Monthly Archives: April 2024

Fish out of Water

This picture asks a thousand questions. My best guess, a small child was escorted to the bathroom. Said child held shark toy until perfectly aligned above the toilet. At which point, small child let go, releasing the shark back to the water. Wasn’t it “Nemo” who taught us “all routes lead to the sea?”

One hopes the toy was dropped into a “clean” bowl of water, allowing adult escort of child to fish out the toy. (Pun intended). But then, how does adult convince small child to leave the shark on the rim? And if one goes to the effort of retrieving something from the toilet, wouldn’t the more obvious place of eternal rest be a trash bin? Or…someone before me found this little treasure in the water and retrieved it in case small child returned? Not sure I would be that person, but it’s comforting to imagine a world where such humans exist!

Back to the shark, which not only provided a wonderfully unexpected photo to send to my son who is vocal about his fear of sharks, but it also brought enormous joy from a normally mundane activity.

But how does this track with my current journey?

A few weeks ago, I described being in a state of anxiety and apprehension. My first chemo treatment was right around the corner. I felt like a fish out of water – flailing and unsure how I got here. How does one navigate the terrors of the unknown –  especially unknowns with names that illicit horrific connotations – like emergency surgery, or chemo? But, I’m discovering time marches on, and eventually, the terror inducing moment weaves itself into the fabric of personal history.

I survived my first round of treatments. The days after were not exactly fun, but they are in the review mirror. While I never wanted to say “been there done that” regarding chemo (and five treatments still to go), there is something to be said for a familiarity gained from experience.

Especially the experience of being a fish out of water.

While I’m learning to allow the spectrum of feelings their moment, it helps to remember, regardless of my feelings, time will move me along…through the thing…until it becomes a blip on my linear timeline. My dad used to boil it down to a well-known saying, “This too shall pass.”

Like my little shark friend, at some point, we all find ourselves on the brink of a toilet experience, literal or metaphorical. Chemo is my current toilet experience. However, I would bet a sizable sum my little shark friend is no longer in the same place. And neither am I. Round 2 starts on Monday and yes, I feel a bit anxious, but less so. Cheers to progress!

If you are in a toilet experience, remember my little shark friend. Perhaps the only constant in this life is change. Which means, toilet experiences don’t last forever.

You are Here

Where is here? State of confusion…denial…angst?  Oh yeah, that last one. Definitely the last one.

There is not much I remember about my childhood. I contracted chicken pox when I was five and we were moving. That was a hassle. Or I was. When you’re five you don’t differentiate that line very well. I also remember having a lot of emotion as a kid (and by kid I mean anywhere from birth to like mid-thirties). What can I say? I’m a deep feeler.

At some point, I realized I needed to figure out how to control some of that emotion. The goal was to learn to live in the state of even-keel. How I felt about something wasn’t nearly as important as what was true. The energy previously spent on an emotional response was channeled into that fun game that Pita from the Hunger Games played when he could no longer make sense of the hijacked memories – “Real, not real.”

I could say I got pretty good at it. I still have a lot of feelings. But I guess that’s just it. I’ve learned to redirect. I think that’s how I would describe it. I show passion in my work. I extend emotion to my family. The good feels can stay, but there must have been a moment of epiphany when I decided negative emotions no longer served a valid purpose. Why waste the energy?

How’s that working you ask? I’d say okay until recently when the excrement hit the high velocity spinning device.

Just a few minutes ago, as I was wrapping up an anxiety attack (we will get to that in a bit), I had this weird flashback. I was standing in front of one of those directory, map-like thingies found in malls to guide you to Cinnabon. Guess what was missing? A giant red star, created to state the obvious, “You are here.” I couldn’t find it anywhere! As I frantically searched, the world started to pull away, like the waters receding from the beach in anticipation of a giant wave. An existential tsunami was gathering just off the horizon of my subconscious…

“Okay, I got it. Let’s go.” My husband pulled on my sleeve, snapping me into an alternate reality where he is now giving me directions. (heehee)

This flashback floats back as I’m in child’s pose on my bed (which I would like to think is a step up from the fetal position), focusing on my breathing. The map flashback is so absurd it makes me chuckle. Oh the times I have mocked that red star.

You are here.

My current life map happens to have a giant red star. “Here” is recovering from the insertion of a port into my chest officially marking the countdown to chemo.

Here is shit. (Look at me! I’m practicing having negative emotions). I don’t want to be here. I don’t want my family to be here, or my friends, or the dermatologist I saw today who gave me good news, but was clearly uncomfortable being in the room with someone so close to walking into the veiled and uncertain world of chemotherapy. Probably why they pursued dermatology. And for observation sake, how is a sense of humor not required to enter the medical field? Did Patch Adams teach us nothing? 

Anyway, nobody wants to be here.

A week ago, I had a run in with fear and panic. Once again, the good feels swooped in to save the day. Perspective arrived and the world made sense again.

Until it didn’t.

Apparently a dalliance with fear and panic is not a one and done type thing. Noted. And they don’t always present in the same way.

In an ongoing attempt to do “normal” things and stay just this side of sanity (avoid negative emotion), I have been making an effort to connect. This has created some awesome moments, one being lunch recently with some dear friends who I see maybe twice a year. They are the kind of friends you sit down with and dive into deep discussion, peppering the entire conversation with laughter. But also, they have seen some stuff. I trust them and asked them to look at my most recent battle wounds (port incisions).

“Does it look right? Not infected or anything?”

“No,” they reply in tandem, “looks okay, why?”

“I just feel weird. I’m spending way more time thinking about breathing, which I have always relied on as an autonomous action, and I feel something in my chest. Like my chest hurts. That can’t be good, right?”

There was an awkward pause as the three of them looked at me. I braced myself. I’m dying, and they can’t find the words.

“Um…” one of them began with trepidation, “it sounds like anxiety.”

I stared back at them and tried to digest this information along with the salmon I had just eaten. Anxiety? Like Ted Lasso? Should I watch that show for the third time straight through as a type of research? (Just a quick glance into my thought process). 

You are here.

I currently reside in the state of anxiety. I have been trying to distract myself – reading, embroidery, making bracelets, checking I don’t have skin cancer – and although there is a strong possibility I will be fine in six months, logic doesn’t always seem to win. Or at least not long term.

My chest hurts, I keep telling myself to breath, and tears are always standing at the ready to cascade down my face. AGH!!!

But I am here. And I committed to learning on this journey – I dubbed cancer Professor C. I get him for a semester, he’s an ass, but I’ll learn something. My first lesson? How to process emotion (not be so quick to dismiss it) and figure out how to feel all the feels. Not just the ones that are comfortable.

BTW, the “gown” angst persists. The dermatologist’s office had me don a “paper gown”. Her exact words. I really wanted to say something, but my previous attempts a breaking the ice (humor is my go to when I know I am going to have to get naked) had created a thick fog of awkward, so I left it alone. Her loss. Anyway, I think I’ve decided it, the “gown”, should just be referred to as an article. “This…put this on.” It doesn’t deserve to be a noun.