And so it continues…

I feel like this:

head against wall

And this:

rage

And this:

crying baby

Last week, I was finally getting back on my feet: got the okay to exercise again and ran for the first time in a month; hired a sitter and danced a night away; embarked on my first big work trip in ages. But instead of truly getting back on my feet, I got another seroma. I’m having surgery, again, this Wednesday.

I was already feeling a swirl of emotion before my breast started swelling and throbbing again:

I was feeling daunted by the long road ahead of me toward a full recovery—feeling my lack of strength and stamina, my inability to exercise like I used to, to travel without ensuing exhaustion.

My surgeon says that this time, he doesn’t want me to exercise for at least 4-6 weeks. The road is feeling even longer, even more daunting. People assure me that I’ll get my strength back, but I’m not so confident. I am no longer the 36 year-old who ran 20-25 miles a week, often in 8-10 mile stretches, while working and parenting and socializing and dropping down for 20 push-ups when I felt like it. I’m now the 40 year-old who has been beaten down by a year of toxic treatment and two going on three surgeries and who can barely get through 3 miles at a snail’s pace; and when I do get through 3 miles at a snail’s pace, I then need to lie down on the couch to catch my breath and make sure my legs don’t buckle beneath me.

Even before this most recent seroma, I was feeling like people were done with my cancer, and I don’t blame them. It’s been a year, and trust me, I’m done, too. Except I’m not done.

I’m not done because I need to have yet another surgery and then who knows how many more after that, because who knows why I keep getting seromas and how to make them stop. But even before this latest medical frustration, I wasn’t “done” because as good as I am at feeling grateful for all the wonderful aspects of my life, I am also just on the other side of thinking I was going to die, young. And I am all too aware that I still could. That 30% of women with an early stage breast cancer diagnosis develop metastatic breast cancer. That my young age only increases my odds: More years during which my cancer could come back. For better, but also for worse, life will never be the same for me (or so I imagine, and so I hear from other women who have walked a similar road). I imagine I will forever feel the shadow lurking in the corner.

What, then, does “done” really mean? Will I ever be done with breast cancer?

Harrison expressed similar concerns when Josh and I told the kids this morning about this next surgery. It doesn’t help that Harrison turns ten next week and my breast cancer is, for the second year in a row, a dark shadow over his birthday festivities. But he said that even though he was disappointed about his birthday, that wasn’t the main upset.

IMG_2251“It just seems like it’s never going to be done,” he said again and again. “I want it to be over, and it feels like it’s never going to end.”

What is there to say to that other than, “I know” and “I feel that way, too” and “I’m so sorry you have to deal with this”? Of course I said all the positives I could, as well. But I am careful not to tell my children that I am going to be fine and that everything is going to be okay, because of course there is no way to know what will be.

IMG_2260

7 thoughts on “And so it continues…

  1. It’s hard for me to write a note, but I think your Wave needs a response. I’m going to tell you how I approach life and it’s something that I’ve been doing doing for a long time, but hadn’t really thought about it. You’ve obviously heard about the the half filled glass or the half empty glass. That’s all about about how you look at things…positive or negative. I’ve taken it one step further and if you didn’t know my first heart operation, a quadruple bypass, occurred when I was 40, So you’re not alone. I had no doubt in my mind that this was a little blip in the road. Then of course I had hip replacements, a stroke and a triple bypass not to mention losing my beloved wife. People kept on asking why I still had a positive attitude. Well, I thought about it. It came down to a golf analogy. You can also use a poker analogy, but I prefer the golf one. And that is “you play it as it lies”. In other words, don’t get upset, do the best with what you have been “dealt”. Now I’m 73 and I could have been bemoaning all the physical things that happened to me….even losing a wife of almost 40 years. However, I count my blessings every day. I wish Sewell hadn’t died, but we had a great 40 years. I’ve got two fantastic children and a great daughter in law and son in law. And what about the four fabulous grandchildren? So how lucky am I!

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I know it’s tough what you are going through, but you can have a great life if you have a positive attitude. And if you really think about it, you can’t do anything about the cancer anyway. it might come back. it might not, but look around you. You’ve got a wonderful and loving husband and two talented and adorable children. Enjoy them! Enjoy life!

    Love, Daboo >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe, I appreciate you taking the time to share all of this. I tend to take a similar attitude as the one you describe. There is so much for which I am grateful. And of course none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. For the most part, I keep my fear at bay. For the most part, I’m able to put one foot in front of the next and reap as much joy as possible along the way. But there are times, like now, when I feel a surge of other emotion– and in those times, I try to acknowledge the feeling without wallowing in it. I know I won’t dwell here for long. Luckily, I’m much too happy a person for that!

      Thank you for the golf mantra: “Play it as it lies.” It’s a good reminder/good words to live by.

      Thank you, also, for being such a positive presence in my life. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jenny love…I’m glad you’re giving voice to your frustrations. They are real, as is fear (along with a whole cast of murky, upsetting thoughts and feelings). I’m sorry that your initial bursts of energy have been set back a bit. But I imagine that while 40 has been a major test, you will be soon enough be a 41 year old who is surprising herself with all the physical activity she’s capable of. Please go easy on yourself and trust in taking time to heal. I wish I had a magical balm to assuage your fears and upsets; I hope you can feel my long-distance virtual hug instead.
    Love, Megan

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  3. Jenny, I applaud you. Imagine me standing on a chair, or better yet, climbing a mountain, exclaiming my love and respect for you to the skies.

    This is such a painful post to read; the mother in you knows how deeply distressing it is to witness our children’s’ suffering. And yet, as I read your most honest and eloquent testimony, a part of me is deeply reassured to witness how you can allow yourself your full experience, even when it is excruciating. You face it full on and let it move through you. This is a true gift, and a strength of greater depth than any marathon you might one day run. Yes, for now you have lost some of your physical strength and endurance. But this other strength you are growing and modeling is so raw and formidable and rare. It is what makes you a sister to Eve Ensler and other courageous women. It is what makes me want to get up on that chair and celebrate your amazingness.

    You mentioned in an earlier post something I taught you about moving around the canvas, something I shared with you that I had learned in painting. Well, here’s something else that painting has taught me: there is nothing to worry about in what someone dares to paint, however dark or light or taboo. What we worry about is what someone won’t paint, what he or she holds in and socks and won’t allow to see the light of day. Being open to it all allows the flow to move through us, freely.

    You are so adept and graceful at following all the streams that are carrying you on this journey. I believe you are being schooled for great things.

    Bless you my darling for trusting life enough to go where it takes you, and then turning around to share with us the truth of your experience.

    Devotedly,
    Mama

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  4. Dear Jenny,
    Please “give the time to time”.
    You cannot ask your body to feel all the sensations you went through:
    fear, sadness, anger, ecstasy and joy, without realizing how much energy you asked from your body and mind, and how normal it is to be exhausted and weak. You have to reload yourself now.
    You went through a long struggle and it’s all right to fell tired, fed up and distressed.
    But life goes on also, you know that, and there will always be twinkles in your kids eyes, stars, moon and sunshine.
    Take good care of yourself,
    Mariejeanne.

    Like

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