(Note: This particular blog shares my cancer experience during the spring of 2003.)
I have always known that “time heals.” However, when you have metastasized cancer, time has a way of “stopping” or “moving very slowly.” It is now early April 2003, and I am still recovering from my major lung surgery (May 2002) and from my bouts with arthritis. Those “bouts” are a now a “daily battle” -- my body does not want to work right anymore. My fingers are swollen and there are bumps that have formed at every joint. I have trouble writing with a pen or typing on the keyboard. So, writing anything is a major challenge. That frustrates me, which furthers causes emotional stress. The emotional turmoil in my life is a constant roller coaster ride; if lucky, an occasional merry go round. (I hate both rides!)
The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life 2003 took place at the University of Central Florida. My team, Cancer Historians, raised $1,500. Many of my team members were from the Disney Reservation Center. They came on board to support me and in the process, ended up helping a greater cause. We had a wonderful time decorating our site and selling hot dogs and hamburgers all night long -- we had two tiny tabletop BBQ grills going. My brother, Gary, along with our Mom, made sure the process ran smoothly. I honored my cousin Sharon’s memory during the Luminaria Ceremony, standing quietly over the bag with her name. Later that night, I left for several hours to go home and get some sleep, about four hours total. I came back early the next morning, still exhausted but wanting to make sure that things were okay and that our team would still be there for the final ceremony. RFL that year was special for many reasons -- and although I would remain physically worn out for days afterwards, it was worth it.
With Relay over, my “busy life” comes to an end and now, I’m spending more time feeling depressed. I keep noting how “depressed” I am. I an unable to function on any level. I wake up -- sometimes I eat and sometimes I don’t. I sit around feeling lonely and upset. I try reading a novel to escape the moment, but that only works for a short time. I sleep a lot. I remain very confused about my entire life and the direction I am going. I feel like a real “loser” at times. I have no money to do anything -- disability payments do not go very far. I remain “depressed” about money issues and that certainly does not help my overall emotional state of mind.
I continue to go to the breast cancer support group at MD Anderson, and although I also see a mental health counselor as well, my “ups and downs” keep me in flux. Nothing is going right, at least, that’s how I see life. I’m collecting bills that we cannot pay. The monthly outflow of money far exceeds the incoming. I slowly begin to “withdraw” from reality. While Edward keeps talking about our bills and the shortages we are encountering, I go further into my depression. I “freak out” when money issues are mentioned. I “freak out” when anything I do not want to acknowledge is brought up. Right now, time is not “healing me.” I get “pissed off” easily and begin calling Edward by some not so nice names. Talk about marital discord. Trust me when I say that these times were rough and surviving took incredible strength. I wasn’t so sure I could survive.
Health wise, tests showed my cancer was in a maintaining status. So, that was good. I had accomplished a huge goal. I was remaining cancer free. But, my pain levels (using the established pain scale of 1 - 10) continued to remain high. I often dealt with a daily level of 7 or higher, depending upon how active I was. I continued to take a multitude of drugs everyday. I kept a daily log of my medications, just to ensure that I took my doses at the right time and if needed, used my break through pain medication as prescribed. I was on heavy narcotics, so I did not take this process lightly. There was too much at stake. The news constantly reminded me of individuals overdosing on prescription medications. I was using these same drugs -- so with my high level of depression, I knew I was in a “high risk” category. And that further terrified me.
I knew someone who used to say: “Life sucks and then you die!” I often wondered why these words were spoken. I wanted to live and I was fighting for my life. Plus, I never sat around pondering death. Yet, in my deepest, darkest moments -- when my tears were overflowing and my pain levels reached the highest levels possible, that emotional roller coaster reached peak speeds. I was in the “ride of a lifetime” -- and those crazy six words actually began to make sense.