Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting Acquainted with Sadness

Lots of folks are looking at what the tornado left behind. I identify.
Our life got blown to smithereens this month, and I have to say

"I liked it better when . . . "
  1. I didn't feel scared every time I remembered.
  2. I thought cancer happened to other people.
  3. Life and death decisions were hypothetical.
  4. I was ranting about the cost of other people's chemo.
  5. My old problems were my main problems.
  6. Our future seemed predictable.
  7. I could relax my shoulders.
  8. At 2:15 am I could concentrate on blogging.
  9. Feeling hopeful didn't take such an effort.
  10. I didn't know how I'd feel.
The doctor told us that after a cancer diagnosis, people go through stages of grief. By the time he mentioned it, I figured we'd been through the stages already that week and we'd go forward with a stiff-upper-lip and faith in the future, back to life as we'd known it. What I've discovered is life as we know it is gone. "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

With any big change-of-direction event, life becomes a new locale. Thinking, planning, dealing with the day-to-day has new implications. Dee gets phone-calls from his buddies—the ones he coached T-Ball with, the guys he chaperoned scout camp with. Now, instead of talking about fishing in Alaska and collecting cars, guns, or golf trophies, the big conversation is about the incontinence he can expect after surgery, hot-flashes and mood swings that come with his $900 hormone shots, or the ever-present fatigue and constant diarrhea radiation has to offer. Discussions of whether he can work during treatments, if it's worth it to risk a stroke on the operating table, how to handle the horrendous costs before Medicare kicks in, and if it's wise to let the tumors grow wild for a few more months. Questions. We're full of questions without answers and it's disconcerting.

New, unexpected symptoms and side-effects add to the life-long surprise party these guys got invited to. Dee's overwhelmed, of course, and I feel overwhelmed, too. I'm in a crazy time: the final edit of my manuscript is due, my church newsletter deadline is tomorrow, and two or three projects are stacked on my desk. Real life doesn't slow down to let its travelers catch their breath. I find I have to remind myself to eat, a problem I've never had before!

Dee and I have lots of moments of hope and excitement and even exhilaration—we're re-inventing ourselves for our next chapter—it's a technique we've used several times and it's always rejuvenated our lives before. (More in coming weeks.) But there are all the in-between moments when I feel sad, and scared, sleepless in SLC (you think Tom Hanks wants to chat?) breathless, exhausted and depressed: my stomach churns, my head spins and my heart feels a little broken. And I long for how it was before.

Just for a while it would be nice to forget June, and skip back to May for a last taste of carefree.

I liked it better then.
I just didn't know it.


Did you ever write about a difficult time?
How did you keep a balance between
Depression and Optimism
in describing your reality?

Make sure your journal isn't all perfect children and marital bliss. (Your kids will wonder what's wrong with their life, if they ever crack open such a boring read.) Tell about your down-days, too. That's when readers identify most, and your blog or journal becomes a teaching tool. Introduce readers to coping skills you've used when getting acquainted with sadness. It might remind you of some you already have, for the especially tough times. The times you look back with nostalgia and say: I liked it better then . . .


Christie said...

Oh, Oma. I am so sorry. It's got to be so overwhelming. Just know that if you need to talk, vent, or cry on a shoulder...I am totally here for you!

missy said...

I'm sorry for what you're going through. Life has a way of throwing these curve balls and I've never been good at baseball. I know my blog is full of only happy. That was a conscious choice and I love to read through it on my down days because it helps me remember all the good in my life. However, my personal journal is more of a balance so my kids will know it wasn't always roses and sunshine for me.

For what it's worth, I will mention a formula called "Protocel." My dad started taking it during his bout with colon cancer and has become quite an advocate of the stuff. I was very leery at first (we've always been traditional medicine kind of people) but I read an e-book about it and had the most tangible feeling of peace come over me. From that moment on, I stopped worrying about cancer. Most people haven't heard of it so I wanted to put it out there. There are several chapters dedicated to Protocel in the book "Outsmart Your Cancer: Alternative Non-Toxic Treatments That Work." If you are interested and can't find the book, please let me know. If not, no worries.

Best wishes as you go through this difficult time. I hate that worried, sick-to-your-stomach, tied-up-in-knots feeling. But, as I read in a children's book once, there comes a point where the time for worrying is over and it's time for action. You can beat this!

(missystowell at gmail dot com)

Alana said...

Sorry for all you guys are going through. :( God bless!!!!!

marta said...

mama, this was a beauty of a post. i've been thinking a lot about how you don't know how easy life is until something hard hits you down! i'm so sorry so many hardships and changes are happening. we love you.

Diane said...

"Real life doesn't slow down..."

So true. I often have to remind myself to keep breathing at times like this. Literally.

Just keep marching forward, one step at a time. I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers.

the wrath of khandrea said...

my love. i have tasted bitterness and sorrow, and even a minty fresh piece of trident can't cleanse my palette at times. and i love me some trident.
here's the thing...there are so many days when you ache and you ache, and then you wake up one morning and you think "huh. the lead weight on my chest seems more like tin today." and you suddenly love tin more than you've ever loved it before.
i realize this is a ridiculous analogy. my point is just this: life is gonna suck. and then it's gonna not. and then it's gonna. and then not. bottom line: you must keep eating.

lots of love to you, my friend.

Heather P said...

I'm so sorry I've been reading but not commenting lately. I'm thinking of both you and Dee and I'm so sorry for what a difficult time this has been. Of course I'm also moved by the way you're able to write about your life--even in the tough times you're bringing clarity to thought and I'm sure you're helping many others. I wish there was a right thing to say, but please know you're both on my heart. Beautiful post.

Janet said...

I'm so sorry you have to deal with this! I wish you all the best in your healing. You are an amazing woman and Dee is lucky to have you by his side. My prayers are with you and your family.

polly said...

i wrote a lot of my feelings when i was sick, and have since thrown them away. i think sometimes those feelings are good to let our posterity know we went through hard times and yet closer generations lived through them with us and don't want to go through again when we are gone, so I don't know what the answer is when keeping a journal about going through illness.

allison said...

I agree with Polly. I look back on some of my "sad" writing, and I feel grateful that I have dealt with those awful situations. Thank you for sharing-as a fan of your blog, I'm grateful that you are honest.

PS-I work with Alaska State Representative Mike Hawker, and his prostate cancer is in total remission. It's like it never happened. Cancer does not mean death.

Tracy said...

I am so so bring up a valid point; we often don't know how good we have it until it's no longer there. My husband read something on a billboard once that said, 'Life isn't that bad if it can get worse!' and gosh, we so need to be reminded of that.
I am praying for the both of you through this extremely difficult and overwhelming time in your life. We can say all the things we can but basically you need strength to get through this ordeal...and for this I pray you will receive it.
Take good care and I'm so glad you can blog about your thoughts and feelings. We are here for you!

Chiska said...

What a great post. My thoughts are with you, but my body needs to go get a kid out of the bath.