Getting Beyond Your Cancer-Crazy

It all began the other day when I was taking a shower. I was sitting there, on a stool, underneath my mom’s supervision because I cannot shower on my own yet, and I became overcome with emotion. I had not really cried about my own situation since I had found out about it about a month or so before. If you know me, you probably understand that this is actually quite impressive. I have always been very in-tune with my emotions, if you will. People have actually complimented me on my ability to really feel my emotions, which I always found a tad humorous, but hey a compliment is a compliment and I won’t back down from one easily. Well, if you were a friend telling me this, I took it as a compliment. If you were an ex-boyfriend, on the other hand, I thought you were being an insensitive tool. Regardless, I had not taken any pity on myself for quite some time and suddenly I felt the absolute and overwhelming urge to do so.

Maybe just a few tears, I thought. A minor pity party will do. But it was too late. I had let some tears fall and tons of their friends came to join the party in droves. I was having a good old-fashioned sob fest right there in my shower. I couldn’t really move so I was just sitting there letting the water fall over me, washing away my tears, with my mom looking in on me saying, “it will be alright.”

The quiet crying exploded and became loud, extreme wails, accompanied by heaving, and painful sobs. And I couldn’t stop. Now, before you go on congratulating me for being so strong, a big reason why I had not really cried much over my situation stemmed from an absolute stubbornness—I don’t want to let the cancer win. If I break down and get all sad and pitiful, then that means the cancer is winning. There is a big part of me that is so against letting cancer have any impact on me it is borderline concerning. For it to change my life, define my life, or be my life means that it has won, and I don’t like getting beat. Not by anyone. Play scrabble with me once and you will understand. So, a major reason why I refused to get all down on myself was really just to shove it to the cancer. But hey, whatever works, right?

I am reading the book “Crazy, Sexy, Cancer,” by Kris Carr who was diagnosed with stage four cancer in her early 30s, and with a few minor and some major changes in her life, she was able to basically stop the cancer from killing her. (Note: if you are dealing with cancer stop reading this blog immediately and go get her book…NOW!) In her book, she actually instructs her readers to allow three days to wallow in one’s own cancer sadness and only three days. When I was first diagnosed and read that, I was running on adrenaline and I felt as though three days was a bit much. Really, I thought? I am going to be super bummed out for three days at a time? No way. Give me one good cry and I will be right back in the game. Little did I know, she was absolutely right. For some reason there is a magic to the number three in cancer-time and that is what I have found it takes to really bounce back and get back out there with those lucky cancer-free people you are trying so hard to not despise. So I allowed myself three days to just be mad, sad, annoyed—you name it I was it.

At first, I was so angry that I had had to have the mastectomy. I couldn’t get over it. That was all I could think about. I WAS SO ANGRY! It hurts, I can’t feel my arm or underarm about 50% of the time, putting on deodorant has quickly become the worst part of my day, I am always hot, I can’t exercise, and I cannot get comfortable even with the aid of about ten pillows. Comfort, currently, just isn’t a possibility. I was just so ticked off. Another day I could not stop crying. Anything would set me off. But as I always tell my sister—crying is good for the complexion—so I just let the tears roll. By the third day, I was an absolute horror. No one wanted to be around me. I couldn’t even use the cancer card. It was too late. The card had expired. I was an awful person and everyone had given up on me. Even my mom, which almost never happens. She literally was scared of me, I think. Every time I entered a room she left it. Circumstance? Doubtful.

By the fourth day, the clouds had lifted and I was semi-normal again. It was Sunday, which means football, and you really can’t get me down on football Sunday (at least until the Cowboys lose) so that helped. (Until, of course, the Cowboys inevitably lost.) It is also Halloween weekend, which happens to be my favorite holiday. (I have purchased a cupcake costume but can’t really go anywhere so I will be that crazy person just sitting at home, on the couch, in a full-blown cupcake costume with nowhere to go.) But Halloween was another positive that enabled me to climb out of my cancer-crazy. I am able to maintain conversations again and family members are not running from me in fear. All good things.

The moral of the story is that it isn’t all going to be a cakewalk. I know, real enlightening, right? Well, to me, it actually sort of was. I didn’t realize how low this whole cancer thing could get a person. Sure, call it ignorant or whatever you will. I choose to try and remain as positive as possible so these moments of absolute despair came as a shock to me. I have found, however, that you will have the inescapable moments when you want to kill someone, the thought of another shot of wheatgrass makes you cry, or small, fuzzy bunnies anger you. You will not understand it, but you are justified in your feelings. Try and deal with them constructively as to not burn too many bridges. My mom has to talk to me again so it is good I took it out on her. (She may have a different take on the story, but hey, I say, GET YOUR OWN BLOG MOM!)

For those of you reading this that are undergoing treatment or about to, I remembered a tip that I wanted to share with your section of my audience in particular. For the big, whopping, let’s-get-down-in-the dumps-weekends, you may have aspirations to have; this next tip might not be for you. However, I have found that in those moments when you are at the supermarket, eyeing yet another kid buying a pack of powdered sugar donuts while you angrily ask the employee where the organic aisle is so you can stock up on tasteless yet nutritious foods, this tip might work splendidly—it does for me. Just stick with me because it may seem a bit trivial but it really isn’t. I promise.

