The Fear of….

This morning I read this quote and it has just stuck with me as a message that I wanted to share……”Authentic success is the accomplishment of living powerfully through any circumstance” (Havilah Cunnington – I Do Hard Things).

The quote hit me on a couple of different levels. The first one, which often comes up in conversations with clients, is we so often dismiss our successes. We downplay our strengths and attributes, we shy away from celebrating our accomplishments. Somehow it became ingrained in us that if we do these things we are being braggarts or egotistical. Why not celebrate our successes? We work hard to achieve them, they are not handed to us – so why are we quick to downplay them, why are we afraid to celebrate ourselves?

Being authentic. Wow, do we struggle with that. The dictionary defines authentic as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”. There are people out there who live with true authenticity in all areas of their lives but for a lot of us we are comfortable displaying authenticity in only some areas of our lives, whether it is out of shyness, fear of upsetting someone or fear of the unknown. We hold back from being authentic then we wonder why the stars are not aligning for us and we are not seeing progress, success or total health in our lives.

Living powerfully through any circumstance is something that I struggle with for sure. We all have things that happen in our lives that throw us for a loop – sometimes these things happen to us multiple times in a day. How often do we let these things affect us, hold us down and keep us from moving? And I am not talking about moving forward, I mean moving at all. We get emotionally paralyzed and instead of taking even the smallest action, we take no action. Now living powerfully through any circumstance does not mean we should have some feelings over our circumstances – we absolutely should – cry, get angry, frustrated, sad, anxious, whatever you need to, but the difference is that we don’t live in those emotions. So, take a few hours, or a day (or two) to sit and feel the feels, then regroup, pull yourself up and plow through your “circumstance”. If you get stuck reach out to a trusted friend or family member to be there beside you as your accountability partner – and if you are really stuck, reach out to a therapist for some out of the box thinking and objective advice.

We cannot control the things that happen to us, but we can control how we react and how we move forward – just remember you do not have to do it alone.

What You Don’t See

Recovering from a disease is never easy. It doesn’t matter what you were diagnosed with – there is a cycle that we are all a part of……ignoring symptoms, then Googling symptoms, actually going to the doctor, then more doctors, diagnosis, treatment and recovery. When we are “cleared” of our illness/disease/ailment people who haven’t experienced that in their life seem to think that the worst is over. And people are well meaning for sure, but the worst is not necessarily over.

I am “cancer free” (but not officially declared N.E.D. or in remission) but I am living on a maintenance chemotherapy regime of 1800mg, twice a day of Xeloda. Two weeks on, one week off. Then every three weeks I get bloodwork and an infusion of Mvasi. This will continue for an undetermined amount of time. People tell me “at least the cancer is gone” and “wow you look so good” but there is so much that goes unseen when it comes to those statements. (If you are not a fan of TMI, I don’t suggest you read the next part.)

The meds have given me side effects such as: dry mouth (in the middle of the night especially, it wakes me up because I feel like I am choking and can’t swallow from the dryness)…..excess saliva…..I have very little taste left, and what I can taste when I eat and drink is “off”, I am basically eating and drinking just to survive at this point…..I have little sense of smell left…..I constantly have some type of congestion in my nose…..I have hand and foot syndrome to the point that my feet are so swollen it is difficult to put shoes on and when I do I can’t wear them for long periods of time…..when I walk the sensation is like walking on thumbtacks strapped to legos…..my hands are incredibly dry, discolored and the skin is blistering, cracking and peeling off my fingers…..I have little feeling in the first three fingers of both hands…..the tips of my fingers are so painful that I can’t perform basic functions without wincing in pain…..I cannot use warm or hot water on my hands or feet…..when I go outside and it is a sunny day my hands immediately begin to swell. If I have to leave the house for errands, work or anything else, I have to plan ahead of time what I am going to eat, because depending on the day, food sets me off and I wind up in the bathroom, a lot, and sometimes I am not fortunate enough to make it to the bathroom – so I make sure when I go places I know where all the bathrooms are, that I have an extra set (or two) of clothes available, and that I have an “out” if I need to leave because I have had an accident and do not want to draw that sort of attention to myself or have to explain why a 43 year old woman can’t make it to the bathroom. To get dressed it takes me twice as long and I also have to take into consideration the adult diaper that I wear when I leave the house and have a covering that I can wear to hide my butt “just in case”. If it is a particularly active bathroom day, I am dehydrated, exhausted, have the chills and “lower region” pain. As much as I want to be out and do (mask wearing and socially distant) activities, I live with so much fear and apprehension that my symptoms are going to strike that I only venture out for short periods of time. Maintaining an attitude of happy, levity, jovial and nonchalant about how I am really feeling is exhausting. And don’t get me wrong, I do genuinely feel those emotions, but not as often as I want and not always as real as I want them to be.

This is what living “cancer free” looks like to me. These are the things you don’t see. This is the ugly side that people don’t really want to know about and the things that other survivors of illnesses/diseases/ailments try to make palatable for others on their social media posts. We try to educate and inform, not bring people down. But it is easy to scroll past, refresh the feed and see what else is out there. We blog, we post, we share because community is important, knowing there are others out there who have the struggle and we aren’t alone, that our loved ones are in it too, makes a difference. There are things you don’t see but it doesn’t mean that they do not exist.

Slowly Falling Apart to be Put Back Together Again

When I had my “last” surgery in June to remove the latest round of tumors from my March diagnosis, I thought I was done. Much to my surprise, when I went to the oncologist’s office for my follow up visit, I met with one of my doc’s associates, just like I always do. Before she left the office she told me “well, the doctor will be in soon to discuss the plan of action”. After she walked out I sat there, slightly confused and started to panic. Plan of action? What? I thought we already did our plan of action. How could there be more? When my doc came in he explained to me, yes the chemo shrunk my tumors and the surgery was successful and there was no more visible evidence of disease but because the cancer came back so quickly he wanted to act more preventative in nature. So what was decided on was oral chemotherapy, Xeloda, 1800mg (5 pills) twice per day, 14 days on, 7 days off, plus a 15 minute infusion of Mvasi every three weeks. How long I will be on this is still to be determined. When I left the doctor’s office I sat in my car and cried. I had felt so positive going into his office thinking I had made it around the corner and was moving forward just to be shot down. How could I endure more treatment? And even worse, there was no magic number of doses and a treatment end date. Then I started freaking out over the size of the pills, the side effects, etc. When I received my first round of meds, I was pleasantly surprised that the pills were easy to swallow and my side effects seemed minimal. But then I started my second round of meds. And I developed something called hand and foot syndrome. Hand-foot syndrome causes redness, swelling, and pain on the palms of the hands and/or the soles of the feet.┬áBased on the information that I got off the internet (gotta love Google), I have a severe case, which includes cracked, flaking, or peeling skin, blisters, ulcers, or sores on the skin, severe pain and difficulty walking or using your hands. And then I cry some more. As I look at my hands and each day more skin starts to peel and fall off and the pain increases and the ability to do simple tasks decreases, it is hard not to question if this is all worth it. The medication and what it is doing to me, the things on the inside, the things that I do not see. But then there are days where I look at it as a shedding of the skin, a rebirth of sorts. That I have to be torn down, slowly, piece by piece for me to get stronger, to be more confident and sure of myself, to accept the things that have happened to me, to be more prepared for the things to come, to make changes in my life that optimize my overall health, to challenge my mindset, to be better. These storms and challenges do not always come into our lives to harm us, sometimes they are to help us. So what is it that you see as a storm or a challenge that you can “reframe” and make it work for you and what you are trying to achieve in life?