Monday, August 27, 2012

That Tenuous Thread

It might be time to touch on a topic most people don't want to discuss:  suicide.  If this topic is going to bother you, best exit post haste.

When you're diagnosed with cancer or any other potentially terminal illness, your whole world does a 180 and everything you thought you knew about yourself and your life is challenged from every possible angle.  It is extremely stressful and heartbreaking, even on the 'good' days.  Even when you're laughing and making jokes at your own expense.  There's a lot of anguish and pain underneath.

It's been a little more than a year since I found my lump and almost a year to my diagnosis and I still struggle with the horror of it all on a daily basis, even though my life was never really in (that much) danger.  I still cry on a regular basis. I'm still going through the grieving process in various ways and struggling to feel somewhat like myself again.  I'm still struggling to accept what I've been through and that I'll never be the same again. I'm probably clinically depressed and suffering from PTSD.  That's all just part of it.

I think suicidal thoughts are also pretty common, even if you're going to live.  I went through about a month-long period during chemo when that was all I thought about all day.  I just wanted it all to end because it was pretty damn painful both physically and emotionally and all I could think to do to end it was, well, to end it.  It's especially hard if you're an atheist.  You don't have anyone to point the finger at and nothing to look forward to afterwards.  No one to 'forgive' you when you're an asshole and no one to 'forgive' for this thing happening to you.  You can't find a reason for it all, because there isn't one, and suddenly everything feels very, very meaningless and pointless.  Even the things and the people you enjoy.  It's a daily struggle just to be alive.

While that's a tragedy in its own right, the bigger tragedy to me is that we all don't realize what a difference we make in each others' lives every day until we're faced with our own mortality.  If I wasn't made aware on a pretty regular basis that there are people in the world who love me and whose lives I matter in, I think one day the voices that tell me otherwise would win out. Yes, even after all I've been through and even after I've 'made it'.

So if you're reading this, thank you.  You've had a hand in keeping one person (somewhat) sane and alive today.  Tell the people you love that you love them and that they matter to you right now.  They need to hear it more than you know.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Don't Call it a Comeback

I started exercising again a few weeks ago in an effort to get my health back and to lose the 15-20 extra pounds chemo added.  That's the ultimate insult in the end.  You think you'll lose 20 on chemo, but no. Unless it makes you unable to eat, but that's not really common for young women.  Instead, it nukes your reproductive system and hormones, which throws you into early menopause (some call it chemopause), and this plus any stress/comfort eating and no energy for exercise means your favorite jeans don't fit anymore.

Well mine do again.  Take that, chemo bitch.

I'm doing Body Pump once a week (hopefully twice a week soon), and running twice a week in preparation for a 5k in October (p.s. happy birthday to me, and go fuck yourself cancer).  My initial thought was that I just wanted to be able to run/walk the whole way and finish, all the while telling cancer to stick it up its ass.  Now though, I want to go faster and faster.  I'm not sure it will be a 'fun run' if I leave my team behind, so we'll have to see what that day looks like.  Right now I want to run like cancer's right on my ass.  I'm crossing that finish line first, mofo.  After the 5k, I intend to keep going and working up to longer distances.

There's been a fundamental shift in my approach to exercise in the last few months.  Before cancer, I would set a goal for myself and stop as soon as I reached it.  Or if I didn't reach it for some reason, I'd give up entirely because "omg I can't reach that goal, so fuck it, where's my ice cream?".  Without a goal, I was nothing, even though I really enjoy exercise. Now the goal is more holistic in that I simply have to get my health back.  I'd give anything to take running up a flight of stairs for granted again.  Or running more than 30 seconds at a time - thank the unicorns for walk intervals!

So those are my new goals.  Being comfortable in my body again.  Being healthy enough for stairs and jogging. All other goals are fluid and arbitrary.  If I don't get what I want from the 5k?  I'll just run another one.  It's all just a matter of telling my brain to shut up when it wants to hit snooze again, get up, and get out there.  I'm always happier after I exercise and that's what I focus on.

Reading The Happiness Trap has certainly helped a lot with the mental process.  I've come to understand that my brain is ALWAYS going to say 'but the bed is so warm, go back to sleep' and it will likely never say 'LET'S GO RUN' at 5:30 a.m.  But I have to do it anyway, no matter what my head tells me.

I'm taking my life back.  Staying comfortable is not going to get me where I want to be.