Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Anniversary Begins

So, the time of the one year anniversary of my cancer diagnosis is rapidly approaching, and I'm beginning to feel the predictable gloom that sad anniversaries so often bring.

Earlier today I was rereading an entry that I wrote in my late lamented Granny Gets A Vibrator blog exactly one year ago this week. This was back when I first knew I was very sick, but didn't yet know how sick. I'd been coughing for months and I knew there was something suspicious on the chest x-ray, but words like "neoplastic mass" and "advanced cancer" hadn't yet been tossed around. The man I called "the painter" had temporarily walked out on me in a huff because I wasn't sufficiently grateful when he tried to take charge of my situation; he was merrily going out dancing every night, and I was left struggling with my fears all alone.

In late July 2006, in an entry titled "An Apology to My Readers," I wrote this:

When I started this blog, back at the beginning of the year, I hoped I could be an inspiring and optimistic role model: Look at me! I wanted to shout from the rooftops to younger women everywhere. Don’t be afraid of aging, or the empty nest! It’s not so bad being over 50! This is a time to look forward to! I’m happy, healthy, strong, independent, full of energy, pursuing a life filled with passionate interests, laughter, learning, love, sex, and daring adventures. Life is good!

And for a few months I managed to pull it off pretty well.

But I would be inexcusably dishonest if I didn’t confess that right now, over here at Chez Le Vibrator, morale has reached an all-time low. I’m no longer feeling very healthy or strong or sexy or optimistic. In fact, I’m feeling about as weary, discouraged, depressed, and defeated as I’ve ever felt. And scared. I’m really scared about what upcoming medical tests are going to find, and scared about what it’s going to mean to be without health insurance.

I’m afraid I’ll have to give up weight lifting, and dancing, and my home, and garden and dogs and everything I’ve loved doing. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to trust being in a relationship with a man again. I’m afraid I’ve already lost the ability to take much pleasure in these things anyway. I’m scared and angry and discouraged about the state of the world and the wars and the hate and racism and brutality that never seems to stop. I’m scared about facing a bleak, dismal, and possibly brief future, old and tired and alone. And I know, it’s been a long long time since I’ve been able to be funny. If it weren’t for my magnificent sons and their wonderful partners, I wouldn’t have much good to say about anything these days.

And so, I really want to apologize to those readers who innocently wandered over to this blog expecting to read witty, sexy, feisty, optimistic, well-written vignettes about the joys of growing older, and instead have found a grumpy, rambling, self-absorbed, discouraged and embittered old woman. If I’d known last January that things were going to take such a turn, I never would have started this blog. I’m sorry about the way it’s gone south lately. And I’m sorry for being such a whiny pissy complaining sissy about my troubles, and airing my dirty laundry in public etc. I’m going to cut back on the negative stuff for a while, for my own sanity as well as yours.

Anyway, I go in for another round of x-rays tomorrow, then to meet with the doctor on Wednesday. I am really scared. Wish me luck.

God, what an awful time that was. And I really didn't even have a clue what a grim nightmare I had ahead of me. I wish I could go back in a magic time machine and find my poor scared July 2006 self and say something, do something, hell, I don't know, just wrap my arms around that self and cry with her. She was so right to be scared.

And now here it is a year later. I keep going back to these prescient worries: "I’m afraid I’ll have to give up weight lifting, and dancing, and my home, and garden and dogs and everything I’ve loved doing. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to trust being in a relationship with a man again."

And all I can say now is: well thank goodness it wasn't quite that bad! At least I managed to hang onto the dogs.

Anyway, my motto remains: Onward.

Or as Alfred Lord Tennyson said so much more eloquently in his poem Ulysses:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Blogger Najia said...

Wow. Thank you for this post.

Reading how you handled all that life has hurled at you has really been an inspiration to me. I know it has been to so many others as well.

You didn't ever know it, but your blog was there for me to turn to when I needed to redirect energy and focus.

The Internet makes friends of strangers. It allows us to get to know people better than we would allow ourselves to get to know them in person. I'll be sending happy healthy vibes for your future.

I hope all your future tests and x-rays are beautiful. I hope that in some way it is comforting for you to know we're all behind you for all of it. Besides the bloggers who post on your site, there are hundreds of supporters who silenty lurk and read your blog (like I did for months). I hope you also feel all of their mojo carrying you onward!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Gosling said...

