Sometimes it hits me, hard, that the cancer fight I started a year and a half ago could be just the tip of the iceberg. I try to think positively. I know good, optimistic thoughts make a difference in one’s health and general outlook on life. For the most part, I feel like I do a good job with that; I mean, I feel blessed and happy and loved and am grateful—so very, very grateful—for all the help I had in kicking cancer’s big fat ugly ass last year. While there’s always the fear that it will come back, I’ve gotten pretty good at tucking that fear away.
This morning I flipped on the TV and before I got a chance to turn the channel in search of a Law & Order marathon, a commercial came on for the Cancer Center. The first person that spoke said something like, “My lymphoma came back and it was life-threatening.” With that one sentence, like dominoes, all the positive attitude and good energy I have hoarded away came crashing down into a ferocious sense of doom—I could almost hear it.
Sometimes I can feel this kind of collapse coming on before it actually hits, and I’ll jab a little Ativan pill under my tongue. My doctor says that’s the fastest way to get it to do its job (I prefer it in an IV—I mean, I’ve got this port so convenient-like and everything… why not???). There are other times, though, that I allow myself to fall, to feel, instead of Ativan-ing the anxiety away. Today I let the sensation wash over me. I let the dominoes fall.
But the dominoes never seem to fall against one another in a perfect pattern. Instead, they scatter, like a puppy running through them. They go flying under the couch and disappear behind the chair and suddenly I can’t see any of them. I’m in the middle of the floor (literally) and surrounded by dark, negative thoughts (figuratively). I wallow in the negativity, and I hate myself for not staying “up” and jokey and ready to fight-fight-fight. People have told me how amazed they are that I have been able to fight so hard, and this collapse… well, it fills me with dread, knowing that I’ve failed those people, that I’ve disappointed all the friends and family who helped me fight my way here.
And I have to start over.
So here’s what I’ve learned to do: I dig through my blog for uplifting and inspiring quotes I’ve shared in the past. I re-read the messages I received during the most challenging days of chemotherapy. I look for blue sky and sunbeams. I cuddle with the critters. I find smiles in small things—a candle that smells so yummy I have to remind myself it’s not edible, the handmade “keep out” signs on Jack’s bedroom door, sparklies in my jewelry box, the texts I get from people who can always make me laugh, the cup of coffee Victor brings me every morning, tulips blooming in my front yard, the sweet notes Katie leaves on my nightstand, peanut sauce, kids at school who call me by name…
When I first learned I would be fighting cancer, my goal was complete remission. Through all the suckiness and through all the less-suckiness, I could look ahead because I knew the suckiness was just temporary. All I thought about was getting that clean bill of health. Nobody warned me of the other things that would come with being told my cancer was in complete remission—especially the fear that remission itself is the temporary thing.
It’s hard to start from scratch, but I’ve done it enough times now that I know the good feelings can come back. Occasionally they come with a little pharmaceutical assistance, but they also seem to be nudged along the way with good ol’ pulling-myself-up-by-my-bootstraps.
(Boots… yes. That’s something else that comes with a side of happiness: NEW SHOES!)