I got a clear scope yesterday. I have scopes every 3 months. I alternate visiting my team of doctors between my head and neck surgeon (ENT), radiation oncologist, and the medical oncologist (chemo dr) so they can all monitor my progress. Even to write the titles of my doctors makes my stomach turn.
It’s why I haven’t written in months.
Literally, it’s been months.
Over the summer I picked up a project that had been at a standstill for 5+ years. We were in France, with our boys, staying at my girlfriends house. She and I met at a retreat 5 years ago, roommates, bonding because we were both breastfeeding a “rainbow baby”, a baby born after loss. But we connected over so much more; over our loss, our love, our advocacy, our yearning to help other moms, and just plain love for each other. Since then, she has stayed with my family and finally now, mine with hers.
I sat in her home watching our children play, hearing laughter and seeing friendships form over legos, Nintendo, and bike rides in the backyard and the shared bond only our type children have-a sibling who died. Their sister, Sistine’s picture, sits on the mantle with her siblings just as Ruthie’s sits next to hers. These sisters are loved and included in our families because they are loved and will always be family.
So in the middle of the trip that I longed for during my year of treatment, I felt compelled to complete the project I started for my first son. I wanted a children’s book to explain who his sister was and how much we love her. And that’s all the creativity I could muster this past six months. I threw myself in a project that sat still for so long because I can’t face the trauma and fear of cancer.
It’s interesting, this year I was able to write every single day chronicling Ruthie’s life, but I cannot write of my own. I don’t want to think about what I experienced when I’ve been given this gift to live. I don’t want to think, I just want to live.
However, in not thinking, it still weighs heavy on me. That sick feeling in my stomach, the awkward responses when someone comments on any of the coping skills I’ve adapted because of my mouth pain. I know the world sees a healthy me, I see a healthy me! But when my mouths dries, or my voice weakens, or I can’t swallow my food, or I have to brush my teeth in a public restroom, I feel it. I feel being different-again. And I feel self-conscious and sad.
So I don’t think. I just live. I allow my body to prove to me it’s strength. I challenge it. I completed a sprint triathlon. I joined my son in his first mini triathlon. I use exercise as my outlet, as I used to do when I was young and healthy. Because while I may not be young anymore, I am healthy again.
And when I get clear results I search for a way to eliminate the fear, anxious, adrenaline in my body. I don’t want that energy settling, I want it to be released. Yesterday, I ran two miles without stopping to think because I don’t know what else to do and thinking makes my stomach turn. But as I ran, I reflected on my coping skills when I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without getting winded and I thanked my body for the ability to run yesterday. I am so grateful and not for one moment doI take it for granted.
So this is my first attempt to think about it. It hasn’t even been a year since completed chemo and radiation after I enduring two surgeries. Remembering the pain and sickness of those treatments leaves me with a grateful appreciation of healing, but the reality of it still makes me want to vomit.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.