It’s scan day. A day most everyone with cancer dreads. We even have our own word for it “scanxiety”. Normally I sail through these days. But today feels different. I think it’s because the last few scans have been pretty darn good, very little progression shown in terms of cancer growth, we’ve been holding things at bay. But, I’ve had issues with my drugs lately, and even with the last one we’ve had to reduce the dosage because of side effects I’ve been having. So I wonder “has it been enough?’ Each time I get in one of those tubes I think about where those cancer cells may be hiding. I talk to my body and tell it to spill all. No hiding those buggers anywhere. I think about my immune cells and what they’ve been doing to help me. I think about how well the rest of my body has been dealing with the rogue faction and say a little “thank you.” I also experience a wave or two of pure fear and worry. It’s not a unique perspective, but I feel like I’m playing Russian Roulette. Each time I have a clean scan I know the odds are higher that the next one won’t be that way. There’s no place like the inside of a huge metal tube to have a little anxiety attack. That’s when I probably have the best little talks with myself. “Remember to breathe” I say. “Remember to think of things to be grateful for” I quietly sigh. And that’s when I bring you all into the tube with me. I think about the many little things you’ve done to support me and my family and the kind words and cards. It’s another reason I’ve been so grateful to have this time to travel with Steve. I have a few of my favorite views in my head. I’ll see something beautiful and think, “Now that’s a good one to remember during a scan.” So wish me luck today. I’ll be thinking of all of you!
Here I sit. Waiting for scan results. It’s not much fun. Somedays I handle it better than others. I keep trying to look inward and make a guess as to what’s going on in my body. Has it spread? Gotten better, stayed the same? All the while trying to live a normal life and keep things in perspective. I seem to live out my life in 30 day increments now. If my markers are looking good I let out a sigh of relief and push things down for another 30 days until the next doctor’s appointment and treatment. It’s a different way to live. I’ve been making travel plans, but my markers are going up and I start to wonder how I’m going to feel in 2 or 3 months. I don’t know for certain. I bought travel insurance for the first time. Seemed like a prudent thing to do. Yep, for me having cancer is like doing Tree Pose. Some days my balance is better then others. When I’m wobbly I have to just accept it and feel what there is to feel. Emotions are ok. There are no good or bad ones. I can be scared, angry, sad, and irritated and it’s all right. There is no “right way” to do cancer. There is only “my way” and I can’t get it wrong. When I’m ready, I’ll push myself up off the floor and choose to be grateful for the little things. I’ll try balancing again and it may be easier, it may not. But I’ll accept myself where I am.
“How do you do it?” I hear it over and over again. How do you live with a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer and continue to live your life in a positive and productive way? We all have hard things in our lives. All of us. No one has it easy all of the time, but some people do seem to be able to weather the rough water, bumps, obstacles and tough spots better then others. What’s the difference? Sometimes I look at having cancer as trying to learn Tree Pose. In yoga, Tree Pose is when you balance on one foot and lift your other foot and place it somewhere on your opposite leg. As you get stronger and find your center of balance you’re able to place one leg higher, lift your arms higher over your head and find yourself feeling grounded and strong, just like a tree that’s been there forever. The trick is to ground yourself and to not condemn yourself when you loose your balance. If you start to fall you have to let the self-judgement go. The more you talk down at yourself for not finding your balance, the less balanced you’ll be. If you just let it happen, accept where you are that day then you’ll find your center again. It’s curious how this pose can be easier or more difficult from one day to the next. Some days it’s just hard to find that balance, that sense of calm and grounding. Living with a terminal, chronic illness is the same. Some days it’s easy, others it’s hard. There is no magic answer. I have found that the more I choose to be grateful and ground myself in the present moment, the better the day will be. If I’m in pain, I’m tired or I’m frustrated because I’m just not getting everything done that I thought I should be getting done or even wanted to, I need to let it go. Refocus on where I am at and think about what’s good about that very moment. Having gratitude and finding balance isn’t always pretty. Sometimes you just do it because you’ve made a choice to. Somedays I can’t do Tree Pose as well as I used to before cancer. I let that go too. I do the best I can. I forgive myself when I fall and I choose to try again. Sometimes, I let myself stay on the floor for a bit and study where I’m at. Sometimes I pull myself up, other times I have help and a friend reaches out.