There is a crocus blooming beneath our apartment’s front window. Every time I see it, I find myself hoping that it is spring’s herald.
My scars, and my bones, need some warmth to chase away the ache of old wounds.
My spirits could use some sunshine to lift them up.
I’ve been relying on little things to elevate my mood. In recent days, I’ve found myself laughing as tiny bubbles float upwards from our kitchen sink, filled with dish soap. It reminds me of Disney’s cartoon version of Cinderella—when she was scrubbing her stepmother’s floor. It’s been awhile since I’ve watched the movie, but I believe it was at this point in the film that Cinderella started singing a song about the nightingale.
Unlike Cinderella, it is the chickadees in the nearby cedar hedges that make me smile. Even though the sky is often cast in gray, and it’s cold out there, the chickadees welcome every morning with a cheerful tune. It gives me the courage to pack yet another box in preparation of our move.
Handling change—even positive change—productively and with ease, is not my forte.
We’re still hoping to close on the house by April 30th. I’m not sure if that will happen, but that’s the goal. I didn’t understand how involved (and stressful) the home-buying process was until we began it. I guess, maybe, most things in life are like that. We don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into until we’re in the thick of it.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for sticking with me. I appreciate your presence here as well as your commentary. Please continue to send love and light.
At least once a week, I will see a meme or an article abstract on my Facebook newsfeed saying something to the effect of, “a cluttered home is indicative of a cluttered mind”. My mind, although scarred from cranial edema and a bit slower than it used to be, is constantly on the go. If I’m not mentally writing the next scene in my fiction manuscript, I’m composing an extensive “to-do” list. Or, I’m obsessing over something. So, yes, you could say that my mind is cluttered (or, at the very least, quite busy).
I didn’t realize how cluttered our apartment was, however, until we started packing our belongings up.
I wasn’t going to write about our new house, Dear Readers, until everything was finalized; I was afraid of jinxing us. In any case, we’ve started packing as we hope to close the sale by the end of this month. Exciting? Absolutely. A lot of work? Oh my God, yes. So much work!
The two of us have somehow accumulated a lot of stuff. Most of my stuff isn’t even here at the apartment to pack up—it’s at my parents’ house.
My library? At my parents’ house.
My collectibles? At my parents’ house.
My favorite pieces of art? At my parents’ house.
Moving, I think, is ultimately an exercise in letting go. I’ve sorted through most of my clothes already (I still have one more plastic tub to go). Those clothing items that no longer fit—either my body or my personality—have been donated. Even if I love a particular dress or sweater, if I don’t feel comfortable wearing it in this present moment, it has to go.
Transitioning from this living space to the next one will be a process. I will keep you up-to-date, Dear Readers, on how closing (and then the actual moving) unfolds.
Please continue to send light and love. This week brings an oncology check-up in Burlington, VT. I usually get tremendously anxious about these appointments…and maybe that’s why my PTSD flashbacks have been on the rise lately…but it’ll be good to see the faces that took care of me during both my first and second cancer treatments. Gratitude, for your doctors and nurses, helps diminish the fear.
Sunshine pours through the windows. The sky is a brilliant shade of azure. This is the sort of afternoon wherein the promise of spring can be felt on the breeze. And, yet, here I am, just finishing a cup of hot cocoa. I’m securely wrapped up in blankets; feeling wintry. I think this is how the groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, must feel every February when we wake him up. Disorientated. Disgruntled. No wonder why the little guy always seems to see his shadow—cursing us with yet another 6 weeks of winter.
I don’t think Phil is a spiteful groundhog. The poor guy is just trying to do his job.
I feel as though Phil and I in the same boat. Except, unlike Phil, my job isn’t to predict the weather. My job, in this current moment, is to heal. Today, healing looks like sitting on the couch and writing a blog post. Tomorrow, healing might consist of something completely different. The day after that—who knows?
For now, though, I’m going to follow in Phil’s footsteps, curl up, and take a much-needed nap.
Please continue to send light and love, Dear Readers. It makes an enormous difference in our lives.
I am going to be honest with you—this past week sucked.
Monday: Spent living in fear that Wallace was going to die.
Tuesday Morning: Finding out that Wallace was not responding to the medications; his red blood cell counts were still dropping.
Tuesday Afternoon: Giving the “okay” to euthanize him. I watched Wallace pass out of this world. He was exhausted, just melting into the exam table. Leaving him behind in that room was by far one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
Saturday: Picking up Wallace’s cremated remains from the veterinarian’s office.
This week has felt like someone was performing a bone marrow biopsy on my heart. That is, to say, it has hurt beyond description.
