Funerals

I was watching a TV show the other night where one of the characters went to a relative’s funeral and was the only one who showed up. I remember thinking how sad that was. Evidently the relative was a bitter, angry, nasty, person and had alienated the rest of the family. And that got me thinking. (Don’t you just love it when a word, a phrase, a TV episode, triggers a blog post?)

I sometimes wonder what life will be like without me in it. I know the world won’t stop. There is just so much I still want to do, so I have no intention of dying any time soon, but I’m curious about what it will be like. Will my dogs miss me (assuming I die before they do)? Will my partner find someone else? And how long will my spirit hang around? Will anyone know I’m there?

I don’t think I’m afraid of dying. I am afraid of what I’ll miss. Is that the same thing? I think I’m more curious than afraid.

Funerals are for the living to celebrate the life of the one who died. I know they can be sad occasions, but I think they should be celebrations. A time to remember. And as long as someone remembers the dead, they are not truly dead.

Until my death arrives, I think I’ll hang around and live the best life I can.

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Hypochondria

I may have touched on this topic before, and if I did, I’m sorry, but here it is again. There are so many side effects associated with cancer and with chemotherapy that it’s hard to know what symptoms are from side effects and what symptoms aren’t. Sure, there is a whole laundry list of side effects for each chemotherapy drug; and there is a reasonable expectation that a particular combination will produce particular side effects. But what happens when the side effects are not part of the known ones? Does that mean I’m weird? Does it mean something else is going on not associated with either cancer or chemo?

The last time I met with my oncologist and told him some of my side effects, he stared blankly at me for a few seconds as if he couldn’t quite believe what I was describing. It seems he had never heard of what I was describing to him. And maybe he hadn’t. Maybe the side effects I was having were totally unique to me; or maybe others have the same symptoms just not in his practice. And that brings me to the hypochondria part.

Every time there’s a new twinge, ache, pain, or any other thing that’s out of the ordinary, it can set off a mild panic. What is this? Chemo-related? Cancer-related? Something new? Is it serious enough to call my oncologist’s office or should I wait to see if it goes away? And it doesn’t help that my brain is fuzzy so my reasoning can sometimes be a little off. I know my team has told me to call any time I have concerns, but I feel foolish taking up their time with something as trite as a small swelling on my neck that could just be from the weight gain. But then again, what if it’s something else? It seems silly, but I do agonize over these decisions. What if it’s nothing? What if it’s something? So I usually end up calling, and it’s usually nothing.

At this point, I’m thinking it’s better to call and find out it’s nothing than to not call and have it be something that should have been dealt with. I’ve come too far in the last 4 months to let anything stop me now. So I will continue to monitor myself, and I will call when something seems off. Even if I can’t quite articulate it. Because who knows me and my body better than I do?

Panic attacks

I have never, ever, in my life had a full blown panic attack; but I came very close to it today. I was scheduled for an MRI on the brain (yes, I do have a brain!) I lasted only 5 minutes and had to stop the test. I’m not sure what happened, but I just couldn’t stand it a moment longer. I’ve never had claustrophobia, but then I’ve never been in such a small space like that, either. It was a combination of the machine noises – it’s been described as lying on a freeway with the noise and vibration – or on the end of a runway when planes are taking off and landing over your head – being flat on my back and feeling like I couldn’t breathe (I haven’t slept on my back ever) or maybe this test just made the diagnosis real. Whatever it was, I had to get up and leave. The techs were so supportive and extremely understanding, while I felt like an idiot. I know that others have the same reaction, but I’m a strong person and should have been able to handle this test. I need to start being a little more forgiving of myself.

So now the test has been rescheduled for Thursday, with IV sedation. Tomorrow afternoon I will have a PET scan and Friday I will have the biopsy. We have a meeting with the oncologist on Thursday afternoon; we’re hoping that we can make some decisions even before the biopsy results – at least he should have the MRI and PET scan and the blood work for tumor markers. I’m learning a whole new vocabulary here.

One of my concerns right now is finances. I don’t know how much my insurance will cover and how much we will have to pay ourselves.

And I’m scared. Just scared of the unknown I think. I don’t know what treatment will be like or even if treatment is an option. I don’t know whether the treatment will work or how it will make me feel. I do know that surgery and radiation are not options for me. But perhaps chemo will shrink the tumors enough that one of the other will be an option down the road. Or it could be that nothing will work and I will die before I’m ready.

Most of the time, I don’t think about what’s going on in my body because I’m busy at work or doing things around the house. But I will suddenly find myself tearing up for no reason and even sobbing at my desk. This is hard for me to accept, and even harder for my partner, who is a total control freak. The fact that this is something he can’t fix is wearing on him. He is organizing everything for me and has made friends with the people we need in our corner. So I’m leaving that part to him. I’m focusing on my job and making sure that there are people trained to take care of things if I’m not there. I am learning to prioritize what only I can do and what I can delegate to others. And I have arranged for Family Medical Leave so I can stay home when I need to but still work when I can.

I’m sorry if this seems rambling, but my thoughts aren’t very coherent today.

Managing anger

I saw a segment on TV this morning that started my train of thought going. The segment was on the fact that those who express their anger live, on average, two years longer than those who bottle it up. I know that bottling up anger is bad for your heart, and for your health in general. I also know that years of suppressing anger can lead to a person exploding – i.e. ‘going postal’ as it was termed. That explosion can be catastrophic for not only the person exploding, but also those around him/her.

I was taught from an early age that expressing anger is not okay. We, as women, are supposed to just go along with whatever happens because it isn’t ‘ladylike’ to get angry. So we bottle up the anger and suddenly, sooner or later, we find ourselves depressed, or unhappy with our lives, or suicidal. Men are taught that expressing anger isn’t okay because expressing any emotion is not ‘manly’. So men bottle up their anger until they also find themselves unhappy, depressed, or attacking their loved ones or strangers.

I wonder if this is why we have mass shootings. Do these people just explode from bottling everything up for so long? Have they been bullied? Do they not know how to express what they are feeling? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that we all should learn how to express our feelings in a constructive way.

I don’t get angry very often; I’m an easygoing kind of person. But when I do get angry, I tend to spew words all over the place. I don’t yell; I don’t even raise my voice. The words are preceeded by a deadly calm quiet. My ex and my kids never knew when I would reach my limit, and it happens maybe once in ten or so years, so they never learned the warning signs.

Other people I know tend to rant and rave and jump up and down for hours when they get angry. And some people I know don’t express it at all. We need to teach our kids that expressing emotions is healthy and necessary, because if we don’t tell people how we feel, how are they supposed to know? I’m not advocating that we begin emoting all over the place, but to learn what and when it is appropriate to express ourselves and when it is necessary to just walk away.

A beautifully written piece about the young woman in India who was gang-raped and died from her injuries.

Olio talk by Suchitra Kaushiva

 

So then, what is it about this 23 year-old girl who raised the conscience of India on December 16, 2012?

Was it the barbaric way in which she met her end?

Was she the last straw that broke the back of an overladen camel?

Was it her young age, her thwarted ambitions and aspirations, or her
parents’ unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations?

Was it her last wish, to be able to survive and make it out of her nightmarish ordeal?

All the above perhaps, and maybe just something more.

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