Though I do plan on writing more again at some point, I’m enjoying making videos for now. This edition of Megsie’s Musings is about the complex feelings that come with “surviving” cancer. While at times there is gratitude, I also feel rage, frustration, depression, anxiety, and fear. There is no one way to feel your emotions.
I’ve been toggling between being in a very dark place and remaining in the moment lately. There have been many reasons to feel excited, happy, and like I’m truly using my talent the past few weeks.
· Began acting classes at the Alliance Theatre and faced my fear of chemo brain affecting my ability to memorize lines again.
· My latest blog piece on WebMD was featured on their main page for 1 ½ days earlier this week.
· I was in a fashion show for Macy’s in Buford, GA with some other cancer survivors/patients.
· Met up with a cancer friend from the Elephants and Tea community who was in town this week.
So why am I still struggling to keep the darkness at bay?
I’ve had suicidal thoughts in the past. I’ve battled depression since high school. I acknowledge there is scary darkness within and work hard to push those thoughts away. So far, my sheer will, and stubbornness have kept me from stepping off the ledge. I’m a huge proponent of therapy. I’ve been in therapy off and on for years. My current therapist has helped me push through some fear, shame, and insecurities that have been holding me back, so why do I still feel these breakthroughs and accomplishments are fleeting?
I think grief + depression isn’t talked about enough. There are so many layers of both. One minute you think you’re handling things pretty well and even feel some joy and like a weight has been lifted. In the next moment, you’re in a puddle of tears and struggling to get out of bed and face the day. The palpable grief of loss and the overwhelming feeling of depression continuously seek to suffocate and crush me. I often question the point of my life, even when things are going well.
September and October are particularly difficult months for me due to major losses and tragedies that have happened. They throw me down the rabbit hole of grief and depression.
· The 6-year anniversary of the cancer call was September 14, which changed my life forever.
· The anniversary of a personal tragedy is this month.
· Mourning yet more friends who have died from stage iv cancer.
· I’ve been medically induced into menopause officially four years now.
Almost every speaker at a cancer conference or any conference, especially when it’s a woman speaking, always talks of how their husband and kids keep them going, etc. Well, I have neither, so what is the point of me pushing through the struggles in my life? I don’t have a legacy to pass down. The items I’ve saved and treasured since I was a child through college mean nothing to everyone but me.
I get ticked off when I mention this to people who have a spouse and kids and they say no one cares about the sentimental things and to just toss them. I think many miss the point. To me, it is the story that I want to share with every picture or sentimental item because it’s about my life. I’m an only child. I don’t have nieces or nephews. The realization that my name and memories end with me is a continuous gut punch.
I still don’t physically recognize myself. I consistently struggle with this unnatural chemo-induced curly hair that has made a comeback thanks to more hair falling out due to a certain hair product reaction. I’ve been struggling with my weight since my mid-30’s thanks to all the different antidepressants, hormone changes, and now induced menopause. Then add all the steroids from chemo and the many, many surgeries and steroids post-treatment, no wonder I’m presently the size of a southern whale!
When I make the statement the right man for me doesn’t exist in this life, it makes others uncomfortable. I know it would be different if I fit into a category, but I’m deemed “too different” by the bulk of men. Black and white people have said this basically my whole life.
I continue to deal with chronic pain, weight gain, unnaturally curly hair, soul-crushing loss of what can never be, and what I didn’t know I wanted until all my lady parts were removed along with zero sex drive. Existing in this Black skin, in this country, and in this body, adds an even deeper layer of grief and depression that I don’t have the energy to address at the moment.
I honestly don’t know why I keep going to therapy. I suppose it’s my natural resilience to keep pushing forward. Still, the enormity of these permanent and unwanted changes literally sucks my breath away.
And now I’m going to wake my cat Baby Natey (Nathan Edgar) up because I need a hug.
I’ve always detested the saying, “turn lemons into lemonade.” I don’t like lemonade. A friend from the high school days came up with turning lemons into a lemon martini because that fits me better. I wholeheartedly agree.
I know it has been a few months since I last posted something original. Some good things have happened during this hiatus. Heck, I’ll even say some great things have happened! Unfortunately, some truly sad and upsetting things have happened too.
