Breast cancer, grief

A LONG STRANGE TRIP

Surrender- Giving up what we think should be happening for what is actually happening.

-McCall Erickson

When my insides used to feel discombobulated on occasion, I would run through the usual suspects and review from the day before. How much wine did I have? What sugar did I consume? Is it a full moon? Is mercury retrograde? Am I getting my period? Though the latter no longer applies (at least there is one good gift of breast cancer and preventative surgery, there has to be something good from all of this hell). Once I would run through this dictionary of possibilities, there it would be. I could check off at least one if not two or three of the list that summarized alayne’s brain and feel at peace immediately knowing that the frizzle in my brain would calm down when the items listed passed. Sugar and alcohol would leave my body, the full moon would move on and mercury’s retrograde I would just have to suffer with.

Knowing my body and my mind and what makes it all tick has been a major science experiment for most of my adult life, but even more in the last ten years. I enjoy exploring all of the different forks in the road that cause my mind to wander and dart at a perpetual one hundred yard dash. This is all part of the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of who I am and after fifty-four years, I finally understand and embrace its strong force of power. More apparent in my on again off again drinking or not drinking daily date with a big glass of red something or other, is the off again. When I am off, all of the shit that delightful glass of Barolo edged out comes raring out as if a damn just broke loose.

“Maybe you’re finally grieving,” my beloved Dr. W. said as I was pouring my heart out to her last week at my check up. I had just told her that I was exercising regularly, meditating every day without fail, writing like Charlotte Perkins Gilman as if I was locked in a room with Yellow Wallpaper. I am living closer to my insides and my truth as I have in my entire life. So why do I feel fragmented and lacking elation as I normally do? And as I was pouring said heart, I was feeling almost a tad embarrassed about what seemed to be my personal pity party. After all, I am alive. There are so many worse cases. I felt almost guilty loading on her. I may have even apologized. Yep.fullsizeoutput_e7

Ahhh blasted Grief. Grief is that vaporous trouble that permeates your heart without ringing the doorbell.  As I considered her comment for a moment, I realized that this question was likely the answer. My personal experience with breast cancer as I told her is that I was lucky in the overall collective of possibility. I compared the emotional part of my experience to a classroom. Let’s say there are twenty kids, two or three who are completely self-sufficient, smart, get their work done on time and the remainder of the kids need lots of extra attention. There is one teacher so she usually, human nature here, lets the ones that are ok do their thing and focuses on the outcomes of the class as a whole. Naturally, she will lean toward helping the underlings.

In my case, I was the self-sufficient one. My experience was physically OK. So I marched forth as I do, as most of us do. Checking tasks off of my list, crossing the t’s dotting the i’s and relying on my resilience to get through the emotional scars that were planted. Despite the fact that the physical part of this experience healed and I didn’t need as much support from the powers that be, the emotional and mental scars stayed behind simmering in wait unbeknownst to me. Until I was ready to let them open up and begin the healing process, trauma and grief don’t know the difference between a lot of pain and a little pain. They still cause the same stressors on our emotional selves. When the locomotive train of moving forth slows down, and it definitely needs to at some point, this is when the opportunities for healing arrives. And as the wisdom of hind site as taught me over and over again that there are opportunities in the awareness, I still forget that I must go through, not step around, not ignore, but return to the rink and wait for my opponent to arrive.

WAKE UP! The conductor bellows out as the train arrives at the station reminding the sleepy traveler it is time to depart from the long trip. And what a long strange trip it has been. There is the DURING part. The part when you are trying to get to appointments, learn as much as you can about this new life challenge you are about to embark on. There are the conversations, the hospital, the after of everything. While the physical is out in the open getting better every day, the emotions are left unchecked because frankly the Doctors who were in your ring during the fight are thinking you won so they are on to the next fighter getting them ready for their battle. Besides, your outward appearance is strength, toughness, marching forth. You are the kid in the classroom who doesn’t want to bother the teacher with double checking your spelling because spelling comes naturally for you or you can just look the word up in the dictionary.

Mental health, as we are learning more and more, can be a silent destroyer if left unchecked and uncared for. Thankfully, I have resources I can reach for, and I unabashedly do. Writing about this helps me and I hope it allows people who land on these pages to realize they are not alone. They are not selfish or being a baby by recognizing that they have pain. Inside. On their hearts. We all do. Just when I think I have “it” figured out, it’s like the universe says, “Oh yeah, Alayne, you think? Let’s see what you have figured out.” And some small drip barely noticeable turns into an emotional puddle suddenly expanding and needs a basin to catch the fall. Sometimes I can hear my grandmother saying, “Enough with the crying already,” like I am purposely opening up a wound rather than giving it the time it needs to heal, once again judging my feelings as good or bad, positive or negative, right or wrong.

Perhaps for my own experience are the triggers that this time of year presents as my birthday fast approaches. My birthday twice has given me negative news. I like symbolism of numbers and the way they tell a story. First diagnosis- 2015 (odd year) when I turned 50 (even year). Second diagnosis- 2017 (odd year) when I turned 52 (even year). So here we go. 2019, I will be 54. Just went for my check up- all good. Why worry? I am not really worried, I think I am just more triggered and perhaps this is the year that I really deal with the mending of the physical trauma I continue to heal from.

I am such a crazy checklist person that I likely (foolishly in retrospect) thought I would be done with by now. Diagnosis. Check. Genetic testing. Check. Surgery. Check, Surgical menopause. Check. Recovery. Check. Up and about. Check. Scars healed. Check. New Boobs. Interested in sex again. Check. Feeling like myself again. This is where it gets murky because that ‘self’ is no longer. Perhaps she is who I grieve. Our lives are long strange trips when we have the blessed fortune to have long ones. Maybe the rough current I have been feeling in my insides is the reminder that the shake up I have gone through for the past four years is my new self. I know I can’t fight the waves for sure, when there is a riptide, panic and struggle are not helpful, instead leaning back and allowing the wave to just take you where you are supposed to go is often the saving grace. This is hard for me, the release of working on the project rather than the surrender to it. But as I write this last word, Surrender, I know that this is my work. I surrender. This feels like the best way to take a trip so I lie on my back and let floatation carry me where it is supposed to. Let’s see what that feels like for a while.

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