Tuesday, September 25, 2012

ALMOST...... BUT NOT QUITE.

When I walked through my door last Friday, two things were waiting for me.  The first, a box delivered by Fedex.  The other, a letter delivered by the post office.  When the letter from the IRS was the highlight of the day and brought me greater joy than the box containing the coveted iPhone5 ON RELEASE DAY.....  that says a bit about a not so great day.

What happened?  Frankly, I was blindsided.  I'm okay today, but on Friday?  Not so much.  Was a time I would joke about PTSD.  I'd goof around about how I was great in a crisis, WHILE the crisis was unfolding and throughout the duration.  Then, once the winds calmed, I was simply done.  Good for nothing, DONE.  Stick a fork in me, DONE.  Just. Done.

I know lots of what I say may be redundant but for those who may not have heard in prior rantings, I am involved in lots of "stuff."  Perhaps, too much at times but for the moment, as that saying goes, "it is what it is."  And whatever "it" is, all of it means lots to me so none of "it" is being cut loose.  And all of "it" began at the hospital where I was treated.  And part of "it" involves volunteering at the hospital.  If one person is a teeny bit less fearful because I was able to just listen and share my own fears, I'm making sense out of the senseless.  Cancer.

It's a sucky word to wrap your brain around and I've said this before, when you are the one in the gown and the word cancer hits the airwaves, the oxygen is sucked right out of those airwaves.  Time passes and it becomes a part of the tapestry of our lives.  I made great progress this year.  SIX years ago, I was on the runaway train.  Every year, those dates would be looming ....  every single date .... big deal dates and no so big deal dates and every date in between.

For me, no dates were more difficult than diagnosis date and big surgery date.  July 27 and September 19.  2006.  Last year, they mattered.  Lots.  In 2012, as those dates approached, they were nothing more than the next days on a calendar. Both days, it was after 7PM before I realized, "Big Date" (and not "hot date" kinda big date either...if you know what I mean).  That's huge.  In the scheme of moving beyond and into the next phase of whatever one likes to call this, definitely HUGE.  For the record..... some might call it their cancer journey and in many respects, it is a journey.  Most of the time, however, it felt more like an obstacle course or a collision course.  Now, it's just part of who I am.  The most important word?  PART... I am not my cancer.

Cancer does not define me but cancer has shaped who I am today.  It has carved the direction of the path upon which I travel.  I have my moments.  I do not like living while looking over my shoulder which happens at times.  It goes with the territory.  It's the haunted house.  Never know when a ghost might jump from behind a corner, always when least expected.

Last Friday, a ghost jumped out at me.  I was at the hospital visiting patients.  I fully expected it would be a quiet day.  The social worker leaves me a list of patients and room numbers.  I don't just walk around arbitrarily and decide if I should pop in for a chat.  Everything is on one floor.  It's the breast cancer floor.  It's M10.  Only four patients on Friday, September 21 and as approached the first two rooms, I skipped past.  One woman was sleeping and the other had medical staff at her bedside.  The other two patients were in the same room.  Rarely does it happen that I visit both patients in a room.  Don't know why but last Friday was only the second time that happened.

As I glanced at the sheet and began walking toward the room, I felt a flood of emotion consume me from head to toe. Something began firing in my brain.  It was the numbers on that paper.  It was the date, it was the room number, it was a FULL BLOWN flashback.  I was having a PTSD flashback.

I realized it was the anniversary of my discharge from the hospital.  On September 21, 2006, I walked out of the hospital, my body forever altered in ways that still mess with my mind.  The person who walked through those doors on 9/19 didn't resemble the woman who exited the same doors on 9/21.  As those thoughts were racing through my brain, I approached that first patient.  I walked through the door and into the room and there was an eerie familiarity.  I was in my room, that was my bed, MY side of the room.

I visited, we chatted and ultimately, I stepped on to the elevator and blinked back the tears.  I walked the corridors to the exit of the building, swallowing the lump in my throat.  I got into my car in the garage, willing my body to cooperate until I could get myself and my car home in one piece.  Can't drive with tear-filled eyes.

When I arrived home, I stopped fighting the tears.  I've come far, but clearly, one never knows when something will trigger those overwhelming emotions.  It wasn't being in the hospital, it wasn't walking into that room, it just WAS.  Because it IS. And because it will always BE.  There. Lurking.

I let my guard down.  I was confidently past those big days.  Until I was blindsided.  There's a lesson in there somewhere but I don't think I'll ever learn that particular lesson.  It's one over which I'll never have control.  Once betrayed by my body, these moments will happen.  And they will be just that.  Moments.

And today?  The moment has passed.  As for that letter?  A huge thank you to the IRS for their letter of forgiveness over my screw up with a payroll tax deposit.  Years of impeccable pre-chemobrain reporting got me a pass.  The phone?  Still sitting in the box.  Maybe tomorrow.




 

18 comments:

  1. I think the phrase that the main character in Dexter uses to describe his predilection for serial killing is apt for cancer: dark passenger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dark passenger.... That is a perfect description.

