Life is great until it's not.
Who am I? We all ask ourselves that often throughout our life. It is a path of constant readjustment, redirection. And of course, nothing ever stays the same. That’s what life is. That’s what life is supposed to be. Sometimes the path gets a bit steeper, a bit more twisted. Boulders come rolling down and block our path completely and if we don’t have climbing skills or repelling skills, we might be stuck for a long, long time waiting for rescue to arrive. When we finally do climb to the top and we see the view again, it is that much more beautiful and rewarding.
In pain there is growth and every human being is capable of enduring copious amounts of pain. Often we are amazed at how much we are actually capable to endure.
All that sounds great until it happens to us, and then it sounds like a bunch of crap. Why the fuck is this happening to me?!? What the hell did I do wrong here? I ate my organic veggies; OK, I had an occasional burger and fries. I exercised. Hell, in comparison with a huge percentage of the population, I am like a pro athlete. I ski, bike, run, hike, swim, kiteboard, paddleboard. You name a sport, I am likely to be pretty good at it. I live in a clean environment. I meditate, practice yoga, have regular checkups. I don’t drink. Not really, just a little bit. Just enough that I have to lie on a medical questionnaire that I only have 1-2 glasses of wine a week.
I am not an angry person. Well, I get pissed off at my husband, or my kids, or politics every once in a while. And I wish I didn't and then I get mad at myself that I did.
So, where did I go wrong to be diagnosed with cancer? I breastfed. Three kids! Maybe I should have breastfed longer, like one of those moms who’s kid at age five walks up to her, lifts up her shirt while she carries on her conversation with her friend, Willow. I cut that little monster off when he bit me so hard I almost dropped him. I think he swallowed my nipple!
I’ve had several big stressors in my life though. I believe they are the major contributor to my cancer. I will put them in a chronological order. First major one was divorce. Someday I'll be able to write more about that. That's followed by the near-deadly car accident of my oldest daughter. I never want to get that phone call again. I begged God if he/she was there, to never do that to me again. There is nothing worse than watching someone you love going through so much pain and suffering. It was the hardest, most stressful period in my life.
Finally, I blew my knee ski coaching. Total dislocation. Ripped most of the ligaments. I know, living in a ski town, every third person had a knee reconstruction. It’s like a badge of honor. In all the years of ski racing and coaching, I’ve never had a serious injury except when I was hit by a damn snowboarder. From behind! And I was in coach's uniform. You dumbass!
Now knee surgery in and of itself isn’t that big of a deal. You just have to endure listening over and over again while you are laying on the couch with ice machine attached, “Man, that was the best powder I’ve ever skied!” I was determined to come back stronger than ever. Unfortunately, I suffered major nerve damage during the femoral nerve block and a year and a half later I still don’t feel my leg from my ass down to below my knee. For months I had hypersensitivity on my whole upper leg and even the bed sheet was painful to touch. I was laying awake and in pain most of the nights. It was physically and emotionally exhausting. At this point, I don't think the nerves will ever recover. I still get constant cramping when I exercise or even walk.
Then, just as I graduated from crutches to a cane after five months, I felt a suspicious lump in my breast. Oh, come on!! Really? Remember God- we made a deal! No more testing. Yeah, it’s you I am talking to. I am now getting pissed off. Pick on someone your own size.
So, I got through surgeries and chemo and puking and radiation and wallowing in my own sorrow. Then since it’s the end of the year and I am way, way over my deductible, let’s have a colonoscopy. Just a routine right? For most people it is, but oh no, not for me. A carpeting of polyps is what my report said. Jim and I both cried when the doctor told us. My first thought was: ”How do I tell my kids I now have stage four colon cancer?” More testing and waiting and worrying and in a span of less than a year, I felt I received a death sentence for the second time. When a panel of doctors recommends a total colectomy including removal of your rectum and that you are going to be wearing a shit bag for the rest of your life, you are suddenly not the most upbeat and strongest person on the block. By the way, if one more person exclaims with an air of total admiration and an obligatory tilt of her head: "Oh, you are the strongest person I’ve ever known! If anyone can handle it, it’s you!” I know they mean well but “Shut the fuck up, Donny!” I didn’t sign up for this and I sure am not strong. Not as strong as everyone thinks. Just ask my husband how many times he held me tight while I was desperately sobbing in the middle of the night. How many times I said to myself: "If one more thing happens to me, I’ll be at the bottom of this beautiful deep blue lake of ours!"
So, all this is enough for one lifetime right. Nope! While I am waiting to get my guts cut out, my husband, the very stud of a guy who I am still so desperately in awe of and in love with, the most amazing athlete with looks George Clooney can’t compete with, gets diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I am sorry if I am losing my sense of humor by now and losing my patience with you up there. Waiting for my break; cut me some slack. Please!!! So many times now I’ve climbed up and up and up and come over the hump just to realize I was on a false summit.
Now, I know that so many people have suffered so much more than me, have problems so much bigger than mine. I am also not telling you this so you could feel sorry for me or feel pity for me. Shit happens, life happens. We climb over the boulders, go around them when we can, sometimes we have to chart a whole new path, start all over again. If we survive, at least we still have a chance to do some things over again and do them better. Go on more trips and spend more quality time with people we love. Call and visit our parents more often. Buy less stuff. Do things for others. If we don’t try to, what’s the point anyway? What’s the point of happiness if we think we have to be happy all the time? If we never feel the pain, how do we know when we feel great? How do we appreciate the good things in life if something bad doesn’t happen to us? How do we know how much we can go through if we are never tested? How do we know the existence of God if we don’t constantly question it? How will we ever make progress if we never fail, make mistakes over and over till we get it? I do know though, that when you go through some shit in your life, everything smells better when it is over. The colors are more brilliant, the birds sing louder. You can laugh at things you used to go totally apeshit about because it suddenly sounds so incredibly ridicules to even give it a second thought. Man, the stuff we worry about and get upset about.
But why, I ask myself though, do we not appreciate things we have until they are gone, see important things that truly matter, do more good things, screw up relationships less often, eat better food, take better care of our bodies? I do not know, my friend! I’ll send you a postcard when I find out.
I feel that all this is forcing me to reinvent myself. I've lost my identity. I am in a search for a new one. At any age, that is a difficult task and after 50 it might be even more challenging. As I go along, I will share with you what works for me and what doesn’t. Everyone is different. Every day is different. What works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you. What works for me one day, might not do anything the next. Sometimes you just need to walk away from everything for a while to see the big picture. Some days you just need to sit and breathe.