honor where you are. that’s what my therapist said to me today. about eighty five times i might add. and that’s not a bad thing. because the truth is, it probably needed to be said eighty four of those eighty five times. honor where you are. more specifically honor where i am. right now. and much like the broken record player that somehow got installed into my pretty little head at the age of eight, i recognize how many times i have stood in this exact place to talk about what is going on with me. but i also came back to this place to talk about this. this whole honoring where we are thing. because i am everywhere and nowhere right now. and before you say anything, i know that probably doesn’t make much sense. but i promise, it will later on. i am everywhere and nowhere at the exact same time. i am always awake but freaking dead tired all the time. i force myself to bluntly stand in front of the mirror and acknowledge my body. but i do it with tears so thick that it blurs the reflection. i walk outside for ten minutes but can only walk as far as what most people could walk in sixty seconds. i pull out cute leggings or pretty dresses only to shove them back in the closet because they don’t fit over all the massive, bulky compression gear. i appear healed but inside, i am not. i am everywhere and nowhere at the exact same time. i am everywhere people expect survivorship to be but nowhere close to it. i feel stuck. in the middle. shoved into this space between having cancer and surviving cancer.
and it’s a weird spot to be in. because i will literally be driving down the highway windows down and minutes later, i will be sitting at a traffic light with tears rolling down my face. because for a few moments, my brain will take me to a flashback. of a healthy version. driving with the windows down. not worried about life. not worried about existing in this space. not feeling constantly dragged down by constant diagnoses, mostly ones starting with the letter c. i will suddenly shift my brain back to present moment and find my cheeks damp. and it sets a tone for the minutes and hours that follow. grief. it’s something that often gets lumped into the death package but i have said it once and i will always say that grief comes with loss. loss of truly anything. your dog, your college boyfriend, your best friend of twenty years, your health, your body, your identity or independence. of the life you had. or the life you thought you’d always have. grief. that’s where i am. and i will spare you the walk through powerpoint presentation on the stages of grief. just do a quick google search and you will find yourself brimming with knowledge. and you’d have to be buried six feet under to not recognize how much grief is right here, at my very feet. the grief that often gets swept under the rugs we walk upon. the ‘just move ons’ or the ‘she didn’t deserve your friendship’ or the ‘it’s behind you’. eh. meh. it’s not. it’s kinda right here. and i pulled up the rug. and i am honoring where i am. which happens to be a place surrounded by the things i am currently grieving. an infectious disease which created massive health trauma and anxiety. same infectious disease that nearly ended my life in a big way and forced me into a seven week isolation. the same one that tested my marriage and created mass medical debt. because no insurance company tells you about catastrophic insurance. which by the way, you have. non negotiable. very real. kicks in when your insurance pays out more than fifteen medical expenses in a short period of time. it’s deductible is thousands of dollars. and those cute infectious diseases find themselves in that category. nope, not lying. very serious. surrounded by a massive bomb drop of a cancer diagnosis. and some of the worst infections i have ever been through. remembering the worst days when my body felt like it had been through a cheese grater and then run over by an eighteen wheeler. and the high of finishing chemotherapy. but also feeling like you quit because you didn’t do the last round. even though round five of six was a total knockout and there is not any possible way we could’ve stood a chance in making it to the ring for round six. and the pre surgical anxiety. and the sleepless nights. and the hot flashes and neuropathy. and the surgery. the twelve hour one. which brought immense pain. and the recovery. which has been painstakingly slow. and the constant need to look back at old photos of the body that housed you for three decades and compare it to this new, heavily scarred one. and shout to yourself ‘you made the right decision’ even though sometimes you feel like you didn’t. my marriage squashed beneath the weight of back to back death defying stunts. my husband; the pillar holding us up. and my post cancer existence is bare bones right now. tired, trying to find myself, trying to devote my energy to being what i was but often forgetting who i am now. it’s been a lot of goodbyes lately. saying farewell to what was. bidding a good day to what i believed was my identity and all the things i was and could’ve been in that body. saying adios to the moments in that frame. looking back and realizing i will never be that way again. rebirth, right? but like i say over and over and over again to my therapy team weekly- i am here. yes. and it’s great to be here. survivorship. but i am not having a good time. because for the last thirteen months have been full of hardship and anxiety. wrapped in fear and studded with illnesses.
and the universe is at the helm and i wanna get off the ship. but i have to honor where i am. i have to stop trying to jump ship before it reaches shore. i have to weather this part of the storm too. because even though i will never have the same body again and even though i will always look at pre twenty twenty pictures and feel bittersweet about them; i know joy and hope and life will enter this new frame of mine in due time. even though my wedding dress was held up by the old body and i walked across the stage to graduate college and earned two masters degrees in robes held on by that old body; this new frame will hold me as i become a doctor. and even though that frame carried me through my first years of teaching and navigated the halls of the schools i have taught in; this new frame, this new body, will carry me too.
today was a hard day. my brain carried me through trauma spaces for most of the afternoon. visiting the pre-cancer and pre-virus memories. journaling about coping skills and medical induced trauma. sobbing uncontrollably thinking back to september and the day the first clump of hair came out in the palm of my hand. and how i cried on the floor of my shower for forty five minutes after it happened. how my identity is lost. somewhere crumpled amongst all the shards. crying for fifty two of sixty minutes of therapy today. my therapist barely got a word in edgewise. i was just word vomiting. kinda a similar vibe here too i guess. and seriously, if you’ve made it this far into this post, you’re a queen. today was hard. and there isn’t a rhyme or reason for that. because having an infectious disease was hard and so was recovering from it. and having cancer was hard. and so is recovering from it. and so when my therapist dropped the ‘what are you working on this week?’ question into my lap, my reply was instant. ‘allowing the space for the grief pattern i am in’, i said. honoring it. because it is where i am. she nodded. yes. honor where you are. even if it’s ugly. even if it’s dark. even if it makes other people uncomfortable. or makes them question you. honor where you are. give yourself room to cry. to be mad. to throw middle fingers up to the universe. to feel. this world is full of people who shudder at the sight of emotions or feelings. people who walk out of your life when they get big. people who judge your feelings or try to talk you out of them. but we gotta honor where we are. because right now, my ship is still out of the docks. rocking back and forth on some rough waves. preparing for the change in tides and weathering the storm i like to call survivorship. i am waiting for my turn at the wheel. and when i step up from the deck and feel the wind in my face, i am steering this ship straight to safe harbor.
until then, it’s a ride. and i plan on honoring where i am. you with me? xoxo.