The following is the first chapter from my blog book, PTSD and Cancer: Lost, alone and afraid
March 2, 2009
What words to hear! What words to speak! Cancer free.
But I feel tweaked, bent. How do I explain?
Those who shared their experience with me said transitioning from treatment to cancer free and then regrouping and getting back to life was not easy. I am now wrestling with this very transition and what I didn’t understand, I am now beginning to experience.
Is it because cancer patients and caregivers are thrust into such an unexpected, unasked for lifestyle, and the focus becomes so intense in beating this diagnose of cancer that somewhere they get lost? Who I was in purpose, my identification in society shifts in the midst of a crisis, and after the crisis subsides, I am but dust.
So often lately I ask, who am I now? What am I to do with myself? No matter how hard I try to not let the last nine months influence me, I am not who I was nor can I live my lifestyle of April 23rd, 2008 and prior. I am upside down and inside out.
I am freed from what seemed continuous treatments, health threats, appointments and talk of cancer, cancer, cancer. I am free to step out my front door and be normal again. Or can I? Dog gone it, who is that person stepping out the front door and what is she going to do with herself? I am safer inside, it is quiet inside and routine, it is predictable. Nobody and nothing can assault me.
There is a volcanic rumbling within. A powder keg of emotion and I am not ready to open the door to some of the “rooms” inside of me. I am done being the center of attention, but I am the center of attention. When this volcano blows . . .
It is easy to find distracting projects. It is wonderful to plan camping trips and cruises, to landscape a yard, to worry about my daughter, to hide in the shower, but it is in the shower that the minor earthquakes and spurts of lava begin to predict an eruption – and it is deep and hot and surprising.
What is so threatening about being responsible in organizing ourselves concerning the hospital bills, doctor bills, finding tax deductions to offset what we will more than likely owe to the government, creating insurance appeal packages to send out to our advocate? It is all so very methodical. Why did I sob and cry and slam my fists into the counter? Why did I hate my body, why did I hate what my body did to us? Where did that emotion come from? It is the rumbling of the volcano.
I hated the insurance company. I hated it! Was it my fault I had cancer? Am I trying to intentionally rip off the company? Why did they quote rates to Huntsman and Huntsman quote those rates to us? We were so relieved and freed from that burden of debt. The “good news” enabled us to spend 100% effort in my treatment and recovery. And then four months later, the insurance company says, “Sorry, did you read the clause?”
And three piles of bills. One pile from the University Hospital three inches high . . . Six letters from the Utah Attorney General’s office stating we owe, “Final Notice.” Six letters from the collection agency . . .
Yes, thank God, the hospital has worked with us and put us on a payment plan until the insurance issue resolves but my anger burns . . . “In order to receive financial assistance you must apply to Medicaid.” “In order to receive assistance you must fill out our Financial Assistance application.” List our income, list our debts, list our house assets, list our assets, write a letter explaining why we cannot/are not gainfully employed and then make copies of all the above.
WE SHOULDN’T BE DOING THIS!!! My husband worked, he was gainfully employed and he retired. He was responsible with our finances. We retired debt free, we built a house debt free, he provided for us through a retirement account and, now, we may have to use it to pay off my stupid, stupid hospital bills? My heart is so broken for my husband; such a provider and now having to possibly use our retirement money on this hateful cancer! This is when I cried out, “It is not fair! This wasn’t supposed to happen. My stupid, stupid body . . .”
But it is today, another day; another day to choose how to live this day. How shall I respond?
God showed me, in His very loving kindness, I am tight-fisted. I am holding on to MY dream tight-fisted and I am not about to open my hands and allow God to be God. I cried out to Him in a hiding place, “Help.” He knows all the emotion and thoughts that are in that one desperate word. I want to hold on to my dream but I saw where my dream was, it was just beyond my reach on the ice and the ice was thinning and my dream was breaking away. If I went across the thin ice to retrieve my dream, I very well could fall into the frigid water.
On April 24th, my vessel, who I was, broke into thousands of pieces. My life flowed out of the vessel. But – gloriously and most graciously, God began to form a new vessel beginning May 1st, 2008 and completed this vessel February 19th, 2009. He filled it full of wine called patience, hope, peace, dependency, trust, brokenness, wisdom and experience. And then one night my dream of getting back to a normal life became elusive, my vessel smashed breaking into another thousand pieces.
But again, the Potter began His work – only if I chose. The wheel began to spin, the lump of clay applied, water, and now He waited to begin. Why was He waiting? Because I had to open my hands and turn my palms upward to Him. My desperate hold had to release trusting myself into His care. Yesterday morning, His hands began to work this fresh lump of clay forming it into a larger, more purposeful vessel. Assuredly, this new vessel will hold a more fragrant, richer and robust wine.
The “who am I” will be answered. When? I don’t know. The emotion behind those unnamed doors will eventually escape. I don’t know when. And I want to respect myself and my husband in letting this emotion come. I cannot and will not run from it. It is time to begin to explore the “new” me; the plain and simple person, not the cancer person, me.