      Are we going to give the west coasters a run for their money next Monday night and tweet chat together??????


      xoxox

      Delete
  2. These moments come and go however the trick is not allowing them to have any more time than absolutely necessary
    I used to dwell in this dark place always trying to find a reason why this was happening to me. But it's a complex problem that who knows if I will ever have answers to.
    I really find it irritating when I hear how people have changed for the better since being diagnosed with cancer. What kind of bullshot is that anyway
    I can't think of one great defining moment of greatness I have had since being told I had cancer. These moments do tend to appear out of nowhere. I had one the other day talking about my brother his death going to his funeral with that danm drain attached to me... I tried my best not to cry but the tears just came on their own....

    Love Alli xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Alli...

      You touched upon a topic we could shout about for hours..... "changed for the better" "finding new meaning" .....

      There is a concept know as Post Traumatic "Growth" but in NO way does it infer or imply finding good in such shit. I'm with you....

      I have grown because of my diagnosis and I am doing things that I love but I would have like to have found a passion on my own... not have had it handed to me because of cancer.... If that makes any sense??? I'm a little cooked in the brain!

      xoxox

      Delete
  3. You are absolutely allowed a PTSD moment...It is strange what triggers them but they are REAL. I'm so glad that your letter from the IRS was okay! Definitely an improvement! Now please go play with that new phone. You deserve fun!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :) going to play with the phone right now.... want to be a good hostess and thank everyone for sharing their thoughts with me before I start that!!!

      Thanks, Kathleen.....

      xoxo

      Delete
  4. The moments hit you at different times and I think that the harder you try to push them away the more they take over you. I think it is so great that you are writing and expressing these feelings and reactions so they don't stuff themselves and manifest in to things that could be dangerous to your overall health. I want to be careful with my words since I don't mean if you stifle this it will make you sick...I just think it's important to recognize our reactions and not stuff them away. It is so great when you can move through these memories and times with ease knowing you are in a different place and time in your life. Breast Cancer is so complicated. Meanwhile, I also hope you are enjoying your new phone and it was easy to set up. I would hate to hear that you had to go to a store with the phone for help and someone started telling you to buy something for breast cancer like at Staples!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan,

      I know exactly what you are trying to say and I know how careful we must be with out words so we are not implying WE got ourselves sick... You are right, however when you note that we have to recognize, accept and honor our feelings. You are also right that I don't need to be in a store having a pink pen in my face either!!!

      xoxox

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. I know you do, and I know you do... and I love you, too....

      Delete
  6. AnneMarie, you are so right about those PTSD moments. They hit hard, don't they? And I agree that cancer is an obstacle course, rather than a journey. Like you, I am not defined by cancer, but being diagnosed and socked with cancer has altered who I am. How can it not? Frankly, I think you are very courageous and a really special person to extend yourself out to others the way you do at the hospital. I am sorry you had the flashback. I try to help others mainly through my writing because I'm very subject to PTSD flashbacks, and I don't want to panic other patients. You are brave and you rock.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beth..

      Thank you for always sharing such encouraging words with me. I've missed your voice a bit and I'm going to send out a posse ..... think of you often....

      xoxox

      Delete
  7. dear annemarie,

    i am so sorry you had such a knocked down moment, that PTSD moment, which always feels like much more that a moment when we're able to come up for air, shake our head, and feel the tears well up, then flow. i've often felt there is such a powerful component of grief in my flashbacks, but they are so complex, it's hard to tell right there at the time. recently, a dear friend, terri wingham, of a fresh chapter blog, shared a quotation from the poet, rainer rilke, from his letter on sadness. "what if all the dragons in our lives are really princesses - waiting to see us both beautiful and brave?". having a breast cancer diagnosis, going through all the treatment, picking up the pieces and trying to recover from it's ravages - so many dragons! but annemarie, no matter how many there are, and whatever they are, you are both brave and beautiful.

    love,

    karen the commentor

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Catching up on responding to all of the comments I DID read but was consumed with my last adventure I couldn't respond...

      TERRI .... TERRI..... I met Terri in NYC a year ago... before she began her journey around the globe. And, I saw Terri again last week. She was in NY looking spectacular and eager to start her next chapter. She is so young and she is an inspiration.

      So many connections..... we zig zag through cyberspace and have so many threads weaving us together.

      xoxoxox

      Delete
  8. Wow! Yes, I get it. I had a "moment" while watching Parenthood last night. Just when you think you've moved past it, BAM! there's a trigger. I'm still pretty fresh out of active treatment and have wondered if those "moments" ever go away. I guess not. Grazie, AnneMarie for your words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't watch that show but I think I'm going to have to do the online thing. Many are talking about this episode and now I'm curious as to how the writers will play this out.

      I think we always look over our shoulders. With time, the dates do become less significant but they don't really EVER fully go away. My guard was down and I got slammed.

      It means much to have others who "get it" .....

      xoxox

      Delete
  9. I totally get the PTSD moments and how they can blindside you. I never got to the point of forgetting my "big days."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You break my heart when I read these words...... I have so much love and respect for you..... Got your back, my friend.. always...

      xoxoxo

      Delete