I remember reading that blog entry and hoping with all my heart that it would turn out to be something small and easy to treat. By then I'd come to care what happened to you, plus it just seemed so completely wrong that someone as strong, feisty and vital could have a life-threatening illness. Of course that one almost never feels fair.

This: I wish I could go back in a magic time machine and find my poor scared July 2006 self and say something, do something, hell, I don't know, just wrap my arms around that self and cry with her... is exactly what I was feeling back then, and I'm sure many of your other readers, as well.

Thank Maude you still have the dogs. And I'm so glad you're better. And a big a-men to kbl's mojo comment.


7:57 PM  
Blogger ay-em said...

"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours."
-- Ayn Rand

9:24 PM  
Blogger Elbow said...

My Mom is awaiting some test results to find out how bad it is, and your post just wrapped its arms around her and made her feel ok to be scared. It also gave her words of strength... she just sent me the Ulysses quote in exchange for a quote I sent her today from Seneca:
Our fears are more numerous than our dangers and we suffer more in our imagination than reality.

Not sure that's always true, but it's a quote to hang onto when you need something.
You continue to be a beacon for her and for me. Thank you for that.

9:26 PM  
Blogger evil_fizz said...

I remember that post and wanting to hug you too.

I'm thinking about you.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Yankee T said...

Great post.

11:11 PM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

I only found your blog a few months ago. Your posting about being scared, your journey through it all helped me. I was sick, too - from something else, but having the hardest time dealing with how scared witless I was. There were days where your writing about it, while clearly moving onward gave me the nudge needed to not curl up in a fetal position. It's not always easy to snarl in the face of the big, scary thing, but reading about others doing just that can be exactly what you need. In that way, you have been an inspiring and optimistic role model to me.

I hope the anniversary will be bearable. Iam also confident that you will emerge on the other side of it with your customary vibrancy, kick-arse attitude and probably another Frida.

12:42 AM  
Blogger Carole said...

I understand. Thank you for sharing your ordeal. My year "anniversary" was last week. My husband had just walked away and I had to turn down the job of a lifetime due to my diagnosis. I want you to know how much it has meant to me to be able to keep track of your progress. My friends say I'm tough, but my ordeal has been nothing compared to yours. You truly are an inspiration to me and I'm sure countless of others. Cancer sucks. Being sick and alone sucks. But you're right. Onward. It's what we do. One day soon I may give myself permision to look back at the past year and grieve for everything I've lost....and then to remember all the friends and family who came to my rescue and pulled me through. I am blessed. That so makes my life worth living. I'm rambling so I'll just shut up.
I wish I could give you a hug.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo. Onward.

And look, you even ended up with a bonus dog and a great Virgin Mary story.

Ironically, even though I don't believe one can ever honestly and thus effectively teach anyone not to be afraid of life, because life is quite terrifying (and the more you love it the more you have to lose so the more terrifying it becomes when things go pear-shaped), you continue to inspire quite a few people anyway, not quite the way you intended maybe, but just by being honest about what you've been going through in your own unique voice. Hard to count that as a total loss, I'd expect.

The great thing about you, as far as I can tell from your writing, is that even though concrete specifics of your options may change, you will always grab life by the throat and squeeze out all the juice, and then share the cup. Thanks.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading that post and being afraid for you. We've had a lot of cancer in my family, some fatal.( My Granny, Grandpa and niece all died of it within one 3 year span) When you stopped writing i missed you very much.
When i found this blog i was overjoyed.
Do you know " The Little Prince" by Antoine St Exupery? ( my spelling might be off there).
I think you are very able to 'tame' people, just like the fox talks about.
I don't think you are perfect, i don't expect you to be Ms Sunshine. I do respect your ability to tell the truth about your situation. I love your sense of style - we nearly redid our bathroom like yours :)
I hate your medical system.


"One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes."

12:04 PM  
Blogger samanthaturner said...

I know that this has been said many times before, but here I go:

in your first blog, you astounded me, you were fierce, fun, feminist, sexy, and wonderful role model. then you disappeared. when I found you again, I did not know it was you for the first few entries that I read. Then I found a fierce, fun, feminist, sexy, wonderful role model who was also amazingly strong, graceful under pressure, and gives me hope that I can be the same.

