Monday, October 15, 2018

"I'm All Good"

This evening I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a post from a fellow breast cancer survivor. Her post said the following:
“…Luckily the cancer hasn’t returned, but the long-term effects take place for years. Seems I have now developed a painful case of endometriosis which research shows can be exacerbated by Tamoxifen-a drug I take to keep the cancer away. So now my doc has decided to, in his words, chemically castrate me. Fun times. This includes a nasty monthly shot of Lupron and an infusion of Zometa. Zometa is similar to a drug I took during chemo that alters bone formation. It caused me lots of pain during chemo. Great. Menopause in one day plus pain. Great combo. This is a good Breast Cancer Awareness month post—know the side effects last for years and that many patients are suffering physically and mentally and you may have no idea. But I am all good. It is what it is.”-Decca Taliaferro Knight

I read that today and my heart went out to Decca. I haven’t experienced that exact thing, but I get the “side effects for years” part.  I get the “I am all good. It is what it is.” 
I run into people all the time and they ask how I’m doing and my answer is and will always be “I’m doing absolutely great!” Because I’m cancer free and I’m not dead and therefore I feel like I need to focus on that. 
Nobody wants to hear that I haven’t read a single book cover to cover in 2 years because of my brain fog or that my body hurts so bad when I get out of bed that it takes an hour of stretching and finesse to get moving. Nobody wants to hear that I could easily sleep 12 hours a night because I still am not back to pre-cancer energy. Friday, I stopped by The Flower Center to help move a dozen or so boxes of wine glasses for a fund raiser. It frustrated me to death that I can’t trust my strength or my balance to carry two boxes at a time. I was never a gym rat or super strong, but three years ago I wouldn’t have thought twice about carrying two of those boxes—in heels no less!

But I am all good.

Sometimes before publicly saying something cancer related, I will actually think to myself, “people are probably sick of hearing about this.” 
And maybe they are. 
The truth of the matter is that I’m probably never going to stop talking about cancer—specifically the type that has touched my life.

Many of us have life defining moments. Marriage is one, children is one—and for me, cancer is one. I have two parts of my life—life before cancer and life after. And this Part B life after will never not be Part A before. I just watched my friend Leecy Fink on the news. If you don’t know Leecy’s story, boy are you missing out on a story of immense inspiration. Tonight, she was talking about the rebuilding of her house. Leecy is a breast cancer sister. Her house was one of the ones in Elon, VA that was flattened by the tornado a few months ago. 
I would guess that Leecy has had many life defining moments. She and her family will be moving into their new house in a few weeks and life will continue. The rest of their lives will continue to be “life after the tornado” though. It can be a wonderful life, but it can never go back to life before tornado. And that’s how cancer is. It can be survived and life can go on, but it can never NOT be a part of you. And there are great opportunities that come with that—opportunities to bless others and advocate and be a light—and there is also a great burden that comes with that.

Now. I told you all of that to tell you this…

I painted my bedroom dresser and chest over the weekend. These pieces were my grandmother’s. They graced her front bedroom for several years. The furniture was a medium tone wood, and while beautiful in her home, the color was too heavy for my taste. For years, I have wanted to paint the dresser and chest, but hadn’t been able to get around to it with three busy kids and then that whole cancer thing. Sunday, I mixed up my paint and I pulled the drawers out of the dresser and moved them to the kitchen table to paint. Behind one of the bottom drawers, I felt something and after feeling around, I discovered that it was a package of tissue paper.
I pulled it out and I looked at it. I knew immediately that it wasn’t mine and therefore had to have been my grandmother’s. And then I smelled it. I know. Weird. But I wanted to know if it smelled like Momaw’s house. And it did. And I smelled it again and again. I put it aside while I finished painting. 
Today I showed Kevin and the kids and I made them smell it. They could smell it also. Then I began to panic that the smell was going to be lost and Kevin told me that it had been in that dresser for five or six years and it wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. He then recalled taking the bedroom suit out the front door of my grandparents’ house and my Papaw holding the door open. When he described that scene, I remembered it vividly and it hit me right in the gut and my tears started just like that. I miss them so much. I miss the smell of the house when I walked in and I miss talks with Momaw while she washed dishes and I miss Papaw’s laugh. Everything. I miss it all. And I had a total breakdown on an ordinary Monday night.

Just like cancer, death is another life defining moment. My life is also marked in another way—life with grandparents and life after.

For many days and weeks and months I think I’m fine and healed and I’ve dealt with all the grief there is to deal with and then just like that, a package of tissue paper brings me to my knees.

We are all living through our many different life-defining moments. Maybe it’s the loss of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, the after effects of an illness, or it could be a hundred other different things. 
When we say “I’m all good” that may be the filtered answer. That may be our strong, best foot forward answer. But it might not be our 100% honest answer.
When you run into someone and you ask them how they're doing and they say "I'm all good" hug them for just a little while longer.

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