Is it possible to get through a month without trauma, sadness, rage, disappointment and frustration? I’m continuously thrown into the depths of despair because I expect too much of people and get hurt when they don’t show up the way I thought they would. The more I talk openly about race, the more I see the true colors of so-called friends who I never dreamed would have a racist bone in their body. I have officially lost the ability to trust and be vulnerable with people. When I say people, I am referring to white people because I only have four black true friends.
Of course, I know not every white friend will let me down, but I can literally feel my cloak of armor wrapping me tighter to fend off the possibility of hurtful words. To this day, I am most surprised by the racism within the cancer community. I naively thought the cancer space would be free from that kind of bullshit but sadly it’s not.
The more I keep trying to be my authentic self, the more alone and isolated I feel. I often feel like the only single person on this planet.
I no longer feel like a warrior.
I no longer feel strong.
I no longer feel hopeful.
This world continues to be so cruel and oppressive. I’m desperately trying to let go of past and current hurts and let offensive and racist words roll off my protective cloak. The harsh truth is there will never be relief while in this skin because racism will never end. It seeps into everything.
Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, you become increasingly
aware of all the different cancer awareness months for all the different types.
Just because I had breast cancer doesn’t mean I’m only aware of my type of
cancer. If anything, I want to learn as much as I can about all the different
types of cancers now that my body is open to a possible secondary cancer down
I take this time to constantly educate myself and talk with
others in cancerland to better understand their type of cancer and experience.
The more I talk with others outside of the breast cancer world, I find more
community, acceptance and humor. Though our cancers are different, there are many
shared experiences which is comforting.
So, as PINKtober looms around the corner, I start getting
requests to help with breast cancer awareness. It’s difficult when people notice a skill that
makes them want you to volunteer for everything breast cancer related. Instead
of it being fun, it starts to feel like work, draining and stressful.
That’s how the thinning of oneself begins. People mistake my
bubbly personality and upbeat voice as ready to take on the world. It’s almost like
they forget that I’m still working fulltime with increasing responsibilities,
which means using even more physical and mental energy during my 8-10 hour workday. So, driving to a volunteer
meeting that adds another two hours to my day takes momentous effort.
The reality is most of the time I just want to stay home
munching on peanut M&Ms while watching Dateline, Snapped and some
other thrillers with a handful of dramas, a dash of comedies and a pinch of romance.
It’s fantastic to be noticed but at what cost? My body can’t
handle stress the way it used to.
It needs more rest.
It needs more calm.
It needs more deep breaths.
Now that I’m in palliative care to help with pain management, I can’t do as much as I used to force myself to do before. Fatigue is overwhelming. I think people outside cancerland can’t fully understand that many of us aren’t just tired. When you’re just tired, it’s implied you can sleep and feel recovered the next day. Fatigue, with the added layer of pain, means there is no recovery or waking up feeling energetic. It’s another night of tossing, turning, groaning, never finding a comfortable sleep position and waking up feeling even more drained and quite cranky.
Time to speak up and say NO. Making myself a priority
feels odd and selfish. I’ve had to retrain my thoughts to accept this is true
self-care and not selfish.
I was at the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Blood Cancer
conference yesterday. I went last year and was blown away by the keynote
speaker Dan Shapiro. So, this year, I wanted to bring my mother in the hopes of
learning more about her rare blood cancer and give her the sense of community
she craves but won’t admit she needs.
My naturally bubbly and talkative self couldn’t help but
engage with others and the vendors. After all, I want to start getting more
speaking engagements and writing opportunities that will lead to paid ones. One
of the vendors asked why I was there because she noticed my favorite breast
cancer ribbon barrette in my hair. I told her I was there for my mother and am
a three-year breast cancer survivor and dealing with severe chemo induced
neuropathy and fibromyalgia.
She said, “You don’t look unwell. You look just full of
energy and healthy.” I always find that comment interesting, especially at
cancer events. Don’t they realize the sheer effort it takes to appear energetic
As much as I try to take my expressive nature down a few
notches, I always end up thinning myself out. Naturally being a tad extra is
exhausting once I come down off the high.
It’s just another reminder for me to practice more self-care
and make it routine. I’ve only committed to a few events for PINKtober instead
of everything like I’ve done in the past. Thinning myself out can easily mean another
trip to the ER or with pneumonia like I was in April and May of this year. I’m
not looking for a repeat of that.
Saying NO to volunteering for cancer events is our right and not selfish. Don’t let anyone guilt you into saying yes either. Be firm because you’re the one who must deal with the after affects and not them.