Nine lives & second chances

When I recount stories of the many adventures and misadventures throughout my life, I feel as though I have lived several lives in this one lifetime. No one life could possibly hold so many twists and turns, experiences, and transformations. Yet here I am, getting another second chance at life.

Seven months ago, I thought my life was over, or would at least change drastically for the worse. It has changed, not for the worse, not for the better, just different. I feel like I’ve been having a very slow-motion close-call. My life didn’t flash before my eyes as it did when I was hit by a car on my motorcycle, it’s more of a slow-parade of memories and feelings passing through my brain.

I have been slowly emerging from a cocoon of shock. I currently struggle with bouts of survivor guilt, having read so many personal accounts of others with much more aggressive, destructive, and often times fatal brain tumors. I somehow lucked out as far as brain tumors go, as Bob is just chilling up there not growing or causing a ruckus. For an uninvited guest, he is very well behaved.  Maybe just a wake up call after all.

The question begs, what do I do with this precious second chance?

I’m not exactly sure, and if I was sure, I’m sure I’d change my mind!  For now though, I am re-evaluating what matters to me and rearranging how I live to come into alignment with that.

Step one is to return to South Florida to spend time reconnecting with my family. Besides, what better time than winter to go from Colorado to South Florida?

Step two doesn’t matter yet, I’m not there.  A personal dream is evolving as I am letting go of the fear I’ve always had of not succeeding, not achieving, of never being or having “enough.” I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know it is fabulous, and I will embrace every ounce of joy and love that comes my way!

This life will not be wasted nor regretted! Bring it ON.

Remember, more will be revealed…

Dawn

Fear Factor

I ran into a friend whom I hadn’t seen in awhile a few days ago, and he asked me how I’m doing with the fear factor.  I responded with a blank stare as I was trying to figure out what he was referring to. I’ve had some financial fear lately, and some worries around job-security, but I couldn’t remember mentioning those to him.  It finally occurred to me that he was referring to my total freak out about being diagnosed with a brain tumor, and all the anxiety I had around not knowing the type, treatment, or prognosis.  “Ohhhh,” I said, “You mean the whole brain tumor thingie!”

Well, I’m actually feeling pretty damn lucky and grateful after six months of no growth, so I’ve not been in fear around that. I laughed and told him about the day-to-day living-life fears I’ve been having lately and thanked him for giving me the awareness that the biggest fear I’ve had to face in life so far is no longer front and center. Wow! What a difference six months can make. If I can let go of THAT fear, I can let go of the day-to-day stuff too.

I’ve not needed a biopsy, brain surgery, stent placement, chemotherapy, or radiation.  I don’t have what my first neurologist suspected, a glioblastoma multiforme, which has a very low survival rate/life expectancy (otherwise it would have grown by the first 3 month follow up.)  I’m frigging counting my blessings at this point!

I *almost* feel like apologizing for making a big deal out of having a brain tumor. Except that, you know, it is a pretty scary thing to get diagnosed with. But hey, who’s the luckiest girl with a brain tumor?

I am!

Thanks for following my journey, more will be revealed…

Dawn

Spare the platitudes

What do you say when you just don’t know what to say? I’ve probably heard it all by now:

Everything happens for a reason.
Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.
God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
There’s an important lesson in this.
You’ll be a better person for it.
This couldn’t have happened to a stronger person.
You’re on this path for a reason.

These may be well-meaning phrases, coming from well-meaning people, but they feel empty, trite, and dismissive to hear when you are still reeling from a traumatic or tragic event.

I am no longer reeling, by the way. I’ve moved through shock, anger, fear, grief, self-pity, depression, more anger, into acceptance and even gratitude that it’s not the worst kind of brain tumor to have after all.

However, when I was in shock, anger, grief, fear, and depression, I wanted to punch anyone who, well-meaning or not, said any of the above. Instead, I would take a deep breath and realize that they probably just didn’t know what to say. Those words are meant to be comforting. Unfortunately, they are dismissive of genuine feelings that result from traumatic or tragic events. They infringe on the space and permission to feel the deeper emotions of grief and prod you to skip right on over to acceptance, jamming those other icky feelings back down into your guts.

So, why do we (I’ve done it too) feel the need to say something that is ultimately dismissive of a person’s emotions when we learn that they are faced with a terrible situation? I don’t think it’s really meant to comfort the person we are speaking to, but to comfort ourselves. We can’t imagine what it would be like to be going through the same experience, so instead of feeling uncomfortable with our own fears, we simply say, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake,” problem solved.

