The Cancer Journeys: Blindsided by Emotions

I’m currently planning a series of blog posts about cancer, called “The Cancer Journeys.” This will be a series of posts about my journeys with cancer that are designed to give someone else hope and courage, no matter what you’re going through.

As I was gathering old journal entries and making notes of my thoughts, my emotions started going all over the place. I stopped, and told my husband, “My brain is full.” I got really sad, and, if you ask my husband, maybe even a bit prickly. 😉

It’s taken me a few days to sort through my emotions, and I’ve come to a startling conclusion: I’m angry! This surprises me, because I’m not very temperamental, and not the anger type.

However, right before Christmas, I had surgery, and from that surgery, the pathology showed I had endometrial cancer. This is my third time with cancer, and all three are different types. With this most recent one, before the hysterectomy, we weren’t even 100% sure that it was cancer. With my other two cancers, we already had the confirmed diagnosis and had an idea of what we were dealing with. This time, we didn’t.

It’s really strange to find out you had cancer after the fact. We caught it early, and no other treatment is required. It was almost over before it began. My first symptom showed up November 1st, and by December 21st, I was in surgery. It happened quick, and before I could blink, I was recovering from surgery.

Now, here I am, just over two months later, I’m recovered, feeling great, and back to my regular activities and life. But emotionally, maybe not so much.

As many of you may know, my husband and I were high school sweethearts, who ended up at different colleges, and eventually to different lives. We reunited and married 21 years after high school. Yes, we’re one of those couples. During those 21 years apart, my husband married and had children, then tragically lost his wife in a car accident.

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about grief, especially how grief can blindside you. You can be going along, doing okay, then hear a song on the radio or smell her favorite perfume, and bam! Suddenly, you’re a puddle of tears.

I think there’s grief with cancer as well. Please know, I’m not equating the loss of a loved one with the loss of a body part or two. But there is a level of grief and emotion when you’re battling for your health.

Even if the immediate diagnosis, surgery, crisis have all passed, you can still be blindsided. Any traumatic event is going to leave a scab. And sometimes scabs get ripped open again and bleeds.

You know what? It’s okay to be emotional. I’m good at stuffing my emotions and putting on a brave front. But once in a while, you just have to roll with the punches. And this week, I’m acknowledging my anger at a third cancer diagnosis, despite the fact that all is well right now.

I won’t carry this anger around forever – that takes too much energy! But I need to acknowledge it, face it, then put it behind me as best I can.

God has gifted me with a glorious life. It’s time to get on with it!

How about you? Have you ever had emotions sneak up on you from a past event? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear from you.

The Need for Community

This blog is entitled “Talking Among Friends” for a reason.  I want it to be a safe place to talk about friendships, relationships and life in general.  Originally, this blog started out as “Rebecca’s Journey,” where I wrote about my experience with cancer.Friends Silhouette

After a while, I didn’t want to talk about cancer any more.  Life started again, and I wanted to break away from that dreadful disease.  Relationships are what matter in this life, whether it’s your relationship with God, your family, and your spouse and kids.

Sadly, cancer is still a fact of life for friends around me.  It’s much too prevalent in this world, and I’m sure we all know someone who has had cancer or even passed away from this awful disease.

A friend of mine is recovering now, and has finished all of her treatments of chemotherapy and radiation.  She’s finding her way back.  At a recent gathering of friends, her first in a long time, she said something that struck me.  In the midst of her treatment, all she could do was sleep and focus on getting through it day-by-day. During that time, she said she couldn’t even pray.

For those of us who can’t get through the day without praying, even sending up the so-called “arrow prayers,” then we know what a dark place she was in.

As her friends, we had been rallying around her as best we could, in whatever way we could. Mostly, by prayer, emails and phone calls.

She also said something else.  She said, “Others held me up when I couldn’t.”

Talk about the power of community and friendship!  She could feel our support for her.  When I was fighting cancer, I could also feel the prayers of many.   What a comfort that was and how helpful it was in my own recovery.

Can you imagine not having friends or any type of community around you?

When life throws us curve balls, or when you’re celebrating a joyous occasion, how would it feel to celebrate alone?  Or to face the darkness alone?

We all get busy with our own families and careers, but it is so important to take the time to find that community, that fellowship and friendships in which to share your life.

We all need to make the effort, me included, to reach out more or deepen the friendships with those already in our lives.

What are you doing to take the time for friends? To find that community?

