Saturday, May 10, 2014

The long road ahead

Is that at odd title for someone who finished treatment for cancer? Hear me out.
At the beginning of April I finished radiation which was the third leg of treatment and have since started hormone therapy which is an "easy" pill a day for the next 5-10 years. This stage is huge in preventing cancer from returning. I can say that this round is much easier in some ways than the other. Radiation was annoying because it required daily trips to the hospital (but I did love the people I spent every day with!!!). Chemo turned my body into this pathetic wasteland and led me to release any and all cares of physical appearance. Surgery took a big part of me and left me with new boobies that support themselves and although I am in love with them, they aren't "mine". So with all of this behind me, why the long road ahead?
Well like most times of trial we face in life it exposes other struggles that I had done did a good job keeping at bay. So many things surfaced and since I have more energy now, I'm trying to confront them and either accept them or change them. For example, I have a really hard time sitting with unhappiness. I have always been a firm believer in being proactive in my own life and if I don't like how something is I should change it. I don't need to be unhappy, so why would I let this happen? The trouble with that is sometimes seeking happiness and positivity is exhausting and can take as big of a toll on you as struggles can. When I have bad days or am in a bad mood, the first thing my mind does is try to flip the situation. "It could be so much worse." "You're not the only one who has gone through struggles so deal with it." "Stop being such a whining weenie, Kayla." I don't sit well with icky feelings and spend energy on fixing them. While this is a healthy practice and has shaped  me into the usually cheerful chica I am, I am learning to be ok with admitting something sucked. I was thinking about radiation the other day and how awful it was at times and tried to tell myself right away that so many others have gone through it even longer or more intense so I have nothing to complain about. I had to take a time out and force myself to be like "Actually no, that really did suck. And that's ok." I'm trying to put so much into the long term coping aspect of cancer but how can I do that if I'm not honest with myself. Knowing that I don't have to say every day was great and I don't always have to fake a smile is a huge relief off my back. It's ok to admit when times are tough. Our struggles are only relative to what we know. We all have bad days. We all bitch. And it's all ok. I never allowed myself to sit with the bad feelings that came over the past year and I'm working on doing that now.
One of my students came in the other day crying and didn't know why. It was like looking in the mirror. My hormones have been crazy while adjusting to this medicine and I have been nauseous to the point of voming quite frequently. I felt her pain and oddly found comfort in it too. Finally a moment that was calling me. I shared with her how I often feel like a fragile little bird, tears fall for no reason and a million reasons all at once and I can't stop them. So I shared what I have started to do to  cope with this. I told her sometimes it really can make you feel crazy experiencing so many emotions so strongly. But she's not crazy, she's brave and smart for expressing them. It would be damaging to hold them in. So we sat on the bathroom floor until she felt like she had cried as much as she needed to. When she was ready to stop, I taught her about endorphins and doing something good for herself. I usually go for a long walk when these moments of strong emotion hit me. So outside we went, screaming on the swings, wiggling around the field, shaking our booties at traffic, and dancing back to the doors. Must shake it all out of the system. And then, a deep breath. A big smile. And back to your day. She returned happy and ready to rock. So many times this is how I get on with whatever I have to. But the most important part here again is the letting myself experience whatever emotion I need to. I am learning to be more ok with sitting with the negative. I'm human. I went through something challenging. It sucked. That's ok. I'm ok.
This week was my first week of working that I made it through without crying. Less frequently I am feeling overwhelmed to the point of bursting. My doctor has credited much of my bad reactions to hormone therapy to doing too much and not allowing myself time to rest and heal. Hearing that was the permission I needed to cut myself some slack during the day. I want to ditch the job of taking care of myself first but when you're throwing up on your Hawks jersey that you can't throw into the wash because Coach Q and Sharpie signed it, you realize you need to reorganize your priorities a bit.
I have also been meeting with the lovely folks at Kellogg to see how I can use my story to improve the lives of fighters after me. My time there might be short but I want to be of use to that lovely place while I still can. It's like my dad always says, "Always leave a place better than when you got there." Kellogg changed my life, the lives of my friends and family, and so many others for the better. When I go there I feel at home and an caccooned in love. So it does seem like a long road ahead. A long road of helping and healing. And it's one that I am stoked to be on. Getting myself to a place where I can make a positive impact in the lives of others. Feel free to keep me accountable. This didn't happen for nothing and I am eager to use my experiences for the benefit of others.
I have been getting back into the social routine too which helps everything. "I get by with a little help from my friends." I have always been a lazy toad by nature but weekly trips for dollar beers and sleepovers (even on school nights sometimes!) with friends is good therapy. I missed being stupid and funny and careless. When I think about how much time I spent having to plan all my actions and everything, it feels good to skate the city at night and eat McMuffins for breakfast again. Thankfully my friends don't mind if I fall asleep while hanging out too. They know I'm trying my best :)

What a change the weather has brought. The magic of the sun is something everyone is benefitting from and it has been fun to see everyone outside playing and enjoying. Here's to hoping it stays!!
Thank you for all of the love that I am still receiving. Thank you for being patient with me while I figure my changed self out. Thank you, thank you!

Love  conquers all <3
Hope your weekend is ..

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