Even if you believe that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake, that doesn’t give you permission to white-wash another person’s emotional experience. Let the person you are trying to help come to their own conclusion about any reasons, purposes, lessons, or lack thereof in their situation.

I’m here with you.
I can’t imagine what you are feeling.
Is there anything I can do for you?
Would you like to talk about it?
I love you.
*hugs*

Those are all comforting, so spare the platitudes when shitty things happen and hug it out like you mean it! Unless the person doesn’t like to be touched… then no hugs for you. Me, hug away my friends, hug away!

Thank you for reading, more will be revealed…

Dawn

We are all terminal

Bob has been on my mind more recently.  Ok, ok, I know, he’s kinda always ON my mind…

I made my next follow-up MRI appointment and follow up with the neurosurgeon for the end of this month.  Somehow, just making those calls is enough to spark fear and uncertainty back up to the surface.  Most likely, the report will be the same as the 3 month follow up, no growth.  The two most common types of brain stem tumors in adults are a Grade 1 (very slow growing, as close to benign as you could hope for) Polycytic Astrocytoma; or the extremely aggressive Glioblastoma.  Since it showed no growth in 3 months, that pretty much rules out the Glioblastoma.   And yet… having been told that brain-stem tumors are never considered “benign” and eventually will grow, I’m kinda nervous.

I heard a cool story this morning from a friend which brought me a lot of peace.  My friend worked with a man who was always cheerful, smiling, and making people feel good wherever he went.  My friend found out this man had terminal cancer and was undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments.  My friend asked him how he managed to be so happy and spread so much joy under those circumstances. The man quoted Romans 12:2 from the bible, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”  I forget the rest of the story, actually, but that was enough for me.

We are all terminal.  My official diagnosis does not state that I have a terminal illness, and I’m sure many of you have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  But as we live, we are all terminal.  We may not know when or by what means we will die, but we most certainly will die.  A few months ago, a dear friend asked me what I want my legacy to be. How would I want to be remembered after I die. The story I heard this morning reminded me of that conversation, and of my answer.  I want to be someone who delivers a message of hope and joy under all of life’s circumstances.  I would like to share my experience, strength, and hope with others and be a light of love and joy.  I have not been making that conscious choice on a daily basis lately.  Instead I have been conforming to the pattern of this world.  I have been conjuring up anxiety about my future and focusing on what I perceive as missing from my life.

Some Christian friends have told me that they find comfort in knowing that after death, they will be in the kingdom of heaven for eternity.  It’s not death that I fear or struggle with, it is the living day to day that I struggle with, that I am anxious of.  It is in living day to day that I worry about paying the bills, eating enough and the right kind of food, performing well at work, and wondering if I will ever find lasting love. Then sprinkle some brain tumor on top.  It’s like Miracle-Gro for anxiety.

So, yeah, sign me up for some of that transformation by the renewing of my mind, please.  My attitude and outlook need some refreshing and uplifting; only then can I hope to be refreshing and uplifting to others as I so desire.

Thank you for reading… more will be revealed.

Dawn

Deciding to live

It just occurred to me a few minutes ago, after returning home from walking Saffie, that I had decided to live as though I’m living again.  I wanted you to be the first to know!

I don’t understand what happened to me just over a month ago.  When I received the follow-up call from the neurosurgeon’s nurse that my MRI showed no tumor growth, the best possible outcome that I could dare hope for, I spiraled down into melancholy and despair.  Some unseen balloon inside me was popped and my faith and hope leaked out.

I stopped researching, stopped writing, stopped reading other brain-tumor patients’ blogs.  I ran out of energy to care.   I had given up on living, and was just existing.

It did not help that I couldn’t sleep.  I was physically exhausted since I had been doing the most labor-intensive work than I had done in 20 years, cleaning animal kennels 40 hours/week.  However, the anxious little hamsters in my head ran around on their wheel all night long, assaulting me with “what ifs” and “why bothers”.

Last week, I finally gave myself permission to not criticize myself for wanting to do nothing except sit on the couch and eat my non-dairy ice cream and binge-watch a TV series every night after work.  I finally let myself off the hook for no longer giving a shit, for not doing the things on my list, for letting my dishes pile up in the sink, for having no plans for a secure future. I let myself off the hook for not meditating enough, for not eating healthy enough, for not trying medical marijuana, for not visualizing the tumor shrinking, for not praying enough or the right way, for not having faith that I’m going to be healthy, and for feeling anxious and depressed after hearing that this fucking tumor did not grow.