 

Scars

Scars. I don’t think there are any of us who haven’t dealt with scars one way or the other — whether physical scars or emotional ones. Right now, I think I’m wrestling with both.

I’m used to scars. I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 20 years old, and ended up with a compound fracture of my right femur and had four operations on my leg. Thankfully, I walk, talk and can go dancing. With physical therapy, I was nearly good as new. By the way, I think physical therapists are fantastic! They’re very special folks and really do their best to get you back to “normal.” Again, after any accident or surgery, there’s a “new normal.” However, if there’s a “normal” to get to, your PT’s will help you get there!

Ok, I digress…The result of my leg surgery were scars. I have one that goes from my knee to the top of my leg. My hubby calls it my zipper. This scar really only bothered me in the summer — when I’d wear shorts or a swimsuit. But it didn’t take long for me to dress how I wanted and not worry about hiding my zipper. I didn’t want my scars to run my life.

Now, I have more scars across my chest. Of course, these are easier to hide. But they’re still there.

There are two ways you can look at scars. It’s easy to look at scars and believe they’re ugly and disfiguring. With scars, you know you’ll never look the same way again as you did before.

Or you can look at scars as a sign of strength and survival, as God’s blessing. You may ask yourself “What? Scars as a blessing? After the trauma that caused them?”

Yes, scars are a blessing. My scars tell me that I’m still here. After a while, I learned to look at my scars as a sign of strength and survival. Going through that accident and the recovery, and going through cancer not once, but twice, has made me realize I was stronger than I thought I was.
That God carried me through those surgeries, and that He has work for me to do here on earth.

Would I feel that faith and feel this strength had I not gone through these experiences? I was talking with my cousin last week. In future blog posts, I hope to share more about my cousins. We are blessed to be a part of the same family, as most of us choose to go beyond just being cousins, and choose to be brothers, sisters and friends.

So, I was chatting with my special cousin-sister. She fights her own daily battle against a physically debilitating disease: arthritis.
This is not the disease just for aging. She’s had this as long as I can remember, and has to deal with physical pain and the crippling effects every single day. But she told me, she wouldn’t be the same person without this disease. It has made her stronger, made her the person she is today. And I must say, she is beautiful, strong, and sunshine in our lives. If you didn’t know what she battles every day, you would think she didn’t have a care in the world. She is such a bright light, and like me, would credit family and faith for getting her through her days.

My cousin and I have a kinship. She was also in a serious accident when she was younger. And now we know we are more beautiful for what we’ve endured, despite the physical changes on the outside. We are blessed to have our family, to have our faith and prayers for each other, and blessed to have our scars, both inside and out. We’re stronger for our pain, and know God will use this for His purpose in those around us.

I’m thankful for my cousins and the scars we share.

Keep on truckin’ everyone.

My Cancer History

A little bit more about me and my history. I was diagnosed with breast cancer (DCIS) in June 2004. I had a lumpectomy and 7 weeks of radiation. Believe me, I did all I could to move on very quickly from that and put it behind me. I hated radiation! By week six, I was in misery, and couldn’t wait to be done with the entire ordeal.

Of course, that inspired me to write about it, with the help of my husband. You can read more of our story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book (released March 2009).

After that, I happily put cancer behind me. Truthfully, I felt like I “got off easy.” I had fairly minor surgery, and despite how I hated radiation, I did not have to have chemo. I was still me and ready to move on with my life.

But five years later it all changed. Yes, I made it to my five-year mark. Five years and three weeks to be exact. But in July 2009, during my mammogram, the doctor said there was something there. But this one was different. I did NOT have a recurrence. Instead, I had a new cancer, in the same breast as my previous cancer. This was diagnosed as a high-grade sarcoma. It was, as the doctors like to say, “an ugly baby.”

Well, this ugly baby would cost me my breasts. A double-mastectomy was in order. I was diagnosed two days before my birthday.

My emotions were all over the place. Fear, hope, faith, fear, fear, fear…
I was afraid of surgery, anesthesia, pain, recovery, what would I look like, and mostly would I die?

The internet research I did on sarcoma was frightening. I was turning 46 years old, and what I had thought was the downhill slide toward 50, suddenly became a very young 46. I wasn’t ready for all of this. A possible death sentence at 46 was wrong. I was much too young!

Yet there it was in front of me. This time, I wouldn’t be able to ignore my cancer, and its effect on me. This cancer was much too real.

More to come…