Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Waiting to Unfurl

The past couple of weeks I curled into myself, tightened up into a ball, hardened my shell.   

First it was to get through the last part of treatment.  Being snapped into that radiation mask those last few times was the hardest thing I've done through this cancer journey.  Climbing up onto that table when every cell in your body and mind is screaming RUN! required me to dig deep, use every tool I've got.   

But I did it, and I'm proud of myself for that.

The doctors told me I wouldn't feel better once treatment stopped.  They said I may even feel worse for a couple of weeks, because my expectation would be that I should be getting better day by day.  "It will be at least three weeks before you start noticing daily differences in how you feel,"  they said.

They were right.  Both that I don't actually feel better now that treatment has stopped, and that my expectations  that I should feel better are making me feel worse, at least mentally.

I'm so, so tired.  I'm tired of fighting.  I'm tired of brave and strong. 

I just want to get up in the morning and fix my kids' breakfast, go to the gym and then do some grocery shopping.  I want to drive my car.  I want to bite into a crisp apple or a gooey slice of pizza.   I want to cradle a toasty Starbuck's latte between my hands and anticipate its deliciousness.  

I start to unfurl, sometimes; I'll peek out from behind this self-protective and simple world I've created for myself and see the world whizzing by like usual, people rushing from here to there and from there to here.  It exhausts me, and I tuck my head back down to wait.

One thing I know for sure is that the woman who will emerge from this cocoon is not the same woman who began this journey.  Just about everything about me has changed, at least mentally and emotionally.  Even physically - I've lost so much weight that I weigh what I did my senior year in high school.   

I believe, though, that the woman who emerges at the end of all this is the real me - stripped of pretenses, of bravado.  All of my priorities have shifted.  I have spent so much time unable to be present for my children, upstairs curled in my ball and listening to them laugh with sitters, play games with my Mom or have movie night with Steve - even if I todder downstairs for these things I'm not really present, I'm so very tired - that being with them without Cancer in the way will be the biggest gift of recovery.   I want to be there NOW, and I still have to wait.

I'm not online much.  If you have sent me an email, tweet or Facebook message and haven't heard back - I'm sorry.  I am reading them all, and your support makes this part of my recovery tolerable, makes me less isolated, less depressed.  But I can't respond to everyone, and for this I'm sorry.  I drift off to sleep after about four minutes of typing, wake up and can't remember what I was doing.

The woman who emerges from this cocoon will be stripped down to the raw essence of who she is and what she wants.  I suppose this is a gift, because for so long I navel-gazed about the meaning of it all, what I want to do with my life, how I can make the most impact in the world.  

I don't care about any of that anymore. To make the most impact in the world I need to hug my children. And what do I want to do with my life?  Live it.  The meaning of it all?  Appreciate everything you have while you have it.  Always.

It's so simple it's almost laughable.  I knew these things before, of course, but I couldn't feel them. 

For now, I will stay curled up in my safe little ball for a while longer, waiting.  I have faith in the doctors, and if they tell me it takes three weeks before I start to feel better, then I will wait three weeks.  I will wait longer if I have to, but I hope I don't have to.  

I can't wait to be back in my life.  To laugh on the couch with my kids, to have a family dinner, to make oodles and oodles of new jewelry.   

The simple things that were always my biggest gifts, it just took the jarring experience of cancer for me to notice.


  1. So glad that the treatment is over for you. Unfurl in your own time, shedding that cocoon may take time but the butterfly that emerges will soar x

  2. you are lovely Before and During and After and it truly is an honor to know all of you. your heart words here are so so good for every soul that reads them. Mine needs yours, I know that for sure.

    Thank you, E.

  3. I'm so glad the treatments are done for you. Sending lots of good vibes your way for a shorter time until you get to be on the couch with your kids.

  4. I needed to hear this today, thank you Ellie. My thoughts, love and prayers are with you always.

  5. Thank God you don't have to get in that mask ever again. Three weeks will pass. They will. And you will feel better. I wish it was now.

    Love you.

  6. I know that :tiredness, Ellie. I got to the point where I said I was depleted, like depleted uranium, nothing left in me to give me life. But spring is coming, and it will be spring for you too, as you unfurl like a flower greeting the sunshine. As my sponsor used to day "You did well!"

    Hugs and love,

    Mike L

  7. Without my glasses I kept reading REFUEL instead of unfurl. But maybe that's not a bad thing.

  8. You'll get there. And when you do, oh the happiness that will be you.
    Can we have a mask burning party?

    Love you so!

  9. Love you to pieces, Ellie!
    I love what Mike said above about spring coming just at the time you'll be coming back into your life. How timely and energizing!

    p.s. looking forward to your new jewelry -- I'm wearing one of my Shining Stones rings today and whenever I glance at it I'm sending you love & light!

  10. Thanks for the update, Ellie, for sharing again your experience, strength, and hope.

    The time to unfurl is coming. New energy, too. But now is the time to just dream about all that. Relax into the dream. Relish it. This night will soon be over. And, yes, you did well!

