Let’s Talk

A subject I have never been ashamed to speak about is my mental health. I struggle to try and stay in a positive mood, some days more than others. Instead of reminding you of all the ways I’m fucked up, I will inform you of the ways I am helping to take care of myself.

Eating Right – Keeping a clean diet when I am having a rough day is not easy. Nothing feels better then combining my tears with a tub of ice cream. I find however that afterwards I end up feeling worse. Now not only am I sad about whatever made me cry that day, but also upset at myself for eating all that ice cream. If I stick to healthy alternatives it is one less thing I need to be down on myself for. Also, all of those beautiful nutrients keep your cells happy and healthy which is never a bad thing!

Fresh Air – Seems like an easy fix, but pulling yourself off the couch some days can be tough. Just force yourself to get up and go on a quick walk outside, or go for a drive with the windows down. Removing yourself from your current position and feeling the cool breeze on your face can make a world of a difference.

Therapy, Therapy Therapy – I cannot express enough how much therapy has, and will continue to help me. I have been going to group therapy as well as seeing a therapist one-on-one for a while, but I recently have also begun to see a couples therapist. My relationship with my husband is fantastic, however we do struggle in dealing with the emotional aftermath from everything that has gone in the past couple years. Speaking with someone is helping us communicate better when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious. It is so easy when you are sad or angry to take it out on a loved one. I am guilty for that. She is teaching us the dance of how we fight, and ways that we can change it so that we better understand what the other person is going through. I find people are often embarrassed to admit they are attending therapy with their partner. This is the wrong perspective. There is nothing shameful for wanting the best out of your relationship. These jobs exist for a reason, because it is COMMON that couples have issues when communicating. I am very thankful that my husband was open to attending when I first asked him. He saw the improvements I have been having one-on-one, and understood how it could now help us move in a more positive direction. I have said it before and I will continue to preach it – EVERYONE can benefit from therapy.

Pets – The love of an animal is such a beautiful thing. They do not care about any of the baggage you have, and just show you unconditional love. Now, I’m not suggesting in order to achieve happiness everyone must go out and adopt a dog (although that would be amazing). If your life style does not best suit a dog, that is understandable. It takes a lot of time and effort to have a dog and it is not for everyone. If this is you, then try to go for a walk at a dog park on a weekend. Not only will you love the fresh air, but these are the bestย days for PUPPIES. I find my local dog parks are full of puppies on the weekends, and I just love it. Puppies are so clumsy and dopey they can put a smile on anyone’s face.

Well there you have it, just a few of the things that help me to stay sane. You are also allowed to just stay in all day and binge watch tv. There is nothing wrong with telling the rest of the world to fuck off and just sit around in your track pants. Just do it one day though, the next day you have to get up.

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Finding The Word

Crying has become a part of my everyday life. It is just something that happens and I am almost getting used to it. During my most recent therapy session, my therapist wanted to know why. She wanted me to seek the reason as to why I cry. It started with me describing the memories that like to pop up in my mind daily. All of the ones of me in the hospital, getting poked and pulled and crying out for help. So then the question was, why are these memories the most prominent? What was the common thread that linked these together? I couldn’t figure it out, so we moved on. She then asked, if you could use one word to describe why you cry, what would that be? I had no idea which made the tears come even harder.

Vulnerable. I cry because I feel so vulnerable now.

No, that’s not it.

Independence. I cry for my loss of independence.

No, that doesn’t work either.

Misunderstood. I cry because no one really understands me.

Nope.

Grief. I cry as I am grieving the life I once had.

Dammit that’s not it either.

Then I thought about the hospital, and the memories that haunted me the most. The ones that like to creep into my thoughts and distract me from all of the positive. What was the common link?

No one was there.

When I was having anxiety attacks on operating room tables. I was crying and begging them to stop because I was scared. They would hold me down as I struggled and I would look up the bright light and wish it would all be over.

When my blood pressure spiked and my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest. I kept fading in and out of consciousness and thought I was dying.

When I was told they had to pull my liver drain out at my bedside and they would not wait for my family to come to hold my hand.

When I was struggling to stand and I had to call the nurse to wipe me after the washroom.

When they stabbed my arms and held me down trying to insert a picc line.

Nurses and doctors were there, sure. For the most part they were so friendly and helpful, but they are not family. I also fully understand it is impossible for family to be in the hospital 24/7, so I don’t blame anybody.

So now that we have figured out the common link, is that the reason I cry so often? What is the word that I feel would best describe my feelings in general?

Alone. That’s the word.

No matter how much I explain, no matter who was there for what, no one has been there for it all. No one is in my head having to live with these thoughts, and the ones described above are just a handful of them.

