask, “So why are you here if you don’t have cancer anymore?”

It was that moment where I realized there is no real guide for post-treatment. At which moment do you stop seeing an oncologist and get handed off to your primary doctor? I had to take time to think about this and gather more inner strength to start the advocating process all over again.

Thanks to some recommendations from my cancer support groups, I decided to go back to Piedmont and meet with a new oncologist. I met him on January 22nd. I had four fellow warriors recommend him. They were right! He IS fantastic! He came in prepared. He has a sense of humor. He didn’t talk down to me. He was compassionate but also real with me. He said I ABSOLUTELY need to be monitored by an oncologist for 10-15 years. He was horrified by what that Emory oncologist told me. He said he had TWO options for me to consider, and that it wasn’t too late to start another post-treatment medication.

I immediately started crying because I felt HEARD!!!! I’m almost at my three-year mark of being NED (will be on 3/28). We talked at length about a plan of action, especially because my cancer was 100% ER/PR +. Even with the hysterectomy and oophorectomy, I still need hormone therapy. His facial expression when I said I haven’t been on any post-treatment medication since June 2017 was one of fear and amazement that I haven’t had a recurrence.

So, I am going on my third week of Aromasin. It’s been strange starting this medication while also being on an intense regime of prednisone for a dermatological issue. I just started feeling some side effects from it on Sunday. If you’ve read past posts, you will know I had horrible reactions to other medications, so I’m a wreck about trying this new one. I’m already feeling the stiff joints in my arms and fingers. I’m thirsty, but I think that’s in part of the prednisone, too. My sleep is completely off.

Yet, I still feel hopeful. Why? Well, my body has had time to heal from the many, many surgeries. I think it’s ready to handle a new treatment. Plus, since I now have Fibromyalgia, the pain from the Aromasin won’t be as challenging to handle since I’m in chronic pain every day.

I shall end here for the moment because I must get ready for work. That will have to be an entirely separate post. lol I will come back and write about what happened with the dermatologist and detail my appointment with my plastic surgeon that I had yesterday.

So stay tuned for more updates this week…I shall call it Part II.

Life On The Cancer Train continues…

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie