I have been gone lately. Not physically away from my usual place of residence, but in every other way. The past couple of months have been really hard on me. The added pressure and stress of 2 adults and 2 babies living with me was hard. Actually it was far too much for me to handle, being in the midst of other peoples problems (large ones) and living in the middle of my own trying to be healthy and happy and positive and take good care of myself while I got chemo every other week and mostly felt like poop. It was as if I had absolutely no control over my life, especially in the one area that it mattered most, in my home sanctuary.
I made the decision to place my name on the waiting list for public, or assisted, or transitional housing…whichever you prefer to call it. I had to get a doctors letter saying that my condition was so extreme that they (he) did not expect me to live longer than 12 months. It was a quiet but extreme blow to my psyche (which I did not learn until later would be so damaging to my mental health). I mean I have this paper that said, “Put this girl at the TOP of the list for housing because we think she will die soon”. Not exactly what will pump you up into a positive mental attitude. My decision to move into assisted housing was due to many parts but basically came down to one really large and unavoidable circumstance. I simply could not afford to help my boyfriend pay for his mortgage any longer and he could not cover it all by himself, especially since he is unemployed (well he is now working part time as a ski instructor but we all know it is not a job you do for the money, it is for the pass and the environment) and working on going back to grad school. He is getting roommates to share the house and rent with so that he can pay the mortgage. He already has one and is now looking for another. So now there are two people and two dogs at my old home that I loved so much…the yard! The sunshine! The garden and compost! The neighborhood feel! Mowing grass and doing yard work! Watching the hummingbirds at the feeder! Oh! It is nothing like where I am now.
Due to the chemotherapy eating away both the cancerous cells and the perfectly good cells in my body (such as brain cells as well as other cells) it has been hard for me to cope lately. Emotionally I am a complete basket case. Logically I cannot think clearly or in any way to be able to make rational or logical decisions. I collapse in a heap, defeated, lost, confused and sobbing when trying to make up my mind about even the smallest of things. Every time I receive chemo within the next 3 hours I can literally FEEL my body off gassing, no joke! I can feel the cells in my brain and eyes being literally eaten away and I feel as if I am sitting in vapors being emitted by my own body. This feeling usually goes on for the remainder of the evening until I am able to fall asleep (which also is not easy due to the prednisone they give prior to the chemo to help the anti-nausea medicine do its job more effectively). I am an emotional train wreck. Of course it would make sense that my boyfriend and I would have relationship problems. I can’t even deal with me most of the time, how can I expect someone else to be able to? So of course we have had problems communicating. I did not know what to do so my mother came down over Thanksgiving to help me pack my belongings and move them into a storage unit. I had help from a dear friend. Then on December 8th my mom came back to Portland and helped me get most of the rest of my stuff into storage. On the 10th I temporarily moved into a hotel for a week to take care of some vet and doctors appointments (chemo) that I had scheduled. This week I also ran around madly to try to get the paperwork together for my public housing to go through. I drove to Seattle on Dec 17th to spend the rest of the year with my mom and to wait for my housing to hopefully open up by the New Year. I arrived in Seattle on Saturday and on Monday I got a call from the housing authority of Portland saying that I had a spot and that I needed to come right away to secure it and sign a lease. I drove back to Portland the next day to take care of business. 365 sq/ft studio, small but clean on the 4th floor facing west to get the afternoon sunlight. On my way home I spent the night with my uncle and aunt who live halfway between Seattle and Portland because I couldn’t make a 7-hour drive in one day. They are so wonderful my aunt and uncle! Then it was back to Seattle to try to visit one of my good friends. We have been finding it very hard to get together. I botched that visit by neglecting to stay in touch to set up a good time and day for us to get together. I am beyond spacey and flakey. Anyone who is close to me knows that. I constantly forget important things. Lately I have felt so out of control and hopeless that I avoid everyone and everything often blowing off really important things because it to just simply too much for me to handle both physically and emotionally. Thank you chemotherapy.
