Sunday, March 20, 2016

Why I say "journey"

Simply, a journey is traveling or transitioning from one place to another. Typically those places are physical places - like a journey across Europe or ... a journey across town when traffic is insane and you're trying to find a faster route and instead it usually ends up taking the same amount of time it would have taken if you would have just stayed in traffic (if not longer) but you find a really cool coffee shop along the way and you make a mental note to come back and check it out later, so the journey wasn't a total loss. (I like to call these kind of detours "adventures" but Mike says "adventure" is just an optimistic characterization of "lost" ... toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.) Other times a journey isn't between physical places but instead internal places that may have vaguely defined beginnings and undefined ends, if there's an ending at all. Sometimes it's perpetual ... forever - like spiritual journeys or healing journeys ... or in my case - a cancer journey. A journey is neutral and alone doesn't imply good or bad - it just "is." It takes context to determine if a journey is good or bad.

For me - that context is both good and bad and, most often, both at the same time. There was a long period during my journey when I (when we all) honestly thought it was over - thought it was a short, but very challenging, journey. Looking back now, I see that it was just a portion of the journey when cancer wasn't the focus - where the paths took different directions - perhaps veered away from each other - and living life was the focus of my present. And what living we did - we traveled, we moved, we found new jobs, we had two beautiful baby boys ...

And then I turned a corner and cancer suddenly -- abruptly -- came crashing back into my life journey's path and demanded to become a focus again. Something that I have to acknowledge and deal with every moment. It will never go out of focus because it is now, more than before, a parallel line attached to my life's line ... like the lines that represent my children, my husband, my family - a collection of parallel lines that go with me into the future ... Cancer is just one journey within my greater journey ... hence my journey WITH breast cancer ... not OF breast cancer. Because breast cancer isn't my life ... it's only a part of it.

A part of that cancer journey completed on Friday - radiation to my cricoid, C3 and left iliac. I'm thankful for the treatment and I'm extremely hopeful it generates the results we expect. I have follow-up visits scheduled in April to scan and see how things look. I'm hesitant to "look forward" to them because there's always the "fear beast" that casts large shadows of doubt and the insatiable question of "what if?" What if it didn't work... what if I can't get this darn trach out and it stays forever ... what if my C3 is beyond self-repair and I need fusion surgery ... what if it made it worse ... what if I make myself crazy with trying to hold all the possibilities in my mind and my head just explodes instead.

I'm also scheduled to see my oncologist this week to discuss when I start the next drugs ... the next treatment - the new fancy drug on the market called Ibrance and an aromatase inhibitor. But right now - I'm just thankful to be through one hurdle on this journey and to have had minimal side effects from it. My throat is still sore, and I'm seriously craving something crunchy and I'll most likely eat like a horse as soon as I can and gain back the 10 lbs I lost from my smoothie, soup, mushy food diet - but all in all, I'm just thankful. My radiation nurse said it was a milestone and I should be happy I'm done. I am - I am happy I'm done ... but I'm not happy I had to do it in the first place - so there's some additional good/bad context for you.

My life is a journey and no one knows how the path in front of me will unfold - where it will lead or when or how it will end. And that journey is made one moment at a time. It's a long journey - a long road - and now, more often than I'd like to, I will have to walk the "cancer line" of this journey too frequently ... (And normally, before 1/22/16, right here I would end this post and say 'But it's OK because it means I'm alive - and that's what matters,' but that's not how I feel anymore. Instead, I'll end with: ...) Is it ok? No - it's not. But I don't have a choice. I wouldn't choose "this" ever and I wouldn't wish it on any one no matter terribly they've scorned me. But again - I have no choice. I walk the lines that are laid before me - some lines I chose and some lines that were chosen for me. We all play the hands we're dealt - whether we want to or not. Some do it kicking and screaming the entire time and others do it gracefully, with their heads held high and their hearts full of love for the lines they did choose. My heart is full and I hope, and pray, that I can walk my life's journey - and all that's tethered to it - with as much grace as possible (... and only intermittent kicking and screaming).

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