Friday, March 23, 2012

Fortress

I'm lying in bed with my eyes closed, breathing slowly, trying to keep the panic at bay.

This happens sometimes, when it just hits me ... oh my God I have cancer, I have cancer, am I going to be okay ... and my mind goes into overdrive, certain that my demise is imminent.  Faith and hope fall away and I'm left with only cold despair.

I have no reason to think that everything won't turn out okay, but sometimes I can't keep my awfulizing brain from running away from me.

So I lie in bed, breath, and reach deep.

Deep down into the core of me, the part of me that is strong and fear cannot penetrate.  I picture it like a fortress of stone - smooth walls, secret entrance - no way for the fear to claw its way in.

I sit in my smooth, safe sanctuary and I wait for my heart to stop racing, for my breathing to slow to normal.   Sometimes I talk to God here.  I don't ask Him for anything; that feels selfish and wrong.   Instead I have a little conversation, a Hey-How-Are-Ya kind of thing.  I update God on my beautiful family, on all that I'm grateful for. Then I say hi to my Dad, tell him how much I miss him.

Eventually, it feels safe to come out.   I'm still a Mom With Cancer, but the winds of peril have died down, and I am able to go about my day with gratitude and peace.

I will not let the fear be stronger than me.  I will not.

It's sneaky, though.  It hits me during the tender moments, the extra-special-loving ones, and it infuriates me that it tarnishes sweetness with its cold fingers.  

Finn slipped his hand into mine the other day as we were walking across a parking lot.  He hasn't done this voluntarily in a while.  "I love you, Momma," he said, looking up at me with a grin.  I grin back at him, my heart bursting with love and then WHAM - the cold finger runs down my spine:  don't love me too much kid.  I don't know if I'm gonna make it.  


It makes me angry, that fear is robbing me of a tender moment, and I fight back: well, I'm here now, dammit, and you don't get to own this one.  This one is all mine.  

It's hard to feel positive; I'm almost superstitious about it.  I don't want to presume that I'll be fine, maybe that's my way of protecting myself, keeping my expectations low, so if I get bad news after the surgery I won't have as far to fall?

I know, intellectually, how ridiculous this line of thinking is.  I try hard not to taint the moments I have here and now with this mental jockeying - if I think this, then that will happen - because it's exhausting and futile and it pushes me away from all the beauty that's in front of me right now.

The bottom line is I will have surgery on April 4th to remove what is left of the tumor, and then we will know if it's all gone, mostly gone, or if further treatment will be necessary.   It's up to me how I fill my mental space between now and then, and I'm trying to keep it full of hope, but it's hard and it takes constant vigilance.

I was watching Greta run through the yard yesterday, her long, coltish legs pumping with strength and speed.  Finn ran behind her, laughing with his head thrown back:  wait up, Sissy, you're too FAST.   They collapsed onto the lawn in a pile of giggles, arms and legs akimbo, soaking in the unseasonably warm weather.

I took a mental snapshot of that moment, that pure, innocent beautiful moment, and I stuck it up on the wall of my sanctuary, one more arrow in my quiver against fear and despair.

It's okay that I can't be strong all the time, that sometimes the fear grabs me and won't let go.  As long as I keep pushing back, keep replacing fear with faith as much as I can.

Cancer is scary.  Of course I feel fear.  I have to remind myself of that - I can't always be a serene, grateful, poster-child-for-how-to-handle-shit person.  I have to accept the fear, roll with it, through it.

When the tears need to fall, I let them fall.  When the laughter comes, it comes from deep inside of me, from a place of real gratitude and hope.  That's what cancer does: it hones everything down to its essential parts - the scary ones and the beautiful ones.  Everything becomes so real.

So I spend my days with this constant push-pull between fear and hope.  I try to soak up the beautiful moments, leave them untainted by fear. I pray and I try to let it all go.  

Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.  And life marches on either way.



17 comments:

  1. I think of you often. Lots of love.

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  2. You will make it.. You are loved way too much!! xoxo

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  3. Eyes stinging. Heart full. Please stay. <3

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  4. Your gift for words is ever-present. You weave so beautifully with these words, Ellie.
    Thinking of you, as always.

    ((hugs))

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  5. Oh girl, what can one say, as you've said it all......God bless you :)

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  6. I come here every day...I pray for you when I see an update, and I pray for you when I don't see an update. I worry for you, hope for you, think about you. When you do update, I read with bated breath -your descriptions are so vivid, so full of life, so real. I don't think that I've read anything without crying...not tears of hopelessness, but tears of "wow, you are so strong". I imagine going through what you're going through and I imagine, I hope that I would have the grace and strength that you do. You are the stuff heroes and Saints are made of...an ordinary person with extraordinary qualities. I want to be like you when I grow up. You have no idea how many people are so touched by you and your journey.

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  7. Oh, I so relate... I remember in those moments of quiet solitude... getting blindsided with a sudden flood of incredible overwhelming fear about my cancer... it's so awful and it's so understandable... but I pray for you in those moments that you will also find there the One who says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you, and I will guide you through this valley of darkness.”

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  8. Keeping you close in my heart. Every day.

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  9. When you get through this (and you will), you should publish all of these gut wrenching and beautifully honest entries regarding your journey. Honestly, I don't read too many blogs along this nature, but I come to yours all the time. One, to see how you're doing. And two, because your writing is so raw and uncensored. You give us a look into exactly what it is like. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

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  10. Ellie, one of the anonymous commenters above wrote about doing exactly what I do: I check in here every day, and if you've posted something new, I pray for you, and if there is nothing new, I pray for you. Imagine a lot of imaginary friends, standing in a circle around you, helping keep that fortress inside you strong.
    Lee Ann

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  11. You have such strength and grace. I love how you are still mindful of special moments with the kids and I love your safe place. I can't wait until this is behind you so you can feel better. Soon, but not soon enough!

    XXOO

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  12. Do you know how many of us are out here and want to see you get through this? Many many many. I realized today that many of us don't know how to put our thoughts into words..even though we read and read and are so happy when you post and write something so descriptive and thoughtful. Keep fighting! Please please please fight and fight and fight. For you, for those adorable kiddos, for that sweet Steve...FIGHT with all that is in you.
    XXOO
    June

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  13. Sending lots of love, happy thoughts, and strength your way! Thank you for writing- you are in my prayers! God Bless,
    Dawn

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  14. Hang in there, girl. We are all pulling for you. Fear is persistent, but you are strong and love makes you stronger than anything.

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  15. I stumbled upon your blog. I'm so sad to hear of your illness and i sure hope all is well. I just have to comment that it was touching and I think you hit that "fear" nail on the head in the way you described the fear robbing you of your moments.
    Good luck and I am glad I "stumbled"

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  16. This is so beautifully written, Ellie.

    And your sanctuary sounds pure lovely. I'm so very glad that you have it.

    xo

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  17. The fear you feel and admit to is equally courageous, especially to speak of it. While I have not personally dealt with cancer myself, I have been around those who suffered through the ups and downs.

    Easier said than done, but being positive or engaged enough in something else so that it distracts you will help you get through each minute, hour, day, week, or month, so you are not mentally consumed. Keep blogging, emailing with people, write fictional stories, spend time with people if you are well enough, cook, bake, eat a lot, sleep, funny movies-- and don't let your thoughts drift when doing these things. Be mindful and fully involved, using all your senses, in these activities. It will keep you going. Trust me.

    Lots of hope, love, and positive thoughts your way.

    Tiffani

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