Christmas was spent with my grandmother and my mother’s family in Olympia. Even though it was enjoyable seeing everyone all I could think about is how fucked up my life is, how I missed Thanksgiving, and now am missing Christmas even though I was physically present. What holidays?! More like “chemo-daze” to me. Then we drove back home Christmas eve to take care of my diabetic and hyperthyroid cat (who I LOVELOVELOVE!!!) Christmas day my mother and I spent trying to relax and enjoy ourselves. We mostly used the time to sleep from exhaustion and plan our following day, which involved driving to Tenino and meeting my aunt. We used my uncle’s truck to move my things out of the storage into my new tiny place. It took all day long and boyfriend helped too. We didn’t get it all done (still things in storage, things scattered around my old house, my aunts home, my storage and my new apartment). My life (my belongings) is/are scattered in 4 different places. We had diner together and than my mom and aunt left to go back home as it was late and they had to go to work the next day. I am now all alone in my place. I cannot walk or move or unpack because of all the boxes everywhere. I go out of my door and I am reminded about where I live…the hallways smell like smoke and the sick and elderly like greasy food and unhealthy lifestyles. 95% of the people I meet who live here tell me “You better watch out and be careful around here! There are drugs and druggies everywhere and you can get anything you want. Be careful about who you talk to.” Those are the people who do communicate with me. The others seem to have a fine time communicating with themselves. I know that everyone has their own shit to overcome and I am trying my very best to not be judgmental. I feel so completely out of place here. I am surrounded by others who are not like me and I am uncomfortable. I try not to make eye contact with anyone because they will just start talking to me and asking questions like “how old are you?!” “why are you here?” (like it is prison or that I did something bad to end up here) blah, blah, blah…..
I spent the first 5 days here sobbing and contemplating my life and how it came to this. I watched Louise Hay videos trying to find a glimmer of hope among them. They only made me feel worse. I quite literally wanted to throw myself in front of a bus or train. I hid from everyone and did not leave my apartment. Locked inside with a mountain of boxes that I could not walk around. I would decide to be more upbeat and begin to unpack a bit. That would ultimately leave me confused and overwhelmed wondering where I would put anything, where anything was in the first place (you should try finding things you have packed away when you have chemo brain, impossible!) and if I should even unpack at all or just leave it in the box and put it all back into storage and run as fast as I could up to my mom to live with her in her small apartment in Seattle. That opened up a new can of worms, changing medical insurance, hoping I could get insurance in WA, how long would it take, did I really want to leave Portland, etc. -too many decisions for a stressed out, emotional basket case like me to make. I shut down. I just sat in my apartment in front of open boxes sobbing not knowing what to do. This has been to date the absolute lowest point in my life. I never thought I would say that anything was harder than learning I had cancer but THIS WAS. All I could think was that this, THIS has got to be the absolute bottom. How could it be worse? I felt completely alone, abandoned, lost, hopeless, afraid, uncertain, confused, beaten, overwhelmed, and like I had not only let down so many other people but now I am letting down myself and even my cat. Where was the good? Why does it have to be always so hard? Didn’t I put in my time? Didn’t I put enough good karma into the world yet to start getting a little back? I went to undergrad, then on to get two masters degrees and now I am living in assisted public housing, literally on less than $10/day!!! Where was the future I wanted? The awesome career that I spent 8 years of my life striving towards? WHY ME? WHY WHY WHY!!!!!??? What did I do wrong? How can I even do anything right when I cannot even think?
The last week has literally been the lowest point of my life.
My mom came back down on Saturday with the intention of bringing me home with her. She was very worried. I was emotionally battered and lost. I had a cold from the stress/move/chemo/detox/my new place/whatever. I had nightmares every single night about being abandoned and lost and alone. I stopped showering or changing clothes or caring about eating or anything. I stopped functioning. Complete shut down, mentally and physically. Today is Tuesday, she left yesterday morning. She helped me make my place feel a lot more homey and comfy and positive. We did a lot of talking. When she left she told me that her intention upon arrival was to take me home with her, but that she felt ok leaving me here because she felt that I was going to be ok. I know it was hard for her to go. It was hard for me to watch her go as the worry started creeping in at the edges again.
