(19-01-30) Looking Back

I’ve been up since 3:07. My internal clock has shifted drastically upon my arrival to this cancer clinic. Maybe it’s the sheer volume of all the treatments just wearing out my body at the end of the day. Maybe it’s the drastic reduction (not quite elimination, but I’m working on it) of sugar from my diet, or the fact that I haven’t had any alcohol in a week and a half. Maybe it’s the lack of stress from my job. Likely, it’s a combination of all of those factors, sprinkled with a smidgen of boredom, that has led me to falling asleep each night between 9 and 10 (a solid 2-3 hours earlier than what I am used to) and waking up (refreshed!) between 3 and 4.

I watched some Luke Cage.

I responded to some texts (sorry, Kyana, I am trying to limit that as much as possible).

I checked my Ring doorbell to make sure my roommate, Jenna, has been keeping up with walking the dog (ALMOST every day, still not doing it 30 minutes a day like we agreed on – ahem, ahem).

Then, I started looking through back emails trying to find a contact email for my supplemental cancer insurance. It’s a long shot, but I wonder if they will reimburse me for ANY of this treatment. My dad – my beautiful spirit of a father who has worked multiple jobs his entire life to provide for his children both during his lifetime and when he eventually passes – has loaned me the money to get this treatment so that I didn’t have to close out all my retirement accounts, and we know a teacher’s salary isn’t going to pay back $48-64k anytime soon, so anything will help.

As I was going through old emails, it triggered some memories I had temporarily forgotten about. This led to me spending the next two hours combing through both emails and blogs from over two years ago, reconnecting me with a part of my journey that I had stopped focusing on. When I look back at Cancer Treatment Round I, I think about the surgeries, the toll chemo took on my body, the battle to keep my job, the frustration with the length of the process, and the sheer amount of time I was confined to a bed or a Lazy Boy recliner or a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. If prompted, I can resurrect positive memories from the experience – particularly when it comes to amazing doctors (Dr. Matatov first and foremost, then Dr. Mansfield, Dr. Dhillon, Dr. Curley, Dr. Walsh, and Dr. Gunia) and all the love that flowed my way from friends, coworkers, and strangers all along the way. The majority of my thinking landscape, though, shows a pretty dismal view of all the whole experience.

It really shouldn’t.

I did some AMAZING things when I was battling cancer the first time – things I would not have done otherwise.

  • I ran in Phoenix’s last Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I even publicly spoke at that event.
  • I participated in Spark Off Rose, a story-telling event in CA, where I shared my journey of intimacy while dealing with cancer.
  • I helped an ASU honors student with her (videotaped!) thesis project on mindfulness techniques for cancer patients/survivors struggling with insomnia. https://youtu.be/04kYz1kSCaU
  • I was the guest of honor at a Boo-Bees fundraising event in West Hollywood, where – with the help of a unicorn – we raised several hundred dollars to donate to a local cancer organization.
  • I donated over a foot of very well taken care of hair to Locks of Love.
  • My story was the first of several to be featured on a special edition in a hiking/wellness blog.
  • I fought a state government institution and WON. That win resulted in state agencies all across Arizona having to update their employee leave policies, and I directly saw how those changes positively impacted employees going out on medical leave just in this past year.

I had definitely lost sight of the good work that was done during my first struggle. I’ve been focusing on the mindset that this is all a big inconvenience to me just as I was starting to get my life back together … and just typing that statement right there brought on a whole snotty crying fest over here because I KNOW there is so much more to my journey than the “inconvenience.” At my core, I know what kind of person I am. I make a difference in this world. I know I do. I did it before cancer, I did it during cancer, and I did it after cancer.

This time will be no different.

(16-10-10) Intimacy (UPDATED W/LINK)


BACK ROW: Katie (sound), Adam, Marion, Monique, Elizabeth, Rohini, me, Matt, Gracie
FRONT ROW: Jessica’s daughter, Jessica, Alicia, Julieanne

Today, i made the 6-hour trek to California, in order to speak at this storytelling event. I didn’t want to do it. Public speaking … standing on a stage … sharing my personal business with a bunch of complete strangers – these are all things i strive to avoid whenever possible. However, i am following through on some promises i made to a friend a couple months ago: Let people in to help when they offer, and say yes when i would rather say no. So… YES, i will stand up on a stage in Palisades, CA and tell 120 strangers a story about my boobs. No problem.

People keep asking me how it went. Honestly, i am not sure. The hours leading up to the event were nerve-wracking. I had three familiar faces in the audience that night, and all three of them were going out of their way to reassure me that everything would be fine. They were sweet. It didn’t help, but i appreciated their efforts. Once the event itself started, i was placed in the delightful position of listening to six of the other seven speakers go first, each time feeling the butterflies in my stomach breed and multiply, fantasizing about their ever-increasing wing power lifting my body right up and out of the theater. It didn’t happen. When the sound tech cued my music (“Conqueror,” from the TV show Empire), i counted three Mississippi’s, choked back my nausea, and walked on stage. I couldn’t tell you if i was loud enough, or if i paused in the right places, or if my speech was still clear in those moments when i purposely sped up. I remember looking out into the audience and seeing pitch blackness all before me, and the next nine minutes were a blur.

Afterwards, a generous handful of people came up to me and congratulated me. I was later told that my discomfort was written all over my face, but i managed to thank each and every one of them for coming, WITHOUT throwing up all over them. No one asked me personal questions relating to my story, which was surprising but a definite relief. When the energy in the reception got too overwhelming for me, Sacha, Megane, and i all dipped out.

The next night, Megane and i were walking down a sidewalk in Santa Monica, on our way to meet Julieanne at some bourgeois hotel for dinner. We were stopped in the street by a man and a womyn. The man asked me, “Are you the lady who spoke at that spoken word event last night?” He proceeded to give me props for having the courage to tell such an impactful story … and while i was totally flustered in the moment, i felt good about it afterwards. I reached some people. My story was heard. This was the point, right?

LINK TO AUDIO RECORDING – http://www.sparkoffrose.com/audio-2016.php#intimacy