There are so many events and experiences that make up your being. Some good, some bad. Some are result of your upbringing and out of your control, others are exact results of decisions you make in life. But each regardless of their origination build you, your character, your resilience, your compassion and empathy or lack thereof.
I have survived experiences in life that I wouldn’t wish on ANYBODY. But each experience and decision have made me who I am. All of me. I have had to rise from the ashes before and I will do so again.
I AM ALREADY DOING IT.
When Ruthie Lou died, I had a choice; have her death ruin my life or be the opportunity to build the life I always wanted. I chose the latter. I chose life and love. I chose to honor her, to be the mother I have always wanted. And I have done those things. I am proud of me.
Living with cancer is reminding me who I am at the core of my being. What I am capable of, who I want to be, the life I want to live, the love in which I want to be surrounded.
And, life is (still) good.
And I am a fighter.
A warrior, in fact.
I got this.
I know who I am.
To raise your vibration, follow my Spotify playlist created by my tribe or send me your favorite warrior song in the comments!
To follow my medical progress and the needs of my family:
The days are such a blur. It’s crazy to think of what my body has just endured, not only in the last two months since the cancer was discovered, but in all the months leading to its diagnosis when cancer was growing in my body, but I was not yet aware.
Yesterday a friend sent a link to some interviews that I did in January and it confirmed what I thought to be true, cancer had been in my body for quite some time. I could see my lymph node protruding from my neck as I moved my head in the video. I can’t tell you exactly when this cancer arrived, but I can tell you when I noticed something was “off”.
A year ago I had just published my first book and was excitedly working on the next. As publication neared, I noticed my energy waning. Now for the average energetic person that may seem to make sense. I had two small boys, a full-time teaching job, balancing my passion of advocacy, as well as maintaining my relationship with my husband, family, and friends. It makes sense that I would feel tired.
But, that didn’t make sense for me. I don't get tired. EVER.
So, I did what I don’t often do-I listened to my body and rested. I made a promise to myself and to my husband that as soon as the book published in November, I would take a break from my other projects. I would be satisfied to go to work and come home, that that would be enough for my soul.
And it was. Enough.
But, I was still SO TIRED.
I ate healthy meals. I went to bed early with the boys. I didn’t do extra stuff.
I am a school teacher. My immune system is amazing. I rarely get sick. But this year I did- a few times. Which is why when my lymph node swelled, I noticed but didn’t take notice. That’s what lymph nodes do, they swell when they’re doing their job. I had had a sore throat for some time, but along with that swollen node, I assumed I was successfully fighting a cold or allergies or both.
Little did I know…
Here’s the thing, I can sit and analyze the how, the when, the why, but it won’t change anything other than perhaps answer some curiosity. The important thing is that I went to the doctor. Eventually when I realized this wasn’t a run of the mill cold, I went to the doctor and demanded a biopsy. I had already watched that lymph node long enough, I was unwilling to watch it a day longer. And then the roller coaster began leading us to where I am now.
Sitting on my bed, day 12 from my first surgery and day 5 from my second surgery. One less tonsil and 50 less lymph nodes with an enormous scar and a pretty big empty space in my throat. And I am in pain. It’s managed pain, but pain nonetheless. My jaw is sore from being manipulated, my teeth hurt from grinding through stress, my tongue is numb in some places and raw in others from being clamped during surgery, my shoulder is sore from carrying my arm through nerve damage, my incision feels like my skin is being pulled, my throat hurts each time I swallow, and my skull hurts from all the pain radiating into one central spot. Not to mention that eating and talking are my biggest obstacles right now.
But, I am alive.
This is temporary.
And, I believe it will be worth it.
I don’t feel sorry for myself and I don’t want you to either. But in full transparency (as I try to live my life) this is the real deal. This is hard and it hurts.
I am still strong.
I am still a warrior.
I am still ME.
But, I encourage you to always listen to your body. Go to the doctor and don’t delay. Demand that you get seen and don’t accept being placated. I saw 3 doctors before this cancer was discovered, each doctor reassuring me that it was probably “nothing”. I knew better and you do too. You know your body and you are in charge of you. Pay attention and make others pay attention, too.
I don’t even allow myself to think about what would have happened if those cells were given a little more time to play in my lymph nodes, those little messengers being sent all over my body.
So listen to yourself.
Know that it’s not normal to feel “off”.
And when you do, find the reason why.
Chances are you only need a little more exercise, nourishing food, and fresh air. But, in the case it’s something more, I love you too much to wait. Get healthy. I plan on being here way too long, I want you here too. (I am not really sure who needs to hear that today, but if it’s speaking to you- then it must be you.)
I’m heading back to sleep now. Or to watch TV. Or to listen your playlist. That’s really helping me stay present. I love you friends. SO MUCH.
This is really hard, but easier with you beside me. Please keep showing up. We are still at the beginning of this road.
To follow my medical progress and the needs of my family: https://www.giveinkind.com/inkinds/324/lands-family-love
When Ruthie Lou was alive we called it a “time out of time”. Time was passing in the world that rotated around us, but not in our life. In our life, time had stood still. And then after she died, then came “the after”.
The after time was filled with empty space. It was a quiet time, isolated, alone while the outside world continued on but we didn’t. Sure, there were meals delivered, text messages, invites from friends but a lot of time, there are was emptiness. So many hours that I just sat, whether in the backyard, on the couch, or on my bed. I sat there, in silence. No TV, minimal phone calls, moderately responded to texts. I just sat there with thoughts swirling in my head. And now, I couldn’t even tell you what I was thinking about as my brain jumped from one event to another, from one emotion to the next, from the present and then back to the then recent past of my daughter’s brief life.
Now I tell you this because I am both here in another time out of time while simultaneously sitting in empty space. When Ruthie Lou was alive, we had her to occupy us and to tend to, to make memories with. So the empty space didn’t occur until after she was gone and all we had left was ourselves.
But now, I have no distraction. My boys are not really here and when they are, I am in my bedroom to escape the noise, their energy, and a possible magic wand to the face. So, there isn’t much distraction in my day to day. I require minimal efforts to take care of and as long as my water is full (as well as my belly) there isn’t much I need.
On the days that Chris has been working (because I send him out of the house) and the boys are away (because I cannot tend to them) I just sit. In that empty space. I couldn’t tell you what I do with most the day.
I watch a little TV.
I do minimal reading.
I sit outside and watch the birds.
I respond to a text or phone call here and there.
I make sure my water (and belly) are full.
I open a card or gift or package.
But mostly, my mind wanders. Mostly to safe places. Sometimes to the scary ones. (I quickly get myself out of those.) I think about my sore muscles, what my boys are doing, that I should get up and walk around, and that I wish it were cooler so I could sit outside. I contemplate taking a nap, but although I am tired my brain won’t stop so I settle for laying down “resting” instead. I wonder when my last pain pill was and about tomorrow’s surgery, or how radiation and chemo will affect my body. Once a day, I make sure to flip my meditation cards and when I remember, I write them down and marvel how they’re so relevant to each particular day.
Overall, I consider myself in good shape. I allow my body and brain to do what it needs to process and heal during this time of little control. I listen to what I need and then give in to what that is. And mostly, it’s just sitting in silence… or a little music...or a sitcom to lighten the mood.
And I am grateful. I am recovering as expected from surgery. I am ready (mentally) for another surgery tomorrow. I have treatment options after recovery. My son can’t wait to see what my head looks like bald. My baby is oblivious to any change in our home or on my lap. And my husband loves me through all the good and the bad and in the times out of time. Again.
So, I am just sitting here in the empty space in another time out of time.
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.