“Gaaaaaaa” and “Whoa”

February 10, 2010

dilbert (2)“Gaaaa!” An unintelligent expression. I remember reading the Dilbert comic strip and one of the characters holds his head in frustration exhaling, “Gaaaaa!”

“Gaaaa!” I’m not frustrated like that character but I surprised myself in how I subconsciously  buried my emotion under the will to survive.

Last week when I met with Sally, I was completely caught unaware by something that bothered me and resulted in my having anxiety. Yesterday when I left Sally, all I could say to myself was, “whoa . . .”

Is it “whoa” or “woe”? It is both, in every sense of the definitions.

Yesterday morning I didn’t know what I would talk about with Sally. I didn’t have a page from my journal and I didn’t have a list of questions to discuss. In our last session together, we knew I had to address some areas and issues.

Last week I felt “buoyant” and pleased with my small steps forward in my new beginning. I was making my first efforts at integrating ’07 into ’10. Also, last week I received stunning news from my pastor’s wife, Pauline, a survivor of MCL. She remains cancer free after 10 years! Instead of “the sun will come out tomorrow . . .” the sun was just over the horizon and shining on my today.

I didn’t wake with any pressing matters but as the morning went on . . .

The night before, Monday night, there was an article in our local paper about a man and his family and their experience with MCL. He was diagnosed in 2004. The article included his personal blog address that shares his story in greater detail. In reading his history on his blog, we had many of the same treatments for our cancer. We both had a chemotherapy regime called hyper-CVAD  (I also had rituximab in my treatment), BEXXAR and an auto stem cell transplant. The difference in our treatment was after his initial chemotherapy, he relapsed.  His treatment for his relapse was BEXXAR and an auto stem cell transplant.  I received all my treatment back to back until I was finished, nine months all together.

This gentleman has had a very hard ride and many more complications than me.

I woke with nothing on my list but as yesterday morning progressed, an overall sadness came over me. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t experiencing fear but sadness. I began writing my list of questions, I was so glad to know I was seeing Sally in the afternoon.

I told Sally I had a bit of positive news to share with her. I told her about Pauline’s good news of being a 10 year survivor of MCL. I also said I read an article that the percentage stats of survival frpm lymphoma are increasing and that I was feeling much more comfortable in going out at night and socializing with new people.

Then I told her about the article in the newspaper and I didn’t know how to process and balance the reality regarding the mortality of MCL. I was experiencing sadness because it was as if the reality of having this cancer returned. I can’t pretend concerning my longevity when an article like this forces me to go nose to nose with the facts of MCL. And another haunting saying that I heard over the weekend played into my sadness. A person who had cancer said to me, “It’s not if it’s going to come back, but when.” (Now, “Gaaaaaaaa!”)

I have my hopes for longevity but there are the realities concerning longevity. This balance has a fulcrum, “center point about which something”; “the point on which a lever is balanced when a force is exerted.” I was asking Sally to help me find the balance.

She doesn’t mince reality, she was not long and wordy but to the point. I live with higher risks. True. I may not have the long life I thought I would have prior to cancer; it could be shortened by relapse or secondary disease. True. “How does that make you feel?”

I may be an exception just like Pauline and be the “miracle”, as the doctors call Pauline. I have a 60% chance of post five year survival; I could be in that 60%. How do I balance this? How do I live with this reality and how do I integrate this into my life realistically without obsessing?

One, I am still too close to the end of my treatment. One year ago February, my treatments ended and time will din the noise of statistics. Two, I am doing what I can do now. I am in physical therapy for my leg with the goal to run and I am returning to fly fishing by signing up for a class through the jr. college.

The fulcrum is “Life” and the lever is statistical reality on one side and what I can do now on the other. Yesterday, the lever was weighted by the “SR”, statistical reality. Sally didn’t quite answer how to regain balance in perspective to longevity. “Gaaaaa . . .”

Then as the hour with Sally went on, we ended in “whoa”.

Whoa, it just came right out of me . . .whoa without my even thinking, all the sudden I heard myself say, “It happened so fast. I didn’t even have a chance to wrap my head around what was happening. . . . All these tests and the next thing I knew they were putting in a port right into my chest. THIS ISN’T NORMAL! . . . and then I was connected to an I.V. pole for seven days and it went every where with me!”

I told Sally how Dale and I would navigate the hospital tunnels to go to Starbucks and I cried, sobbed, “That’s not normal!” But I made it normal because I had to survive. How else could I live in this upside down, “unnormal” world? Everything I did for nine months was perfectly balanced to create this unnatural “normalcy”.

I cried when I received news about my cancer and I cried hard tears, but I didn’t cry like I did yesterday. Yesterday was the cry of mourning and of resignation and of heaviness. Whoa. Unexpected woe. I cried because I wanted to be protected and nobody could protect me. Starting with the day my port was surgically put into my chest, I curled up into a fetal position to fall asleep and to this day I curl up into a fetal position to fall asleep.

After I left Sally, I went to Coulter’s Coffee and ordered a warm, peppermint steamer to calm me and center me; I had to process this onslaught of unanticipated emotions. I brought the book I am reading, Heaven Is Real. The chapter title, much to my surprise was “Just Hold On.”

Don Piper, writing about his physical therapy, “It required patience to squeeze that ball – something just about any child could do, but I didn’t have the muscles of a child. I had to learn not only to hold on, but to endure.

“That’s one of the significant messages I have to offer: Hold on. Don’t let go or give up. Just hold on.”

(I am writing more excerpts from this chapter, and it is for my benefit, I need to absorb his exhortation.)

“Patience is absolutely critical. If we don’t develop and practice staying with the heavy things that weigh us down, we don’t make progress. I’ve known people who had massive surgical procedures and afterward they wanted to skip over the physical therapy. There just wanted to feel good and jump past everything else.

“To hold on means to grab something and not let go.

“Whatever our particular weight, issue, or problem, we can’t just cast them off and walk away. We often have to endure a lot of hardships and trial-and-error methods before we make it. When the nurse laid that rubber ball in my hands, it looked like such a simple thing to do. And now it is. But then, just to exert pressure from my fingers required immense concentration and energy. I had to learn there was only one way to get the muscles in my arms to work again. And I had to hold on and endure as I slowly built up my strength.”

I think you get the picture.


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