Alone does not only describe those moments, but so many others. I have met a lot of wonderful people who can better understand my experiences, but no one fully can. No one I have met has had 6 surgeries. No one I have met has been told twice that they are inoperable.

So now that I have named it, I have to work on accepting it. There will never be anyone who will fully understand other than myself. So that is the next step. I am working on it, alone.

Clear

I have played out this day over and over in my head before. Many nights I would lay in bed trying to fall asleep and fantasize about my doctors saying to me, “Your scan is clear.” I thought last year it was going to happen, and then was crippled by the news that all of my cancer was back. This year I was hesitant. I felt good and I know that I have changed so many things in my diet that are positive, but there was always the chance. Saying I was nervous would be an understatement. I was an emotional wreck in the days leading up to my results appointment. When the day finally arrived I walked into the office as he said walking behind me, “So your scan looks good.” Get out. I was shocked. Even my CEA blood levels were only 0.3! Chris cried, and I sat there taking it all in. In my fantasy I jumped out of my seat and hugged Dr. Jay. I cried and wanted to film it so I could share the “reveal” video with all of my friends. In reality, I just sat there almost faking happiness.

I am happy. I am beyond happy. I need a clear scan to then have another, and another, and eventually stop worrying every day about this damn disease. I know I will never be “cured”. Stage four cancer patients always live in fear. But I would love to have one day in the future where I wake up and think, “Holy shit I didn’t think of cancer once yesterday.”

For now, I’m going to try and forget that January is just three months away, and this blissful life could come crashing down.

Car Rides

My focus for a long time now has been to build back up my physical strength. I go on long walks, try a few sit ups here and there, and swim in my parents pool whenever I can. Physically I am beginning to feel stronger. Just when I start to pat myself on the back, I remember that I am leaving a major part of my recovery out – my mental and emotional strength. It is like I have been doing all upper body exercises, but my legs look like chickens. Driving alone in the car seems to be the worst time for me. It is when my mind runs all over the place, and I always end up crying. Good thing for sunglasses. I need to start shifting some of my energy into helping to heal this crucial side to my recovery. But how? Group therapy sessions help, and I do attend them, but I beginning to realize I need more than this. I have to find an outlet that allows me to be able to be alone and one with my thoughts – and still be ok. This is a harder task than it seems. As soon as it is quiet, the little voice in my head starts to say, “You have stage 4 cancer. How many years do you have left? That sharp pain in my side, is it cancer? So what if you don’t make it to forty, who needs to be forty? Why do I have to go through this? Fuck you Taylor Swift, you don’t even know my struggle.” (She’s always on the radio.)

Work/Life Balance

As my surgery date approaches, I begin to contemplate what lies ahead for me on the other side. As the doctor appointments become further and further apart, and life starts to return to normal – questions begin to arise. Where do I want to be? Who do I want to be? How do I want to live the rest of my life?

It slowly becomes more clear with each passing day. The easy answer is simple – I choose to live. 

The bank offers a large mortgage. Do you use the whole sum just because it was offered to you? What kind of life will you then have? Yes, you will have a beautiful home – but how else will you choose to spend your time? How fun is it really to stay in every night because you cannot afford to go out? Before I would have said yes. I would have found a way to make it all work. Now – that is just foolish. Why cause stress when it is not needed? When I am not working I want to be able to do things – whether it be a casual night out or an expensive vacation. Either way I want to be living a life instead of sitting on my money. (That is a fantastic term that was recently said to me by a certain friend – you know who you are ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

While we are on the topic – let’s talk about work. I love work. I like having a purpose for my day. I enjoy the social aspect. I like the feeling that comes over me when I complete a project and I see it live. (By live, I mean online – I work in ecommerce. Have I mentioned that before?) If you work in a field that you enjoy and are passionate about, it is easy to go into work everyday. Working a little overtime never bothered me because I enjoy what I do. 

Work however, should not be the only reason to get up in the morning. I am not “working for the weekend”, as the song goes – but I do plan on enjoying my time away from work. It is hard not to bring your work home with you if you are a workaholic like myself. It is easy however to look back and think “man, I wish I went on that trip”. You never hear anyone say, “Ten years ago I wanted to go on vacation, but chose to work instead. Totally do not regret that”. You are given vacation days for a reason. If you are worried that your boss will look down on you for wanting time off – then maybe they are not the right boss for you. (I am thankful not to have this problem ๐Ÿ™‚ ) It is healthy to want a break. You need a mental break. Most people (and by most, I could probably say all) work harder when they are happy. Who would ever be happy working 80 hours a week, 365 days a year? Work hard – yes. Choose work over your life – no. 

That being said – if you know your work is busy during certain times of the year – do not be a fool and ask to book time off then. That is just dumb.