I never thought I would be in this place at this time at this point in my life.
I have made a momentous decision. I have decided to take a break, maybe forever, from chemotherapy. I feel it has done good, don’t get me wrong. But I also feel that it has done equally as much harm. I am completely imbalanced in every way. Chemo has been doing a bang up job of killing my cancer cells but it has also done a bang up job of killing a whole lot of good cells as well. I have not had a menstrual cycle since I started chemo, I have not been able to think clearly not even once since I started chemo, I have been nauseous, tired, ill, have had no appetite, and have had no energy for the most part since I started chemo. I feel that it is time for me to take the completely natural approach to riding my body of this dead tumor material. The PET scan I had back in August said “Complete Remission of Disease” but my oncologist says “you still have cancer that isn’t getting picked up on the PET scan most likely and we will continue therapy with you until the day you die!” That day will most likely come sooner than later if I continue getting chemotherapy. Really! The day I die! For the rest of my living days I will get chemo according to my oncologist. This is NOT ok with me.
The last appointment I had to get chemo was not a happy day. I was very emotional and distraught. I asked my oncologist for a break from chemo. I have my next appointment on the 12th (next Thursday). I am going to ask for a longer break, 3 months, until we do another scan to see if they are still shrinking or growing back (they will be shrinking!)
I am convinced that the chemo is no longer doing my body good. I feel it is time for me to gain control over by own body again and walk my talk for real now…Green juices, vegetables, NO CHEMICALS OF ANY KIND and lots of kindness to my self in every way. Acupuncture and some natural therapies (there are lots to chose from out there to fight cancer) are my new regime. Detuning is of the utmost importance. Exercise! Skiing! Climbing! Hiking! Yoga! Rebounding! Finding the joy in life again.
So no more chemo…
To all of my friends and family out there that I have been so flaky with during the past 20 months of chemo induced madness let me say that I am sincerely sorry. I know that you all care and that you all have my best interest in mind and that you truly want to see me because you miss me and care.
I have not ever wanted to be this flaky person. I have never wanted to go through any of this in any small way. But this is my reality at the moment and I am working on making it better.
Please know that just because my scans show that there is a decrease in the size of my tumors etc. that this DOES NOT MEAN that I am feeling good by any stretch of the imagination. I STILL FEEL THE SAME AS I DID 20 MONTHS AGO if not worse. I still have been getting chemotherapy every other week for the last 20 months! Frying every good and bad cell in my body and in my mind. I am sorry if I am not the Laura you used to recognize. I don’t even know if that same person is still here or not…I don’t remember anymore.
I know it will take literally months to detox my body from just the chemo alone. Hopefully the Laura you all know and love will be back in some new and different way soon.
I am literally living on less than $10/day. Anything at all anyone could do would help me out beyond belief. Gift cards that you got for Christmas and don’t think you will use? Gift cards to Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Fred Meyer, Target, Costco, whatever I can use any of these no matter if there is only $1 on it. You can also send me a private message if you wish, those would go a long way right now for giving me the mental and emotional support I need as well, even a card is wonderful if you prefer the old fashioned way. Tell your friends, tell them to tell their friends. You don’t need my permission to share my story with others. If you know me well at all, you will also know that I am pretty much an open book. I wear my heart and emotions on my sleeve and I have been withdrawn lately. I know something is up and I have avoided telling my story for so long now it hurts. I need to get this out of me and into the universe knowing that I am supported and loved in every way and every minute of every day walk in gratitude and joy being present in this moment and grateful and fortunate for it all…Ahem….
I still have some t-shirts “Cancer Can Suck It!” if anyone is interested just let me know. I also have “Cancer Can Suck It” “I’m A Cancer Assassin” buttons/pins for sale. And as soon as I can afford gas to go back to the coast I will have more supplies for making mobiles.
My new address is:
4400 NE Broadway #406
Portland OR 97213
I would love to hear from you. Right now it is time to make some green juice and go for a walk. That is at least a good step in the right direction.
Peace, love, light, health, joy, gratitude and many blessings to all in this wonderful New Year of 2012. Every day is a blessing.