This morning when I walked out to my car I was surprised to see my rubbish still there.  We are fortunate to have pickup.  Well, I looked up at my neighbors, no rubbish, another neighbor…no rubbish…. What the heck?  I go about my day, full of errands, first order of business was Fed Ex, second was Motor Vehicle Department which is always a joy.  Well, guess what????  We didn’t have to wait in line and what I thought was going to be about $80 turned out to be $20!!!  Wohooooo.  Our local satellite office has such nice women working there.  Much different from the headquarters…most are stoic, never smile and have the personality of a slab of meat….

Never knowing what I am going to discuss in therapy, today’s was a shocker to me.  I suppose because I just postponed an oncology appointment to January.   My therapist was quiet, listened, asking only a few questions, one being “When was the last time you spoke about this so intimately?   My answer….  At least four years, then I thought about it…. never.  I have never shared the traumatic details, the emotional weight of going thru breast cancer, two different types, in fact.  Tears flowed down my cheeks a couple of times, as I recalled more moments with my kid sisters treatment.  The topic then turned to recollections of my own journey.   In three words it would be “It fucking sucks”.  Mine was spread out almost 2 years because of complications, infections, yada, yada.  The emotional part I don’t think I have ever dealt with.  I did what I needed to do, got through it all with a sense of humor and with the help of friends who brought me to appointments, stayed with me through surgeries, helped out as they could.   My mother moved in with me for a couple of months, which actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  She was a tremendous help.   Given that my brother was diagnosed with two different types of cancer 2 weeks to the day that I was, and having drastic exploratory and corrective surgery, she was running the roads from my house to his. 

Whenever I would feel down, discouraged, someone appeared in front of me that changed my perspective.  I remember one woman, had an arm removed, had a bone in her back removed, and she was determined to stay alive, keep fighting.   What the hell do I have to complain about?   But I did.   Having fibromyalgia complicated things.  It sucked, but I tried to keep a positive attitude and also educate other women through my journey.   I realized today something significant about my being a cancer survivor.  I have never gotten angry about it.   I bounced through the other four stages of grief, but I never got angry.   Perhaps that is why I am visiting this topic now.  I am starting to feel angry, four years after diagnosis, two years after treatment and reconstruction.   Anger is something I don’t know how to do.   I am pretty easy going, let a lot go by, but when I get angry it is hard for me to get out of it.   When my sister died, I was so angry that I couldn’t even stand myself.    A few months later my sister called me and said something like “Donna, I love you, and I believe you need help with this, with coping.  Will you please consider getting help?”    I did.   I did.

Ironically the psychiatrist who was assigned to me inpatient was the same psychiatrist I had seen for years.   After an evaluation, he said to me… “Donna, for as long as you have been my patient you have struggled with suicidal tendencies, ideation, thoughts…  Well, you have made progress.  You are no longer suicidal you are homicidal!  He was joking, of course.  The point he was making, however, was growth.  I was no longer harming myself or punishing myself for God knows what, I was angry, I was angry with Cancer, I was angry with God, I was angry with anyone else who crossed my path.    I got stuck in that anger for months.   What this visit was labeled was “Mood stabilization, depression”.   Yeah, I needed some mood stabilization, for sure!

Now I am angry for my own journey.   What the hell did I ever do to deserve this?   Why did this happen to me, to my family?  I had convinced myself, well I still believe, that part of the reason was to educate women on early prevention, detection.  With the large number of women I encounter I could possibly help others.   Still, I’d rather have just educated them on painting, but this journey quickly became a side cart to wherever I was, wherever I went.

I do not wish, nor will I stay here.  I cannot possibly be angry, peaceful and serene simultaneously.  I have come so far, I have learned so much, I have gone through enough that I just want peace.  I want serenity, and I want peace.   No matter how much weight I gain, or lack of exercise I get… my New Years Resolution for the rest of my life will be “Peace and Serenity”.    It has been a long journey to get here.  I still have shaky times when it flies out the window, but I have reminders all over my house.  The physical pain I feel on a daily basis reminds me, too, that all I can do is my best, that I have walked through the jungle jims of hell, and I am still here.  All I want is peace, peace and serenity. I wouldn’t wish this journey on anyone, but I wouldn’t trade my personal growth for anything in the world!

My sister gave both my brother and I a medallion.  It means much to both of us. This was the only thing my brother wanted to take from his car, the only thing he was worried about. The other day I thought about mine and wondered where it was. I hadn’t seen it in a couple of months. Hmm, I’ll have to look for it when I get home. Well, a few minutes later I pick my mother up at her apartment and she says “Hold out your hand, I have something for you. I found it in the car, cleaned it up for you”…it was my medallion. I smiled, looked up and said “Thank you!” I am always given what I need. I am always given what I need. The timeliness of this is not uncommon in my life. It’s rather nice, spiritually validating to me.

Saint Peregrine is on the front, and on the back, engraved artfully, beautifully reads this:

Cancer is limited
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot eat away peace
It cannot destroy confidence
It cannot shut out memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot reduce eternal life
It cannot quench the spirit
It cannot lessen the power of the Resurrection.
I will leave you with one of many comical episodes that I went through when I was doing all I could to fight this disease. When I came home from the hospital after my second surgery (bilateral mastectomies, reconstruction), I was on some very heavy pain meds. Two friends had stopped over to visit, mom made them lunch and they were sitting in the kitchen. My mom asked me to come out and sit for a minute, try to eat something and visit with Robin and Bob, so I did. A couple minutes into the conversation my friend Robin asked “Now what exactly did they do to you?” I explained that they cut out the nipple and go from there. She asked “Well, what did they do with your nipples?” I looked at her and responded very quickly “They sewed them on my ass for traction!” And then my mother suggested it was time for a nap!

Oh and PS….. As I drove back into town approaching my humble abode I noticed my neighbors rubbish was out…. Um…. I guess I put it out a day early! 🙂

The anger stage of grief


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