Cancer And The Single Gal, Part 1

It’s been a while since my last post. This blog was a bit of a security blanket during the worst of things..somehow recovery and the return to “normal” life made it less of a pressing need. Now that life is not so normal anymore, I’m feeling the old familiar urge to pour out my thoughts and feelings in black and white.

Life has taken quite an unexpected turn over the past year. My health is still good as far as I know. I mean, I get the routine pat down and once over, but my oncologist is of the belief that scans and cancer markers are only to be done if symptoms warrant them. And I’m ok with that philosophy being a firm believer in the power of suggestion to create illness. My body and I have a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement going on. It’s working for us so far.

No, what has floored me is my sudden evolution from a sometime chiropractor/fulltime domestic engineer to a single mom who finds herself navigating uncharted territory and needing to support a family. SINGLE…MOM. Not words I ever expected to actually apply to me, even though Lord knows the marriage was a roller coaster ride of alcoholism (his), codependency, and a failure to communicate. To actually take the leap and start a new life after the million times I fantasized about it…terrifying and exhilarating all at once!

Last summer, after a nasty argument fueled by a weekend binge, my husband decided to accept a transfer to another state while we weren’t speaking. I found out when my suspicions led me to check his e-mail and I saw that he had been looking at apartments in Atlanta. He admitted that he had accepted the job, and it appeared that he was leaving without us to start a new life. Things eventually settled down and we agreed to work things out and make the move as a family, selling our home in North Carolina to relocate to Atlanta. He started the new job in July while I dutifully stayed behind to pack, clean and handle every detail of getting the house ready to market while also setting up our new lives in Atlanta.

The girls and I headed South to Georgia the first week of August. No more beautiful 2 story house overlooking the mountains. We were in a dark, depressing apartment for a month with rented furniture, broken kitchen knobs and huge cockroaches in the corridors…four of us, and a dog and cat. The girls had to start new schools in the space of a week and adjust to brand new friends and a very different curriculum. My high schooler was way behind, which became evident despite doing 4 hours of homework each night. She was miserable. I was miserable. Atlanta was miserable. We would come back to Asheville to “check on things” at the house every 2 weeks or so. We let out a collective sigh of relief each time we unlocked the front door. Home.

In the meantime, our house wasn’t selling despite rosy predictions. With every passing day of anxiety and frustration, something in me snapped. I couldn’t do it anymore, so I made the decision to bring the girls back to Asheville and let them finish the school year in familiar surroundings. My husband and I agreed that we would try again this summer. My daughter would graduate and things would be easier…somehow.

Of course, once we got back, the house sold within a month. We were just about to take it off the market as the holidays approached, but we felt that we couldn’t let a solid offer get away. As Thanksgiving rolled around, we found ourselves scrambling to figure out our next move….

 

Girl Interrupted

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I feel a little guilty writing this post. Many of the other entries I’ve read tonight have been about recovery. About new beginnings, rediscovering the joys of friends and work, and just getting back to normal after the long battle with breast cancer. I feel like I’m supposed to capitalize somehow on the life-changing experience that I’ve had. But lately I’m just stuck.

Physically, I’m on track. I eat pretty well. I exercise several times per week. I take all the right supplements. But emotionally, I’m doing the exact same things that made me unhappy, and angry, and resentful. I’m an intelligent person. I just can’t seem to figure out how to change things that should have been changed long ago. And I know that all of those bottled up emotions played a role in my illness.

I think a big part of my hesitation in acting is that I no longer trust myself to have a valid feeling. Thanks to the hormonal upheaval of chemo, my mood bounces around like a ping-pong ball from one day to the next. I swear I wake up each morning not knowing who will show up, the easygoing,funny, optimistic girl I used to be or the down-in-the-dumps menopausal hag who would rather live in a cave with tissues and sad songs.

While I am exaggerating my mood swings, you can see how difficult and frightening it would be to make any life-changing decisions in this turmoil. “Did I decide that because I was hormonally imbalanced that week, or did I really feel it was the best thing?”.

I actually picked up a prescription for an anti-depressant today. The last time I took an SSRI for post-partum “blues”, it took me six years to extricate myself from the grip it had on me. Not to mention I gained 25 pounds that wouldn’t budge no matter what. I didn’t lose that weight until I quit taking the magic pill. So trust me when I say that this is not an exciting prospect, and I’m not sure I’ll actually do it. The optimist in me still has hope that another solution will appear.

The kicker of the whole situation is that I know exactly what the problem is. And it isn’t depression. It’s lack of estrogen. Estrogen stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain and has actually been used successfully as an anti-depressant by itself. The one thing that would really help me is forbidden. What a cruel dilemma.

Intuitively, however, I do realize that there are certain problems which existed long before I was hormonally challenged. Relationships that are either one-sided or emotionally stunted, a job that drains my energy, a strong penchant for people-pleasing…not exactly a recipe for health. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to change the things we know are wrong. Why is it so terrifying to take a leap of faith? Sometimes it seems that we’d rather live for decades in familiar unhappiness than to risk the pain of the unknown.

So, while I may be doing “all the right things” to prevent a cancer recurrence, in many ways I feel that I’m almost inviting it by default. I need to find the courage, somewhere, to stand up for myself and be fully alive, even if it means facing those demons that I’ve been avoiding for so long. But who knows, next week I might change my mind.

 

 

Weekly Writing Challenge: Silent Screams

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We sit on the sofa at night, three feet apart. But it might as well be three miles or three hundred. Yet, there’s a kind of comfort in it. I’ve come to know your profile like my own skin. The strong, square jaw with a day of salt and pepper stubble. The curly brown hair that you’re so proud of. I never tell you that it’s thinning up top; we like our illusions, after all. You always wear that stupid, sleeveless t-shirt while I’m bundled up in layers. Hot and cold. So many opposites between us.

You stare straight ahead at the television. It demands nothing of you. The constant drone of voices fills the chasm that we gave up on years ago. I hear myself telling you the same mindless details of my day as a silent scream wells up inside, trying desperately to escape. “I hate you!” But it’s not really you who feels the pounding of fists and the deep cuts of rage. It’s me I hate, for allowing myself to be buried like a tulip bulb planted with the promise of Spring. Only planted too deep, and forgotten. I should have been a glorious flower, admired and prized. Instead, I could never break through to the freedom of the light.

“I’m going to bed”, you announce.

I glance at the clock….8:30. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the courage to end this suffocating funk and know what it means to be alive.

“Ok, good night.” I go back to my tablet and the safety of my denial.

 

This week I’m cheating, using this for both the DP Weekly Writing Challenge and the Trifecta Writing Challenge. I only have so much free time:)