Losing my Wally has made me question a bunch of things in my life—this blog for instance. Am I doing a disservice to my fellow cancer and transplant survivors by constantly writing about gratitude and having a positive attitude? I was born a pessimist; a positive attitude is not my natural state of mind. Positive thinking, however, is far healthier than fear and/or worrying. I will admit to using this space as a means of forcing myself to change my perspective. I fear that by doing this, though, I have diminished my struggle as well as the struggle of my fellow survivors. The horror of cancer treatment doesn’t end with the last bag of chemo or the last radiation appointment. The torture doesn’t end…but I don’t write about it because a) I want to shield you from it, and b) if I dwell on it, I’ll be sucked into the fear of relapsing again. I’ve been using this blog like a life jacket–and although I’m treading as best as I can–keeping my head above the water has been difficult.
I’ve also been questioning my role in this life. Why the hell am I still alive? What am I here for? There has to be a reason why I keep outliving my various expiration dates (July 2010, February 2017). People are going to start thinking that I’m some sort of android if I keep surviving all of this s*&t.
Maybe this is just my overwhelming grief for Wallace talking, but for the longest time I thought my purpose was to be a writer. Nabbing a literary agent, however, has proven to be a thankless and utterly depressing task. So, I have to stop myself and ask, am I doing the right thing? Am I on the right path? And if not this, then what?
Dear Readers, I have no doubt that my good MRI results on Thursday/Friday are your thoughts and prayers working. Last year, on this very day, I was diagnosed with relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I told you that I did not have the strength to fight cancer again. It was the truth. I didn’t have the strength. But YOU carried me through. Now I’m asking you to lend me some advice (in addition to continuing to send light and love).
How did you know what to do with your life?
How did you find your purpose?
When you’re grieving, how do you find peace?
As always, thank you for your support. Your comments and encouragement have meant the world to me.
Writing, for me, tends to be best accomplished when the sun has not yet risen and the world is still half-asleep. Morning is the time of the day when I do my best thinking, when words come a little easier to me. It’s the time of day when a large cup of coffee holds magic, when the curved back of a sleeping cat puts life into perspective.
It’s rare that I sit down to write at night. And, yet, that’s exactly when this particular blogpost was written. These words found their place on my computer screen, not when the shadows in the room were shortening, but when they began to grow longer. They came to me in the absence of both coffee and of our cats (the boys are still on vacation at their grandparents’ house). I’d say that writing in the evening is a strange development, but, considering that most of my usual habits have been pitched out of the window, is it so strange?
As many of you know, this last month has been one of tremendous change. I crossed the mysterious border separating the healthy and the ill, reacquiring a diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I wear a leg brace on my lower left leg now, because the tumor has caused some neurological damage to that foot. At different points in the last thirty days, I have had varying hairstyles—my natural locks, dyed red hair, and now only a soft stubble (which will probably fall out in the next week or two). I went from being device-free to having both a chest port and an Ommaya Reservoir in my head.
Change, it seems, is the rule of my days.
This constant inconsistency has been, I will admit, a bit unnerving. There are moments when it’s hard to digest everything that has happened and everything that will happen, but change is also a powerful teacher.
What do I mean by that? Well, each day presents me with a new set of changes and/or challenges; my problem-solving skills have never been so well-utilized! Can’t drink coffee because it’s too acidic? Add Ovaltine to it and only drink three-fourths of a cup (so I can still get my caffeine fix). Can’t have big meals due to nausea? Eat small snacks. Can’t get rid of the smell of the hospital? Explore aromatherapy and diffusing essential oils.
The fact that so much of my life—and my subsequent treatment plan—seems to err on the side of impermanence is also teaching me about flexibility. In truth, I really don’t know what I am doing for treatment beyond next week. My schedule looks like this:
Thursday – Chemo via the Ommaya and a bone marrow biopsy
Monday – Initial consult in Boston for the bone marrow transplant and tissue-typing
Tuesday – More chemo via the Ommaya
Beyond that? Well, there are ideas including a chemotherapy regimen that stretches into June and a course of radiation at the end of it, but all of that could change depending on the results of both the biopsy and the consult in Boston. Is that anxiety-provoking? Absolutely! I am a planner. I don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen, but this is a reality I have to learn to live with. To accept. To somehow survive and thrive in.
And, that, maybe is why I wrote this at night—to reassure myself that change, even when it is uncomfortable, can be positive. It doesn’t always have to be feared; it can be a tool to make us more adaptable. Maybe change can even be embraced; it can be a yoga partner, teaching us to stretch ourselves open up to new asanas and possibilities.
Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day, Dear Readers. Bone marrow biopsies are not pleasant experiences. Please pray that the procedure goes smoothly. Please pray that the results are in my favor. And, if you are able, please send light and love.