just last week, i sat at my mom’s kitchen counter and cried. it had been a rough week. one that was filled with appointments and lab results. a week where a radiology technician told me that the only vein left was starting to become too scarred to use. it meant that the hands and feet would be the only choice going forward. all my veins blew in the icu, just two and half years ago. when your body’s temperature is nearing one hundred and four, you become so internally dehydrated. and all my veins blew. it was a week that held a lot of fear and anxiety. while also teaching the youth of america with a straight face. it was a week that brought good news regarding my most recent scans. news that cancer was not attacking my liver. but in it all remained that my body is still not my body. that i have an auto immune disease. and that stress is causing massive flare ups. that my liver has been damaged by chemotherapy and tons of medications. and that overall, this is my new existence; my new normal. and i shared a few weeks ago that i truly feel like i am stuck in a space where my deepest connection will always be to the ghosts of my life. that because my body was destroyed and taken from me in one of most gruesome and unfair ways; i am instead forced to grieve it forever. and in these intense moments of grief, it truly feels like the most unfair existence ever. it tackles you into this place where all you want is what you had. and all you had is gone forever. and the memories of my life before cancer are slowly sinking into the back of my memory filing cabinet. overwhelmed by the moments from the last two years. and i am dying to upload an album titled ‘finding myself’ but i still find myself searching. frantically. and i remind myself pretty much on the regular that it’s a process. the whole thing. the whole damn thing. it’s a process. from day one to now. from the big c word in a pink wallpapered room alone in a hospital with a woman named allison. to today. to the moment at the kitchen counter just last week. where i found myself falling apart in a way that makes perfect sense but no sense. that right now, my grief pattern is pure exhaustion. it feels exhausting to be alive right now. it feels exhausting to be managing my health while grieving right now. it feels exhausting to try to trust and love a body that also feels like it’s failing and being failed. it’s exhausting to try to explain to people that i hate this part just as much as the other parts. and that my grief is also in other areas. that even though i never wanted to be a mother, i will never, ever, ever get to change my mind. that i brought cancer into my family tree. upped the risk for the women in my life. it’s a lot. just a lot. a lot for a person who just went through a lot.
and i think that i have been afraid to say that it’s been exhausting. that it is exhausting. because everyone is exhausted. and i really try not to look at comparative suffering. that everyone is allowed to suffer. everyone deserves to feel however they feel. and i hate when people compare my suffering to something else happening in the world. like of course my suffering isn’t as terrible as what is happening in the world. but it’s also my suffering. and i take ownership of it. it’s messy and confusing and exhausting. but it really is. exhausting. above everything else. and sure, therapy helps. and medication helps. and support groups take the edge off. but it’s still my reality. my forever. my story. and between navigating survivorship and the recurrence scares that continue to block my path to healing, i find myself simply coming up for air. like when you’re swimming. beating your arms against the surface of the water. you’ve gotta come up for air. even when it’s not the best moment to do so or even when it might be a little too long since you last surfaced. you still have to breathe. and while it’s been six hundred and thirty days since i beat stage two breast cancer, some days it feels like it’s only been six hundred and thirty seconds. there are moments of intense grief and sadness of a life i never got to finish living. of a whole person who is no longer here. of a whole existence that was shed for the sake of survival. and i find myself in the swells of grief and sadness and loneliness. in the swells of an identity crisis that is also a health crisis. in the midst of teaching the youth of america. and i continue to come up for air. only to continue to swim. to paddle against the currents. and it’s hard. and uncomfortable. and ugly. and messy.
but it’s mine. it’s my swim meet. it’s my lap across the pool. and i keep coming up for air. swallowing massive gulps of oxygen before sinking back into it. and it’s not easy. and sometimes i feel more tired than when i started. but i continue to come up for air.
and eventually, i will strike shore. and it’ll only be air from there.