So yes, thank you. Also, I am sorry that I am mainly a lurker.

p.s. Do you mind if i steal your Frida/Virgen idea?

12:24 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Another lurker, delurking. :)

The picture of you that I hold in my head is one of a witty, sexy, feisty, optimistic, really fucking strong woman who knows what it means to fight to survive. A role model, who knows that life is good, even though sometimes its not. Someone who makes even their post-chemo-empty-bank-account-shack into a vibrant home.

Which is to say that we come here because you are awesome, and awesome is not something that cancer can take away from you.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Ya Looblue said...

we're all still here for you. you're one of the few truely inspiring people that i 'know'.

and about your previous post...bravo to superman. have you seen the dogs that are being trained to sniff out skin cancer? it's incredible.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Trasi said...

You used to say all through that ordeal that you're not a trouper. Well, you may krinkle your nose at the word "trouper" and all that entails, but there's no doubt you are a strong woman. Strength doesn't mean you go through cancer treatments and financial ruin and the loss of a long relationship voicelessly, stoically. It means you do whatever you have to do, be it kicking and screaming and blogging and crying and whatever else to get yourself through it, without actually going stark raving mad. You are so squared away, in the midst of such chaos. Don't call it being a trouper, okay. But you're one strong, tough broad. :-) I hope if I ever face such difficult times in my future, I can handle it as healthily as you.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I remember that post too, and have thought about it often since then. It was that much of a turning point.

What I loved about your Granny blog was all the attention you gave to making people more aware of racism.

I know it's been one of your hardest years, but this loyal reader can't wait for you to start ranting about that little cranny of society again.

But in your own time. Lord knows you have so much else going on.

10:55 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

Well actually I was just trying to make MYSELF more aware of racism. This past year seems to be all about making myself more aware of poverty.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well actually I was just trying to make MYSELF more aware of racism. This past year seems to be all about making myself more aware of poverty."

Sadly, you've done an excellent job. Having experienced a bit of poverty myself, I can say that I would just love to come down and scream at those doctors, "Just because they are poor does NOT mean they aren't HUMAN!" So many people treat the poor as if they weren't human, as if poverty is an automatic elimination of choice. It took me a while to realize that I still had a choice, even though I was poor--I just had to convince those who were not poor that I had a choice. Being poor is not a moral failing, yet most people treat you as if you are poor by choice, as if you did something terrible to get there. It's such a load of crap.

I really hope you throw it back in those doctors' faces. Somebody needs to tell them that being poor isn't a moral failing, that being poor doesn't mean you aren't given choices anymore, that you aren't in charge of your own life. You seem like the perfect advocate, IMO.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Trasi said...

From what you describe of the situation with the hospital and the attitudes of the docs/staff, it appears that not only do they act as though you have no choice and aren't really human, they act as if you DESERVE no choices because you don't have the money to pay for choices. And that you deserve whatever treatment you can get because you can't afford better. For those who think that our system is the best system in the world, it's true only for the rich, and I mean crazy rich, because even middle class America cannot afford to pay for it themselves.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Nora said...

I remember that post. In July of 2006, I had only recently discovered your blog and (coincidentally) had only just discovered my own tumor (a tennis ball sized number wedged beneath my collarbone). I’d started reading your blog when we were both gym rats and health food addicts, and suddenly there we both were: sick, scared, and at the mercy of the sliding-scale clinic.

What struck me then and what strikes me now is how good it was to have your voice to turn to, even when you didn’t have much in the way of hope to give. There I was, 29 and scared, alienated from my body and uncertain about the future. Reading your words helped me own that fear and uncertainty, and embrace the fact that I, too was a “whiny pissy complaining sissy,” and that, considering the circumstances, that was a pretty freaking healthy reaction.

Anyway. I’ve only just discovered your new blog, and I’m happy to see that you’re well, recovering, and surrounded by such gorgeous dogs.

(And I feel like I should add, just for the record, that my tumor turned out to be benign, and that two surgeries and a metal plate in the collarbone later, I’m doing just fine, though sitting at home with a blanket over my head has replaced going to the gym for me. How soon can I sign up for that online personal training service?)

4:43 AM  

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