My instructions are to find your happy place. For me I picked a few. They are each a time period in or a snapshot of my life where I felt an overwhelming sense of calmness and peace. (I only have about two or three of these moments in my lifetime anyways, so it wasn’t hard to choose.) I know this may sound so simple but it is actually much more difficult than it sounds to get to this place when you are dealing in the moment and your mind is spinning from one negative thought to the next. Dude, you gotta get it together. If you have not found that happy place, you may find yourself in a dark spot that you just can’t get out of. When I start to go there I have these moments in time that I go to. Meditate, do a downward dog, or just sit quietly in the sun and get to your place of tranquility and get there quick. The more thought you put into your happy snapshot before you are overcome with a sense of sadness, the easier it will be to get back there. And that, my friend, is how you go from crazy to calm in sixty seconds. And if you can’t get there, leave the supermarket fast, if not for you, for the sake of the kids.


14 thoughts on “Getting Beyond Your Cancer-Crazy

  1. You are so brave, Abby, to share your honest journey with us. More power to you! So many of your lines made me grin (isn’t that the point of a cancer blog? lol) and it’s heartening to see you show that strength doesn’t mean lack of downers, but the fact that you go through them and keep going!

  2. Poised on the brink of the pits is a tough place to be. My latest trick is to sing and compose my own songs, an exercise only to be done in privacy. The benefit is probably the resulting humor of that effort!!

    There is a brave gal who will heal
    Her scars track across and skin seal
    She writes very well and time will soon tell
    A story both pleasant and real!

    Thanks for sharing your journey to expand our understanding.

  3. Abby hang in there and please DO ALLOW yourself dome “down” days! You will have more up days then down – but it’s OK to be Human too. I love your happy place – I had my “go-to” place too – visited it often. You’ve grieved for your loss and now you’ll move forward. You have a real gift for writing – wish you didn’t have to have this fist hand experinc but know that’s what make your blog real and helpful to so many. Keep looking forward! Keep writing. Hugs and prayers.

  4. You are hysterical. Or, perhaps I should say, “you WERE hysterical.” 🙂 I’m sure you weren’t completely psycho, Abby. I’m sure you were only a “teensy bit” scary. Ok, maybe more than a teensy bit … but hey … you’re entitled. Now, smile while you eat your kale. 😉

  5. Hey there cupcake! Happy Halloween. I know that the shrapnel of a cancer explosion is ugly and the days can hit all time lows….but you will make it. You will get strong again. And comfort does return…in time. On October 27th, I had my two year diagnosis date…(18 months from chemo and a bi-lateral mast/oopherectomy) and I celebrated by attending an adventure retreat in Utah. Canyoneering, a 6000 foot hike to a rock ledge in Zion NP, learned how to paddleboard, and took a big fat breath to enjoy the loveliness around me in nature and people. You WILL get back to “:Abby”…So glad that you have love and support in your corner. Go Fight Win!

  6. I wish I could make it go away. It hurts me to know how much pain you are in, but I do believe you are rising above this and giving cancer the kick it deserves. I look forward to reading about all the lessons you learn along the way and wonder how long it will be before you decide that deodorant is overrated.

  7. Abby, it has been a long time. From the year and a half we knew each other, and the semester we lived together, I knew you were tough–and, rightfully so, crazy about your hair! (yours was always beautiful and shiny, mine was always wavy and puffy). In any event, I have no doubt you will kick cancer in the ass, and retain your gorgeous locks . I am sorry that you have to go through this crap, but there must be a reason. Maybe it’s to show the rest of us what strength is. Maybe it’s for some purpose none of us can ascertain. No matter what, I am praying for your smooth and quick recovery. Much love, Julie Hoover Brodis

  8. A major health issue is like grief—SO complex & with SO many emotions that have to be dealt with! Thinking of you & your family & keeping you in prayer! God will continue to strengthen you through this difficult time. God Bless! Sherry Armstrong(Heather’s Mom)

  9. One of the neatest stories about finding your happy place that I ever heard came at a women’s retreat where the speaker who had her doctorate in theology was telling of her experiences with breast cancer many years before. She said that on the worst days she would picture the female form of God as God our Mother holding her in her lap and gently rocking her in a rocking chair while caressing her and whispering encouraging words in her ear. I have claimed the same visualization and it is one of my very favorites. People who do not have a Mother God as well as a Father God miss out on so much. I really need both to feel completely loved.

  10. I really think that you in your cupcake costume may hit the cover of Vogue any day now…..if not, it should at least make your blog….just sayin’…
    You are allowed your “down” days…..I hope you find many more “happy places” though.

  11. Going thru the breast cancer thing – got my chemo verdict today- had a bad night last night my niece sent me your blogs Terrrified of what’s ahead but so glad to have you to read.

      • First treatment went well.Was ready with bed made on bathroom floor! Didn’t need it. Waiting for the conehead Charles manson girl effect to happen. DREAD IT THE MOST.Wigs ande ski caps in ohio in the August heat – gross.

      • I am so glad it is going well!!! I am not sure what chemo you are having, but one of the best tips I have is to drink more water than you possibly think you need 🙂 Something with electrolytes is the best. As for the hair, it is traumatic, I can’t lie. But after a few days I got surprisingly used to it. One of my favorite hats was a chemo beanie: They are all super lightweight… great for summer. Enjoy the good days and I am praying for you. And thank you for letting me know how you are doing!

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