So what shifted? Did I finally sleep enough?  Finally watch enough streaming TV? Spend enough hours scrolling through Facebook instead of meditating? Did all of that not giving a shit finally force me to let go of my insane desire to control what’s going on in my head?

I really don’t know.  Yesterday after work, instead of coming home and binge-watching tv while binge-eating ice cream, I took my dog hiking in the mountains. Today, instead of napping, I hung out with a friend I haven’t seen in a month, and spent a couple hours studying for a course I started a year and a half ago.  Then it quietly occurred to me, a few minutes before writing my first post in over a month, that I feel like I’m ready to live again instead of just existing in fear of this thing in my head growing.

It’s nice to be back.  I’ve missed me. 🙂

Thanks for reading… more will be revealed!

Dawn

 

 

When life hands you lemons… Compost.

I woke up feeling defeated this morning.  A little downward spiral began yesterday afternoon actually, after a visit to my work-place where I am on a leave of absence from.  I have been in limbo between wanting to go back to work and trying to get hired in a less-stressful department.  I was hoping for resolution yesterday, but instead I was told that they would let me know in about two weeks.  The un-knowing is very unsettling.  As is the being-broke.

My next MRI is in two weeks, which will let us see if Bob is growing.  I feel 95-98% certain that Bob is behaving, but I don’t have a crystal ball and cannot assure my supervisors that I am not going to need to take time off for a biopsy and therefore get back to work as a reliable part of the team.

I took my defeated ego to bed for a nap yesterday afternoon, and if I hadn’t made a commitment to myself to go to boxing class in the evening, then meet some lovely friends for dinner, I would not have gotten back up until this morning.  Was that me, just yesterday morning, who felt such faith and trust that everything is working out the way it should?  Well, F that person, this person had decided to wallow in the shallow mud of self-pity for the rest of the foreseeable future, or at least until boxing class, where I could imagine that I was beating the crap out of Bob with my fists.

I do not like the see-saw of emotions, of faith/non-faith, of gratitude/self-pity, of patience/impatience.  This battle of ego and acceptance sucks.

This morning, I woke up on the self-pity side of the bed.  I pulled on my sweatpants, t-shirt, and baseball hat (my pre-shower uniform) and leashed my dog to walk to the nearby coffee shop.  Since I feel like crap and can’t go to work, I may as well sit outside and study.

Walking past an alley just a block from my house, I saw a barrel-composter with a “Free” sign taped to it.  I dragged my confused dog back home, drove my Element back, wrestled the thing up onto the back gate, and drove it home, with all the excitement of a child on Christmas morning.

My roommate was in the kitchen making breakfast as I burst inside with my new and improved attitude exclaiming, “I found a free composter!”  I am glad to tell you that she seemed as pleased about this as I was.  I told her about how my mood and attitude had been until seeing this gem, and she said, “keep calm and compost.”  Yes, that!  I think we’ll have some t-shirts made.

composter

More will be revealed…

Love, Dawn

Boxing with Bob

Learning to box with Bob
Learning to box with Bob

Have you noticed that when people survive life-threatening (perceived or real) situations, they suddenly start running marathons or climbing mountains?  I have always been curious about that, whenever coming across an inspirational story about a survivor of some disaster who went on to achieve an awesome physical feat.  Me, not so athletic. Hate the gym, running makes my knees hurt, I find cycling boring (shhh, don’t tell or I’ll get kicked out of Colorado) ain’t nobody got time for that.  Aside from “hiking” (really just a stroll in the woods with my dog), I’m basically a slouch, thank you very much.

And then, there was Bob. Ok, it took me seven weeks after the discovery of Bob to find the motivation, but it was there, covered over by mountains of anxiety and the incessant need to sleep through my feelings.

I took my first ever boxing class this evening!  I know, I’m amazed at myself too, and I know me better than you do. I felt so intimidated when I walked in, especially having gone alone (well, Bob’s always with me, so I guess I’m never alone.)  But I was warmly welcomed and introduced.  When asked about any medical conditions I laughed and said, “Other than the brain tumor, my left rotator cuff is a little tweaked.”  Laughing while mentioning having a brain tumor really throws people.

I feel stronger already.  As a friend said later, punching the sh*t out of something is very therapeutic. I’ll definitely be going back for more.  Taking action to get stronger in body, mind, and spirit is life-affirming and gives me some sense of helping myself to heal.

Thank you for reading. More will be revealed…

Love & Light,

Dawn