Approaching the Light

Everything stops me these days. Stops me from getting out of bed. Stops me from writing. From answering the phone, returning a text, taking my vitamins, eating something green. Everything either takes too much effort or too much courage.

But I think I’m getting better. No, I know I’m getting better, because on Saturday, Image 4I spent the whole day enjoying (for real, not for-fake, enjoying) my daughter’s 7th birthday (we now have two rabbits: Coco and Peppermint). And even though I spent most of Sunday back under the covers, on Monday, I started taking my vitamins again. (On Tuesday I started taking my Tamoxifen). And yesterday, even though I woke up and watched TV for 3 hours straight, for the first time since my surgery I ALSO did something while I watched; rather than simply lying like a still, stopped blob on the couch, I worked on a photo project on my computer.

And then, for the first time since my surgery, I went for a real walk (not a sick person’s, let me amble up and down the street, so I don’t get bed-sores kind of walk, but a real walk, all the way to my local hospital (Cooley Dickinson) and back, where I’ll be doing radiation. (And where, by the way, I met my radiation oncologist, Dr. Bornstein, who I absolutely, positively adore. How did I get so lucky with these amazing practitioners?)

But before I knew how amazing Dr. Bornstein is, I sat in the waiting room and cried like a damned fragile cancer patient. The type of cancer patient that made the nurse especially kind and gentle, and I loved her for that, but I also wanted to scream, “I just started being this fragile! I’m NOT USUALLY this fragile!”

“I just don’t want to do this,” I explained to my husband when he put his arm around me in the waiting room. All these months, the only other time I’ve cried in a doctor’s office was 2 days after my diagnosis, when the surgeon told me I’d need a mastectomy. Since then, I’ve been green with nausea and dizzy with fatigue, but I’ve never been like this. Never depressed. Mostly, I’ve even been chipper. “You’re in awfully good spirits for someone who just had a terrible first round of chemo and is back for more,” my oncologist commented back in November. And I was. I was in genuinely fine spirits, month after month after month of breast cancer treatment.

But everything stops me these days. Not in a “Let me breath and appreciate the moment” kind of way. In a “How does one go on?” kind of way. In a “Oh my god, every single tiny thing is so fucking overwhelming, how can I even begin to wrap my head around… anything? Taking my vitamins much less taking the time to prepare anything healthier and more time-consuming than a bowl of yogurt or a piece of toast with peanut butter much less taking care of my children? And how about the stacks of mail and how will I ever manage a career again or the fact that I feel six years old inside: small and frightened and utterly dependent and wanting to be loved and feeling so filled up for a fleeting moment when someone shows up just to love me (thank you, oh my goodness, thank you, to those of you who have been showing up with a call, a card, an email, a visit, just to love me a little); but not being able to love myself and pushing people away for not loving me enough or in the right way and then feeling abandoned and angry and hurt and: Stop.

Not everything stops me anymore. I am getting better.

At today’s doctor’s appointment, I laughed in the waiting room. And during my appointment, Dr. Parikh (my beloved plastic surgeon; I still can’t believe I, one, have a plastic surgeon, and two, adore my plastic surgeon) said I seemed better. He said my eyes sparkled with life again. Then, after he examined me, he rejoiced at my recovery and gave me the “all clear” to start radiation. (“Yay?” Yes, “Yay,” because the sooner I start radiation, the sooner I finish.) He gave me the all clear to lift my left arm (gently, slowly, to a certain point); to lift more than a half gallon of milk if my body feels like it can lift more than a half gallon of milk; to run a mile if my body feels like it can run a mile.

He gave me the all clear to stop stopping. And I am ready. Ready (I hope, I hope, I hope) to get out of bed, out of my head, out of my house, out of this depression.

9 thoughts on “Approaching the Light

  1. Jenny- a day doesn’t go by without me thinking of you. I am so inspired by you. The sun cannot shine soon enough for you. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life. Xo


  2. Thank you, thank you for this. I see you stayed up into the night and edited just a little bit. It’s wonderful. Each day, a little better. ❤


  3. Glad to hear some signs of recovery are in the offing.

    It’s not surprising that you’d be depressed. For hevvinsake you’ve been through the wringer in a big way. It’s probably not surprising that you held up pretty well (all things considered!) while you were going through all those months of treatment — you kind of have to, in a way, in order to survive at all. Now that the dust is settling, though, the mind is probably not so occupied with pushing through all that…plus you must be exhausted!

    Have you asked one of the docs about an antidepressant? Usually depression will eventually pass on its own (especially if the person has a reason to feel depressed, which you surely do). But if it doesn’t clear up in another few weeks, maybe a course of antidepressant (with no plan for you to live on it for the rest of your life!!) would shake it off.

    Hope the sunlight continues to sneak back into your life.


    1. Yes, I have been warned it’s common for people to struggle when their treatment ends, for the reasons you share. I have, on and off through treatment, had bouts of increased anxiety when I started feeling better physically because suddenly I was well enough for my mind to pick up speed! Finding out I need to do radiation was a bigger blow than I expected, and if the depression continues, yes, I could consider an antidepressant. But I feel like I’m slowly on the mend, adjusting to the fact that I have more months of treatment ahead and not the summer I would have chosen for myself.

      I will aim my sights on the sun, thank you!


  4. Jenny, jenny, jenny, Jenny, J – E – N – N- YYYYYYYYYYY
    I love thee Jenny,
    i cry for thee Jenny
    And, sometimes I just want to FLYYYYY..
    to your side..

    to KISS you Jenny….
    Hug YOU Jenny….
    TO Make you laugh and SMIIIIILLLLLLEEE
    Because, YOU, dear Jenny
    are a GEM, my jenny
    ANd I love thee from NOLA to the Nile.


  5. “Which is bigger,” he asks me, “the ocean or sky,”

    and I want to tell him the heart, which even today has been practicing vastness, is learning to say yes

    in new languages, learning to stretch beyond the center, beyond the lips, learning to be more moon and less woman, to reflect light without owning it,

    learning to lose whatever it has used before as a measure. This is the way I want to love: in an idiom stronger than tongues, I want to love in the way that tides pull

    and release, like the moon which holds without touch, I want to invite the sky to create a bigger space in me a place spacious enough to hold all the wings

    of the passing moment. I want to be buoyant enough to carry all of love’s weight. “The sky,” I say. “The sky is bigger, but the ocean is also wide.”

    He is satisfied by my words, closes his eyes. In my chest, a star falls. In my belly strong tug of tides.

    ~ Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer


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