Something’s off – A Volcanic Rumbling Within

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.

My photos 120_800x600

who am I?
February 16, 2009

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.

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4 comments on “Something’s off – A Volcanic Rumbling Within

  1. Charlotte Bitterman says:

    Thank you again Cyndi….I just re-read this post and the e-mail you sent me on July 28th. Right now I don’t know what my reply is …. I’m encouraged to know that you are on the other side and can offer encouragement to others who are still finding their way through the maze. Right now the exhaustion of my body and bouts of depression are what I’m dealing with…fibromyalgia adds to the mix so believe it’s taking my body a while to heal. My desire from the beginning of this journey and still now is that somehow Jesus would be glorified and that I would be a useful instrument in His Hands. I’m being brought to a place I believe of scrapping all of what” I think” is useful to the Lord and letting Him refashion me. I can not hold onto the “who I used to be” any longer and allow the Lord to make me who He wants me to be. I am plainly not the same person I was before cancer and treatments but I may know that… but sometimes the people around me still want to see me in the past(does that make any sense?) It”s kinda like well that’s over and we’ll go on as before and it’s not like before for me. I know the Lord knows me intimately and as I trust Him to walk me through all this. I believe the depression I’m having is physically caused because I don’t have a thing to be depressed about….chemo does alter brain chemicals. I’m praying Jeremiah 17:14 and clinging to Jesus feet in my mental fog. “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.” We were singing Mighty to Save in worship Sunday and I began to ask the Lord to Move the mountain of depression out of my life…I was sprayed for after the service….the Lord gave me the Sonshine of hope to my heart that yes the depression will be lifted. Well I need to go. Thank you for listening. God Bless you Mightily!!!

    • Cyndi Heath says:

      Charlotte,

      In reading this, my heart just hurts for you. Please, please, please be assured I KNOW EXACTLY how you feel!! I can not emphasize this enough. I remember KNOWING Christ was sufficient, but why, oh why, wasn’t I big enough to believe that? In confessing Christ and knowing who He is and the power He shares with us in our weakness, I felt ashamed and guilty that I wasn’t LIVING what I believed but saw myself as weak and lost and lonely and afraid.

      You wrote, ” but sometimes the people around me still want to see me in the past(does that make any sense?)” YES, and a thousand times, yes! What was so difficult for me was the fact that I was not the same person after cancer yet everyone thought I was and expected me to be. This is what caused my loneliness and isolation. I wrestled with this and what was most difficult, as I began to meet new people they did not know what I had just gone through. I felt wounded and lost in my identity.

      Also, ” I believe the depression I’m having is physically caused because I don’t have a thing to be depressed about….chemo does alter brain chemicals.” I don’t have a thing to be depressed about . . . everyone would tell me it is over, but little did they know IT WAS NOT OVER.

      Charlotte, I struggled in this depression for over 2 1/2 years – BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO!! God had me go through my PTSD to tell you that YOU ARE NORMAL! And some of us suffer more than others and that is ok, too.

      What began to turn me around was finding a license clinical social worker. I finally had someone to listen to me without telling me how thankful I should be and that I got through chemo, etc. Sally let me talk and talk and cry and weep. She allowed me to grieve and she even allowed me to talk about death and dying.

      Another great help was the book I read listed on the Resource page of my blog book, which you have read parts of. Go there to find helps.

      My dear sister in Christ – good news! This, too, shall pass! Find someone to talk to – I’ll listen to you! Contact me again on “Your voice . . . contact me.” We can exchange phone numbers.

      I will pray faithfully for you! You may be the very reason why I felt an urgency to get my blog book posted and why it is free.

      Charlotte, you do indeed have a friend in Christ – Cyndi

  2. Charlotte Bitterman says:

    Yesterday was when the Lord led me to this blog…thank you Father. I have been in the upside down turned inside out state and yesterday I felt like I would drown. I’ve also asked in the past few months the question “who am I now” and what is my purpose … wanting to be used by the Lord and not knowing where. It is definitely one day at a time…not every day is upside down but many are. Anyway..thank you again for being open with your thought and feelings.

    • Cyndi Heath says:

      Charlotte,
      I sent you an email before I read this comment; I thought your season of questioning was past but I read that you are still in it.

      Soldier on and do not try to talk yourself into being “big” about your cancer. Experience your feelings and grieve the loss of your past life. Once you grieve things will begin to turn around. Please read the chapter “Rage, Denial and Grieving”, one of the lessons learned for me was allowing myself to feel the loss that my life before cancer is just that, before cancer. Today is after cancer – my life is forever changed. Please write me again should you want to “talk”, I am available.

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