  11. Ellie - they told me the same thing - AND THEY WERE RIGHT. The first two weeks after radiation were the most miserable of the whole ordeal. But week three was noticeably better. Dont expect to be eating (or tasting) pizza for awhile, but it will come. First you spend some time in the world of cottage cheese and canned peaches (even that will feel like heaven), but crispy apples and pizza will come. (actually, first will be Ensure or Boost... I promise you I will never drink either of those things again). It will all come... Eventually, you will realize you have gotten back ALL of your old self (even the parts you want to leave behind!) but you will be MORE than you were. You will forever be more than you were. You. Already. Are!

  12. You can do it. Take it easy. Feel better soon. It will come! Rejoice when spring arrives! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Dawn B.

  13. I read your posts and I cry - with love, with gratitude.
    The metaphor of the cocoon is quite apt for the transformation you have undergone (and are still undergoing). The caterpillar - inside the cocoon - ceases to be a caterpillar: liquefied and re-organized at the molecular level, transformed miraculously in its little ball.
    Even after emerging from its cocoon (which in itself is a feat and not to be "helped" by anyone or anything because the struggle is necessary to circulate body fluids into the wings), the butterfly holds onto its transformation chamber (now just a shell) for a little longer, soaking in the warmth of the sun, very slowly moving its wings - appearing to do nothing when in fact, wings are being nurtured by the by-products of transformation; they are growing, stiffening, drying, getting ready for flight.
    This is you now - emerging, waiting for your strength to return.
    Just when we think that you can't get any more beautiful... you take our breath away.... we catch a glimpse of brilliant color and we are in awe. Soon you will spread your wings and rest on updrafts that take you higher than you ever dreamed.

  14. It is always the darkest before the storm finishes. We are all profoundly happy that you have made it through this storm and wait to hear from the new person that emerges.

  15. Thank you for sharing. I cannot say "I've been there, felt that" so I am grateful for your words to let me know where you are at for the moment ... and the promise of a better time for you soon.
    Peace and love,
    Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers
    Siggi in Downeast Maine

  16. Hang in there, Ellie. We're all pulling for you. Rest and heal. You WILL be better soon. Lots of love.

  17. I feel so grateful for your sharing.

    "...for so long I navel-gazed about the meaning of it all, what I want to do with my life, how I can make the most impact in the world..."

    I am 43, and this is my story too. I have felt stuck for years. Luckily, I have not had the same Cancer cocoon experience. This is why I appreciate your enlightening words; the wisdom of them brings tears to my eyes.

    "And what do I want to do with my life? Live it. The meaning of it all? Appreciate everything you have while you have it. Always."

    Beautiful and profound. Time to stop spinning my wheels with a knot in my stomach. Time to LIVE.

    Marie Fisher
    Lancaster, PA

  18. As always, reading your words, hearing your gratitude for cancer (for CANCER!) because of what it is teaching you, makes me feel small and selfish. And so now, I vow to try to live each moment and enjoy the life I can enjoy so fully.

    Thank you, Ellie!
    Lee Ann

  19. So glad the treatment is over, so grateful that you have taken the opportunity that quiet and stillness brings to absorb, reflect, and refocus rather than struggling against it (although I'm sure there were plenty of moments of that too!), and for sharing the wisdom that you have attained through your journey.

    Hoping that the next phase of recovery will be gentle but speedy, that strength returns in good time and your first hugs with your children are joyous!


  20. I am so happy your treatment is over, but I'm so sorry you have to feel so crappy right now. You are being so brave and strong. Such an inspiration to all of us. I am truly in awe of you. I pray that you will be feeling better very soon! Huge hugs to you!


  21. Woman - you are right where you need to be right now, even if you don't like it. I for one can't wait to see your jewelry creations!

  22. I am thankful for your updates Ellie.
    I don't comment often, for lack of words. BUT I do think of you often during my day; hoping that you are feeling better and enjoying the smallest of pleasures for the bigger ones will be here soon.
    Take care,

  23. Hey there Ellie! You go girl!!!! You hang in there. They can hammer you with radiation but they can't stop the clock. The three weeks HAS TO PASS BY so you have that on your side.

    Thanks so much for your posts. You've been an inspiration to all of us out here on the other side.

    Hugs, love and healing prayers to you always.

  24. We are all with you. I know it is hard, but you will make it. We will pray for you.

  25. Your writing is so beautiful, Ellie. Just like you.

  26. I read your posts and hope that you can feel better soon. Till then, hug those babies all you can. That can do wonders for you. A hug can do more for you than anything. Soon you WILL feel better, and we will be waiting to read that from you. I am praying for you!

  27. Hoping waiting to unfurl going ok. I so look forward to the day when you are feeling healthy and whole again :)

  28. I know you just want to hug your kids and have some energy but, in the meantime, I hope you can find comfort in the fact that you continue to bring true strength and wisdom to the rest of us who look to you simply because a higher power guides us to you and your honesty. FYI, I bet you are a rock star in your kids' eyes whether you can get up off the couch or not right now. What an amazing mom they have! God bless you and your family.

  29. I love the image you used of the woman with the butterfly, it is so inspiring. Can you tell me where I can get that image from? I'd love to hang it on my wall.